After Tesla, Polestar leaves the Australian car lobby due to the emissions problem

Volkswagen Australia said on Friday it was concerned about the departure of electric vehicle makers Tesla and Polestar from Australia’s major car lobby, in protest at the organisation’s criticism of proposed vehicle emissions rules.

The German carmaker said it supported the government’s proposed standards and wanted stronger incentives for importers of clean cars, in stark contrast to the peak lobby group, which is pushing to weaken the rules. Our company’s position is our own, and not that of any lobby group or membership organization,” a spokesperson said in an email.

VW, which is still part of the lobby group, was concerned about the departures of Tesla and Polestar and discussed the situation, the spokesperson added, without giving details.

To get more electric vehicles on the road and cut emissions, Australia has proposed vehicle efficiency standards that will penalize carmakers that import emissions-intensive models and reward those that bring cleaner vehicles to market.

Polestar Australia, part-owned by China’s Geely Automobile, walked out of the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries on Friday, a day after Tesla did the same, saying the lobby group’s comments against the proposed regulations had “irrevocably damaged public confidence” in the policy harmed’.

In a letter to the FCAI, Polestar said delaying or relaxing the standards would keep Australia a dumping ground for old technology vehicles and drive up emissions pressure elsewhere in the economy.

“The brand cannot in good faith continue to allow membership fees to fund a campaign designed to deliberately delay the automotive industry’s contribution to Australia’s emissions reduction potential,” said Samantha Johnson, head of Polestar Australia, in the letter.

Tesla quit the FCAI on Thursday and resigned from its board, accusing the company of making false claims about the proposed standards and their impact on car prices.

Responding to questions about the exits, the FCAI said on Friday it cannot support a standard that meets the needs of premium vehicle owners while leaving others with less choice and higher prices.

The FCAI said its members represent more than 50 brands. The chairman and two deputy chairmen come from Mazda, Toyota and Mitsubishi Motors respectively.

Australia’s centre-left Labor government opened a consultation on the standards in February and also released a ‘preferred model’ for the new standards.

The aim is to introduce the new standard in 2025, which will become stricter every year, with the aim of reaching an average vehicle emissions intensity comparable to that in the US around 2028.

Russia and Australia are among the only developed countries without fuel efficiency standards.

The FCAI said earlier this week that the government’s preferred option would increase prices and limit options, especially for the pick-up trucks that are popular in the country.

First print: March 8, 2024 | 9:31 am IST