Tesla resigns from car group over ‘misleading’ claims

Tesla says claims a fuel efficiency standard would hike the price of petrol vehicles are false.

Tesla says claims a fuel efficiency standard would hike the price of petrol vehicles are false. Photo: Getty

US automaker Tesla has spectacularly resigned from Australia’s peak automotive organisation, claiming the group is spreading “false and misleading” information about vehicle efficiency standards that could hurt the industry.

The electric vehicle giant also referred claims from the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries (FCAI) to Australia’s competition watchdog on Thursday, asking it to consider whether the group deliberately sought to deceive consumers.

The letter follows more than a month of debate over the federal government’s proposed New Vehicle Efficiency Standard that would set a cap on emissions from automakers’ fleets to encourage them to bring more efficient vehicles to Australia.

But the chamber, along with some major car brands, have argued the standard could raise the price of some high-polluting vehicles and could see some brands withdraw from Australia.

In a letter to FCAI chief executive Tony Weber, Tesla said it had “serious concerns about false and misleading public comments” made by the organisation, particularly around the price impact of efficiency standards.

“Over the past three weeks, Tesla considers that the FCAI has repeatedly made claims that are demonstrably false,” the letter said.

“Tesla is concerned that the FCAI has engaged in behaviours that are likely to mislead or deceive Australian consumers.”

The car brand also revealed it had referred some FCAI statements to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, and that it planned to resign from the organisation at the end of the financial year.

Examples of misleading statements cited by Tesla in the letter included claims the price of petrol and diesel vehicles would rise after a fuel-efficiency standard, and the price of electric cars would plummet.

“If consumers believe the FCAI’s false claims that electric vehicles are about to reduce in price by as much as 25 per cent next year, many will conclude they should also avoid purchasing one now,” the letter said.

Electric Vehicle Council chief executive Behyad Jafari said fuel-efficiency standards in other countries had been shown to reduce emissions and increase access to more efficient vehicles but had also attracted “scare campaigns”.

“It’s one thing for companies to represent their own interests and profits but when that veers into knowingly spreading misinformation, it’s important that gets called out,” he said.

“The idea that any model would shoot up by any significant amount can only be supported if you base your modelling on completely unrealistic assumptions, which is exactly what we now see the FCAI has been doing.”

Tesla’s announcement comes days after public consultation into the New Vehicle Efficiency Standard closed, with the Labor government planning to consult with the industry before introducing a standard in January 2025.

The Coalition have opposed its introduction, however, with Opposition transport spokeswoman Bridget McKenzie citing industry analysis that it could raise the price of some high-polluting vehicles by $25,000.

“A punitive tax is not the right way to push people towards EVs that are still not affordable or practical for many Australians,” she said.

The FCAI was contacted for comment.

Topics: Tesla
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