VW boss says ‘embarrassing’ rules stop cheap electric car imports
By Sourced Externally
March 24, 2021
As a result, Australians cannot buy models popular in North America and Europe, such as the ID.3 hatchback and the larger ID.4 SUV, which would be significantly cheaper than the range of Teslas. If they were available in Australia they would cost around $50,000 and $60,000 respectively.
“Hardly a day goes by when we don’t get an inquiry from someone who would dearly love to buy a Volkswagen electric vehicle, and we have to tell them we don’t know when we can introduce them. It seems to get more and more uncertain,” said Mr Bartsch.
Mr Bartsch is required to make the business case to Volkswagen’s German head office for access the models the Australian arm would like to sell, but as global demand for electric vehicles outstrips supply the company now routinely supplies markets in Europe and North America that are more welcoming to new clean technology.
“Every six months we do an update with a board meeting on the EV environment in Australia. They are sitting in waiting for something to change, you know, but nothing ever changes.
“The fifth of May is my next one, and we will sit there again and say there is no change to the CO2 legislative environment in Australia, and no change to the electric vehicle environment, and [the board] will go ‘Fine’ and move on, because it’s pretty much fairly well understood to be the trodden path in Australia.”
“I guess the way I would put it is that it is embarrassing,” Mr Bartsch said of his efforts to make the case for a supply of new electric and clean internal combustion engine models.
A spokesman for Energy and Emissions Minister Angus Taylor said the Morrison government would not be “lectured about vehicles emissions by a car manufacturer that has a track record of deceiving motorists and violating clean-air laws.”
This is a reference to the scandal in which Volkswagen was found to have incorporated technology into some diesel engines that allowed them to wrongly pass emissions tests.
Mr Bartsch said the company does not want subsidies, but a firm signal from the federal government that it wants to cut carbon emissions from the transport sector by a set amount by 2030, and planning guidelines from state governments to ensure all new public buildings come with charging stations.
Further, the company wants Australia to introduce emissions standards because new Volkswagen engines cannot run on dirtier Australian fuel.
Until such laws are introduced, manufacturers will continue dumping older and dirtier models on the Australian market, said Mr Bartsch.
Because the massive cost of development of those models has already been realised over years of production, the glut of older vehicles makes it impossible for new cleaner models to compete in the market without government regulation of emissions, he said.
The Australian consumer is being forced into buying low tech cars that have high CO2 output when the options are there to get the high tech engines with lower CO2 output, running on lower sulphur fuel,” he said.
”I’m totally frustrated by working in an industry that has always been about being at the leading edge of technology, the automotive industry has always been at the forefront of technology, we have a legislative environment and we have a fuel environment that is actually forcing us to stay behind in terms of being able to pick up and adopt and buy the latest technology.“
Victoria recently introduced a road user charge for electric vehicle drivers.
In 2020, electric vehicles made up 0.75 per cent of new car sales in Australia, up from 0.6 per cent in 2019. By comparison, in the UK last year sales were 10.6 per cent, up from 3 per cent the year before.
According to chief executive of the Electric Vehicle Council Behyad Jafari, jurisdictions such as the UK and EU support sales with emissions standards and emissions standards and reductions targets which serve as “a stick” for manufacturers, and tax breaks and subsidies for purchasers, which serve as a carrot.
“Australia is easily the most hostile environment for electric vehicles in the world,” said Mr Jafari.
The Victorian government has been approached for comment.