Polestar and Tesla Quit Aussie Auto Group in Emissions Row

Automotive lobby group's push to water down new vehicle emissions regulations see BEV makers jump ship.

Paul Myles, European Editor

March 8, 2024

2 Min Read
Polestar Melbourne Space
Polestar joins Tesla in walk-out of Australia's automotive lobby group.

A rift has opened up between battery-electric-vehicle makers and some legacy brands with a broader powertrain range over a push to water down new fuel efficiency standards for Australia.

BEV brands Tesla and Polestar have both quit the nation’s main automotive industry lobby group, the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries (FCAI), which warns the government’s strict new emissions import rules would penalize affordable transport in favor of expensive premium emission-free BEVs.

UK’s The Guardian newspaper reports the FCAI warned the government’s new regulations could push the price of the average vehicle by AUD 13,000 ($8,500), a claim both Tesla and Polestar contest. The lobby group is made up of 50 brands with more than 350 vehicles covering BEVs, hybrids and internal-combustion engines.

Some brands could also argue the new standards, based on Euro 5 tailpipe emissions, do not take suitable account of the extra CO2 emitted during production of BEVs which is much higher than for ICE vehicle production. Nor does it reflect that 68% of the nation's electricity for charging BEVs is produced by burning fossil fuel, mostly coal, and that modern emissions regulations should better reflect a vehicle's overall lifecycle carbon footprint.

Polestar Australia’s managing director, Samantha Johnson, wrote to FCAI CEO Tony Weber advising him the Volvo-owned brand was also cancelling its membership. She says claims about the standard leading to price increases are “overblown” and called on the lobby group to release the modelling underpinning its assertions.

She writes: “Rather, it appears that the FCAI has cherrypicked what it thinks will progress the position of only some members. The brand cannot in good faith continue to allow its membership fees to fund a campaign designed to deliberately slow the car industry’s contribution to Australia’s emissions reduction potential.”

Johnson also writes Polestar would consider returning to the lobby group “when the FCAI commits to representing all voices in the automotive industry, fairly."

Now, Volkswagen, another member of the FCAI, says it supports the government’s stricter emissions regulations and is concerned about the loss of Tesla and Polestar from the group. In an email to Reuters, a spokesperson says: “Our company’s position is its own, not that of any lobby group or membership organization,” adding that it was discussing the situation.

Currently, only Australia and Russia have no fuel efficiency standards applied to imported vehicles. This has led to challenges that automakers are dumping “dirty” cars on the market. However, the vast rural continent's auto market is dominated by full-size SUVs which may have some bearing on overall fuel economy data that shows the average new car sold in Australia uses 6.9 L/100 km (34 mpg) compared with new cars in Europe using 3.5 L/100 km (67 mpg) and 4.2 L/100 km (56 mpg) in the U.S.

The Australian government plans to introduce legislation before July that will take effect in January 2025 which aims to penalize carmakers who import emissions intensive models and reward those who bring in cleaner vehicles.

About the Author(s)

Paul Myles

European Editor, Informa Group

Paul Myles is an award-winning journalist based in Europe covering all aspects of the automotive industry. He has a wealth of experience in the field working at specialist, national and international levels.

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