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Volkswagen Australia has returned fire at Toyota Australia today calling the Japanese brand’s claims ‘baseless’ after a senior executive said there were no Toyota electric vehicles (EVs) on offer locally because they would be too expensive.
The grenade is the latest attack in the war of words between the local arms of the world’s two largest automotive brands. The first shots were fired in March when 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.
In what seemed a thinly disguised swipe at Toyota, Mr Bartsch at the time, said that while Toyota appeared to be offering clean technology with hybrid versions of its vehicles, the reality was different.
“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,” he said.
Recently Toyota Australia’s vice-president of marketing Sean Hanley defended his company’s position.
“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.”
Mr Hanley argued that the reason Toyota hadn’t brought out a pure electric vehicle was because he felt Aussies wouldn’t pay a premium for it.
“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?” Mr Hanley said.
Today, Volkswagen not only called Toyota’s claim “baseless” but appeared to insinuate Toyota had been caught out and had fallen behind its development and roll-out of electric vehicles.
“While importers that have no substantial plans at present for electric vehicles or plug-in hybrids might express doubt as to the affordability of these, it is clear from European sales that this is baseless,” Volkswagen Group Australia’s general manager of corporate communications Paul Pottinger said.
The Tiguan 162 TSI R-Line lists for $53,700 before on-road costs in Australia. An ID.4 priced at under $54K would make it one of the most affordable electric SUVs in Australia undercutting the Hyundai Kona Electric by nearly $10,000, but still pricier than the $43,990 drive-away MG ZS EV. Of note however, both the Hyundai and MG are a size smaller than the ID.4.
Mr Pottinger made the point that without stricter fuel emission standards from the federal government there was no reason for some current manufacturer to change their ways, and so prevented the introduction of electric vehicles.
“Peculiarly, Australian barriers remain to accessing these,” he said.
“The absence of a hard and fast national CO2 reduction target makes it almost impossible to mount a case for production priority. Markets where there are significant penalties for failing to meet emissions targets, are naturally first in line for EVs.
“That the government will mandate European standard petrol in Australia from 2024 instead of 2027 as previously envisaged is in some part due to the advocacy of auto importers, not least Volkswagen Group Australia. The introduction of petrol with 10 parts per million of sulphur will enable access to yet more efficient engine technology, which cannot run even on what currently passes for premium unleaded in Australia. While all brands will benefit from 10ppm, VGA’s petrol vehicles have long since met Euro 6.
“Unfortunately, the same can’t currently be said of importers with line-ups that are largely Euro 5 compliant. The fact remains that at 150ppm, the basic unleaded petrol that these can use is up to three times more sulphurous than even 95 RON. This dirty petrol is much cheaper than so-called premium unleaded, which the authorities allow to be scandalously overpriced.”
Mr Pottinger then took aim at the Victorian government which announced an electric vehicle road tax would take effect from July 1 this year. The tax would see EV and other zero tailpipe emission vehicles hit by a fee of 2.5 cents per kilometre.
“Bizarrely, and uniquely in the world, Victoria is not only taxing EVs while these comprise less than one per cent of Australian new vehicle sales, it has ensured that plug-in hybrids are doubly taxed by its thought bubble road user charge and the fuel excise. By contrast, old tech hybrids that run on 91 RON escape this double levy.”