Electric vehicles have been a contentious topic for the Australian automotive industry.

Some industry experts convened a panel at the Australian Automotive Dealers’ Association conference and expo in Brisbane to discuss the sector.

The panel consisted of AADA chief executive James Voortman, Deloitte Motor Service Industry director Andrew Moore, Victorian Automotive Chamber of Commerce (VACC) chief executive Geoff Gwilym, Mitsubishi Motors Australia Limited (MMAL) managing director Shaun Westcott, and Volkswagen Group Australia (VGA) managing director Paul Sansom.

Moore says Deloitte’s research shows electric vehicles will remain at a price premium until around 2030, when price parity with internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles is expected to begin.

Sansom says the supply chain for VGA vehicles was constrained long before the pandemic arrived.

He says the introduction of the World Harmonised Light Vehicle Test Procedure (WLTP) pre-empted COVID and subsequent recent shutdowns like Shanghai’s have exacerbated the problem.

“The Ukraine situation had an impact on the supply chain, but we’re seeing green shoots of recovery,” he says.

“In fact, the Ukraine factories producing wiring looms have reopened at a 50% capacity.”

Sansom says Australia is an important market for Volkswagen but until there’s a mandatory government-led emissions target, the brand’s battery electric vehicles will go to countries like New Zealand which have such legislation in place.

He says Australia’s new Labor-led government seems more inclined to consider this.

“We see brands such as MG and Tesla doing very well because of their affordability, he says. “The VW Group does have such affordable electric cars, but they’re not here because there’s no regulation on emissions.”

Voortman says the new car industry has developed a voluntary emissions standard which it will present to the new government.

Gwilym believes there’s a major problem with the supply chain and CO2 mandates affecting the consumer.

“We get quite nervous about government incentivisation, especially as it’s announced it wants a 42% reduction in CO2 by 20303,” he says.

The VACC has a problem with government policy that knocks out key players. “I’d like to see the Government ask industry first for its input before making any new policy and incentivisation around electric vehicles.”

He says the arrival of EVs in the Australian service and repair sector will see a divergence between skill sets.

“The technician of the future will have no interest in ICE vehicles, only EV, leaving the old buggers to look after petrol and diesel vehicles.

“It will open a big doorway for women into the industry and it will certainly change the face of service and repairs.”

Sansom says Audi is rolling out EV training from its new purpose-built facility in Tullamarine for current and future technicians.

“The cost of a franchise operation is an ongoing responsibility that we are cognisant of,” Sansom says.

“Dealer investment in infrastructure for electric vehicles will be high
but will amortise eventually. You can monetise it by selling charging services to customers.”

Westcott says MMAL has a dealer certification program to manage the transition in tooling and skills for electric vehicle service.

“We have V2L and V2C bi-directional charging on our vehicles, so they need greater skilled technicians to work on them,” he says.

Moore says it’s important that future government policy brings the right cars to market.

“Are there electric vehicles available in the segments in which we sell? Will there be the ability to develop electric vehicles such as a ute?”

“More than 80% of Australians want the ability to charge their EV at home and more than 55% would like to use solar power.

“How do we support households to become part of the solution to emission reduction,” he asks.

Westcott says mineral supply and transport emissions need to be considered when producing electric vehicles.

He believes that reduction of carbon dioxide needs to be looked at holistically when 80% of emissions come from mining, power, and agriculture.

“There are significant emissions from mining and from battery manufacturer, its 80% more than an ICE vehicle.

“Let’s not migrate the CO2 emissions issue to the mines. We must not look at emissions in a singular fashion,” he says.

Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicles (PHEVs) like the Mitsubishi Outlander are a logical transition vehicle and are responsible for an 84% reduction in emissions.

He notes that since 2008 Mitsubishi has sold more than 4000 Outlander PHEVs in Australia and more than 400,000 units in Europe. But he says people will still need ICE vehicles and they will be sold in parallel.

Westcott says the current situation around EVs in Australia is prejudiced or preferred depending on the state.

He says though it’s good that each state has an EV focus, it’s a hodge-podge situation and a more consistent, collaborative, and standardised approach is needed.

Extracted in full from: EVs, dealers and Australia: The big picture | Autotalk Australia