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New Audi boss pushes EV cause

Electric dreams: The Q7 e-tron (left) will be the next electrified Audi to hit Australian shores and follows the A3 e-tron (below).

Lack of progress on EV infrastructure in Australia ‘surprising’: Sansom

Audi logo7 Aug 2017

By TIM NICHOLSON

NEWLY appointed Audi Australia managing director Paul Sansom says he was “surprised” by the lack of progress from the federal government in supporting the roll-out of infrastructure and buyer incentives for electrified vehicles in Australia, and added that he will push for more support while in the top job.

The Australian federal government has not signalled any intention to provide financial backing for the charging infrastructure that is needed to support a wider roll-out of electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles, nor has it stated that it would offer incentives for people buying green cars.

Speaking with journalists in Sydney last week, Mr Sansom contrasted his time as the head of Audi in South Africa with the slow progress of the Australian government on EV policies.

“I was actually quite surprised to be honest, about where the Australian government is with the electrification of vehicles,” he said. “Coming out of South Africa where you’re lucky if you can turn your lights on at night and get some electricity because the national grid is just in disarray, and the government’s making huge revenues from the taxes on fuel, they’re not interested in electric.

“I kind of got that it’s a third-world (country) and it’s got a lot more problems, but coming here to Australia, I was quite surprised to see the progress that has been made down this road. The lack of progress.”

Audi Australia recently signed on to be part of the newly formed Electric Vehicle Council, which is a lobby group that represents electric car-makers Down Under. Other automotive brands involved include Volkswagen, Skoda, BMW, Tesla, Nissan, Mercedes-Benz, Mitsubishi, Porsche, Hyundai and Jaguar Land Rover.

Mr Sansom highlighted China’s push for a more environmentally friendly vehicle fleet and added that he would be working to encourage the federal government to look at greener policies.

 center imageLeft: Audi Australia managing director Paul Sansom

“Personally, I’m going to be pushing that agenda from my office as hard as possible, because that will form a part of our strategy, and the reason that’ll form a part of our strategy is that it’s going to happen. It was quite an unexpected announcement in China, probably a year and a half ago, 25 per cent of cars sold by 2025 will be battery electric vehicles. Twenty five per cent of the cars in China is huge.

“I mean, that’s a massive transformation for our industry, which means we’ve got to gear our factories up to build these cars, and there’s going to be less diesels in the world anyway, because the government legislation is driving – and China’s the example I’ve used, but there’s lots of others –forcing strategy. So, it’s going to become part our strategy anyway.” Mr Sansom added that he believed that Australia’s support of electric vehicles would eventually catch up with other regions that already offer incentives and provide financial support for charging infrastructure, but said local buyers were still interested in traditional powertrains.

“Here in Australia, I think it’s going to be a case of we’re going to have to catch up quite rapidly, because I think the legislation will come, and it’ll come in a hurry, and there’ll be a lot of copy and paste from other markets, and saying ‘right, that’s what we’re going to do,’ and we’ll be left scrambling to catch up on it.

“Even from a consumer point of view, they’ve done some studies already with consumers. They’re not too worried about having an electric car at the moment.

They still want a big V6, V8 petrol.”

Mr Sansom praised the Queensland state government’s recent decision to support the roll-out of an ‘electric super highway’ of charging stations running from the south to the north of the state.

“What the Queensland government did last week, I think was terrific. They’re talking about high-speed infrastructure, a highway, I think they should be absolutely applauded. I’ll be working hard with government, business, other OEMs because it needs to be a collaboration to get those high-speed charging stations in and around the country.”

He added that while Audi has commissioned research around the consumer appeal of electric vehicles, and said he expected that the results would show that people are generally unwilling to pay a premium for an EV over an internal combustion engine-powered car.

“That will be an issue for us to address. I think again, looking at it from a consumer point of view, we’re already deeply into some research with consumers saying ‘what is it you want from our brand and our products and what price are you willing to pay for it?’“I haven’t got the results of that yet. A big part of that study is electric vehicles, naturally. I would say at the moment I’m anticipating a response to come back ‘well, I wouldn’t pay anything more than I would pay for a normal car. But interested in an electric car as long as I could charge it in the same way that I can fill it up, and it’s no more expensive. Then I’d be interested.’ And at the moment, we’ve got neither of those things.”

Audi Australia’s sole electrified model is the A3 e-tron plug-in hybrid that is priced from $62,490 plus on-road costs, while the base A3 petrol variant starts at $35,900. The Q7 e-tron is expected to be added to the stable by the end of this year.

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