Polestar joins Tesla in quitting auto lobby over its campaign against proposed vehicle efficiency standard | Electric vehicles

Electric car brand Polestar has become the second company to quit Australia’s main auto industry lobby group over frustrations at its campaign against the Albanese government’s plan to import environmentally cleaner cars.

On Friday – a day after Tesla announced it would cease being a member of the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries (FCAI) over the group’s opposition to the government’s proposed vehicle efficiency standard – Polestar Australia’s managing director, Samantha Johnson, wrote to FCAI CEO Tony Weber advising him the Volvo-owned brand was also cancelling its membership.

In the letter, Johnson echoed concerns from Tesla over claims the FCAI was warning the government’s preferred model for a national vehicle efficiency standard (NVES) could increase the price of popular utes by up to $13,000.

Johnson said the active campaigning against the standard by the FCAI and fellow member companies was not aligned with Polestar’s focus.

She said claims about the standard leading to price increases are “overblown” and called on the FCAI to release the modelling underpinning its assertions. “Rather, it appears that the FCAI has cherrypicked what it thinks will progress the position of only some members”.

“The FCAI’s commentary against the proposed ‘Option B’ framework of a NVES does not represent the position of Polestar and may have irrevocably damaged consumer perception and trust in the proposed policy,” Johnson wrote.

“The brand can not in good faith continue to allow its membership fees to fund a campaign designed to deliberately slow the car industry’s contribution to Australia’s emissions reduction potential,” she said.

Johnson also pointed to a submission by the Grattan Institute on the government’s proposed model for the NVES, which estimated the policy would on average increase prices by about 1%, but that consumers would quickly be financially better off due to significant savings on fuel and maintenance costs.

Johnson said Polestar would consider returning to the lobby group “when the FCAI commits to representing all voices in the automotive industry, fairly”.

Weber, in a statement, noted that the FCAI “must act in the interests of the Australian automotive industry and Australian car buyers” which includes more than 50 brands with more than 350 vehicles “from battery electric vehicles, plugin hybrid and hybrids to petrol and diesel drivetrains”.

“FCAI cannot support a standard that in the short-term might meet the needs and pockets of those at the premium end of the market while potentially hurting businesses and families who may be forced to deal with less choice and higher prices next time they buy a new car,” Weber said.

Responding to Tesla’s accusations earlier this week, the FCAI said it had encouraged successive governments to introduce an efficiency standard for more than a decade, and that its members “want to continue to play their role in combating climate change and providing Australians with the zero- and low-emission vehicles they can afford”.

On Thursday, Tesla asked the FCAI to publicly correct its “false claims” and acknowledge they do not accurately reflect what car companies intend to do. It was worried the group’s comments would significantly push up the price of most popular cars and utes, and significantly reduce the price of Tesla models.

It expressed concern the FCAI’s claims could lead to a consumer run on high-polluting utes out of fear their cost would increase when the NVES is introduced. It was also worried the claims could push motorists to delay buying Tesla cars out of an expectation of a price drop when the government’s scheme comes into effect.

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Australia’s proposed fuel standard will place a cap on the emissions from new cars to incentivise carmakers to supply low- and zero-emissions vehicles. The cap will be lowered over time.

The government plans to introduce legislation before July that will take effect from January 2025.

The Albanese government’s preferred model is expected to cut 369m tonnes of CO2 by 2050 – equivalent to the last six years of emissions from light vehicles in Australia.

Australia, along with Russia, remains one of the few countries in the OECD without standards. Industry analysts have routinely warned that manufacturers are treating Australia as a dumping ground for heavily polluting vehicles due to a lack of penalties.

A new car sold in Australia uses, on average, 6.9 litres of fuel for each 100km compared with new cars in Europe and the US that use 3.5 litres and 4.2 litres, respectively.

Since the government unveiled its preferred model in early February, tensions have simmered between climate advocates, car companies and political opponents.

On Wednesday, Anthony Albanese denied that the Thai prime minister, Srettha Thavisin, asked him to slow the introduction of Australia’s planned fuel efficiency standard as it would adversely affect Thai exports.

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