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In a very public brawl between two automotive giants that’s been making headlines for months, Toyota Australia has taken another swing at Volkswagen Australia in response to claims that the nation is being turned into a dumping ground for third-rate, big-polluting cars.
In March this year Volkswagen Australia’s managing director Michael Bartsch criticised the federal government’s lack of action on increasing fuel standards, following the release of the Australian Vehicle Industry’s first emissions results.
“Such is the reluctance of government to countenance carbon emissions reduction targets, auto importers are obliged to implement self-regulation,” Mr Bartsch said.
“Australia is becoming a dumping ground for older and less efficient vehicles.
“Even some of the popular hybrids on sale in this country utilise old tech engines that run on Australia's standard 91RON petrol with 150 parts per million of sulphur – 15 times worse than global best practice.”
Making the point that Australia has some of the lowest fuel quality in all of the OECD, Mr Bartsch’s statement also appeared to be a not-so-subtle attack on Toyota, which has been selling cars with hybrid technology such as the Camry and Prius in Australia for 20 years.
Toyota has defended its actions already, but most recently the company’s vice-president of marketing Sean Hanley doubled down on Volkswagen.
“Any suggestion that we’re holding up progression towards better fuel quality is not correct,” he said.
“We would say that we are leading this progression towards a beyond-zero carbon-neutral society, so that we’re certainly playing our role and we understand very clearly that we have a corporate responsibility to ensure we reduce our CO2 footprint as soon as practical.”
Mr Bartsch also claims that his company can’t bring any of its new electric vehicles such as the ID.3 hatch or ID.4 small SUV into Australia because the government's low-emission standards don’t create an incentive for consumers to move to the new tech.
Mr Hanley countered, and said the truth is pure electric vehicles would be too expensive for everyday Aussies to adopt at this stage.
“My question is: if we were to bring out a full battery-electric Corolla at $50K-plus dollars, how many people are truly going to be able to afford that in the Australian market today?” he said.
“In the end you can bring all the battery electric vehicles you like to market, you can bring all the fuel-cell electric hybrids or whatever, but in the end there’s only one group that will ultimately determine acceptance of that technology and that’s the consumer.
“Everybody has a right to be mobile. So what we’re saying is that, of course battery electric vehicles are part of the solution, but they’re not the only solution. We must bring mobility solutions to the market which are affordable, practical and perform and do the things Australian motorists want there mobility solutions to do.”
It’s also expected Toyota will launch a hybrid version of its LC300 new-generation LandCruiser by 2024.
Volkswagen does not currently sell any of its electric vehicles, including hybrids in Australia.