If polluting vehicles are pricier under Labor’s scheme, that’s kinda the point

Household transport costs are rising in Australia, a new report says, fuelled by big vehicles.

Household transport costs are rising in Australia, a new report says, fuelled by big vehicles. Photo: Getty

Making fuel-guzzling vehicles more expensive is the whole point of the Albanese government’s New Vehicle Efficiency Standard, experts say, as the opposition and business lobby groups fight against efforts to cut transport emissions by 60 per cent in five years.

The standard aims to limit emissions from Australia’s fleet of cars by setting a maximum level of carbon emissions allowed across a manufacturer’s overall new car sales, encouraging car makers to supply lower and zero-emission vehicles into the market.

Dr Jennifer Rayner, Climate Council head of advocacy, said the New Vehicle Efficiency Standard sends a clear signal to automakers that it’s time to offer Australians cleaner cars that are cheaper to run.

“The fact that it incentivises car brands to change the cars they make and sell in coming years is a feature, not a bug, of this policy,” she said.

“Delaying or watering down the scheme would mean more climate pollution pumped into our air, and more dollars drained from Australians at the bowser.”

Shadow energy minister Ted O’Brien’s claims about the fuel efficiency standards don’t stack up. Photo: AAP

Dubious claims

Ted O’Brien, the Coalition’s climate change and energy spokesperson, said the scheme amounted to a “great big tax on the family car and utes”.

“During a cost-of-living crisis, the last thing people want to hear is that the Albanese Labor government is going to increase the cost of Australians’ favourite family cars,” he said.

“If you’re a tradie and you’re buying vehicles such as a BT-50 or a D-Max or a HiLux or a Ranger, the Albanese government’s family car tax is going to drive up the cost by thousands of dollars.”

Independent analysis from the Grattan Institute has shown that the average price of a new car would rise by a maximum of 1 per cent and save drivers on average $1000 on fuel and maintenance across five years.

A statistical analysis of the United States, where standards have been in place for decades, found there was “no systemic, statistically significant increase in inflation-adjusted vehicle prices” when standards were tightened across two decades.

The fuel economy of vehicles improved by 30 per cent across the same period.

Dissent in the ranks

Tesla, the world’s leading electric vehicle company, has quit the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries (FCAI), accusing the national lobby group of deceiving Australians through its opposition to the New Vehicle Efficiency Scheme.

The chamber has argued that the standard could raise the price of some high-polluting vehicles – the whole point of the scheme – and Tesla said in a letter to the FCAI that it has “serious concerns about false and misleading comments” made by the association.

“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.”

Bryce Gaton, EV educator and founder of EV Choice, said not all brands buy into the rhetoric around the New Vehicle Efficiency Standard.

“Brands like Volkswagen, Hyundai and Kia are rolling with the times, happy for Australians to finally join that list of major markets that receive their best new cars,” he said.

“Laggards like Toyota are trying to stop Aussies from getting this access. They don’t want to give up the profit they’re making off dumping Australians with their most expensive, polluting vehicles.”

Other automotive groups have also broken with the FCAI.

“A well-designed standard will not only incentivise manufacturers to send better and safer cars, utes and 4WDs to Australia, but also ensure they are competitively priced,” said Dr Michael Kane, the Royal Automobile Club of Queensland’s head of public policy.

“The longer we don’t have one, the further behind Australia will trail the rest of the world on access to the best cars, utes and 4WDs to drive.”

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