Just as former Prime Minister Scott Morrison warned, the federal Labor government will be officially phasing out the weekend beginning in 2025 and by 2028, there will be no weekends at all.

That’s because over this period, the government will phase-in a requirement that we will have to buy cars and utes that, on average, are no more polluting than those sold in the United States.

It’s no doubt a huge shock to you all that the government might limit your options to the kind of pick-up trucks that the Yanks buy. But I’m here to reassure you, via a little motor head psychology history lesson, that you probably won’t even notice the fact that by 2028, the average ute available for you to buy will consume less fuel and emit less carbon dioxide than a Toyota Prius C hatchback.

To understand why, you first need to understand a little bit of history surrounding motor vehicle technology and human psychology. For many decades now, the clever engineers at Ford, Toyota, Volkswagen, BMW and, yes, even Renault and Peugeot, have each year without fail, managed to come up with ways to extract more useful power out of a drop of petrol. And what makes this miraculous is that these engineers have done this without increasing production costs.

But that doesn’t mean this has all automatically been translated into cars on the market that consume less fuel than the predecessors. In fact, only a modest portion of that improvement in fuel efficiency has translated into a fleet of cars with lower fuel consumption.

That’s because the marketing department at these companies has choices about how they convert the engineers’ innovations into the cars on offer for you to buy. They could deliver the improvement through a less polluting, more economical car, but that would make for really boring advertisements.

Luckily for those who like car ads, they have two other options. One is they offer you a faster car, and the other is they offer you a bigger car. The marketing departments in Australia and also the United States have generally found they can manipulate your emotions to hand over more cash by opting for bigger and faster cars, rather than more economical ones.

To help illustrate the principle, around 10 years ago you might have noticed that Australians seemed to be increasingly snapping up dual cab Hilux and Ranger utes that were noticeably bigger than the utes of the past. But then you looked at the ridiculously huge, gas guzzling utes that were popular in America and laughed out loud thinking, ‘My God those crazy, dumb Yanks – who on earth needs a car that big?!’
Ten years on, we can now see that Australians are simply crazy, dumb Yanks with a few years lag time.

Now if I could rewind back 10 years in the brains of those growing numbers of Australian buyers of US pick-up trucks, we would find that there was no thought in their mind that they needed a Dodge Ram 1500 pick-up truck. They were instead probably lusting over the prospect of getting that new, bigger and more powerful Ford Ranger.

Same emissions journey

But time passed, they bought a bigger caravan because it was better than their neighbours, and then they started noticing the Yanks had utes that could easily tow caravans the size of a small apartment. In spite of getting that Ranger they were lusting over 10 years ago, today they now feel like they are missing out.

But imagine they had never noticed that this carbon dioxide belching Ram 1500 existed because thanks to government emission regulations it genuinely didn’t exist? People usually don’t feel that empty and inadequate feeling of missing out through imagining a product that might exist were it not for government regulation. They certainly can’t suffer from envy when no one else has that imaginary product.

Thankfully because the Americans are pursuing the same emissions standard as us, when we compare ourselves to them we will see a mirror of our own predicament, rather than what looks like a happier life towing tiny houses to holiday destinations.

So no need to fret, engineers will deliver you a car with the power and capability you desire while meeting new emissions standards. It’s just motor car marketing departments will find it harder to inflate your desires beyond what you previously imagined you needed.

Although they probably shouldn’t be underestimated if the all-electric Hummer is anything to go by. Plus, thanks to the new emission regulations, you’ll soon have a lot more choices of electric and hybrid vehicle models to lust over instead of a V8 Ram 1500.

Extracted in full from:  https://www.afr.com/policy/energy-and-climate/a-history-lesson-in-motor-head-psychology-20240208-p5f3bq