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BMW levels government for ‘short-sighted’ EV attitude

Give me a break: If the just-launched BMW i3s BEV was exempt from the GST, its sticker price would be reduced from $69,900 to $63,545 before on-road costs.

Government has to provide tax incentives, infrastructure for EV introduction: Werner

19 Feb 2018

BMW Group Australia CEO Marc Werner has again criticised the federal government for its inaction over EV incentives and infrastructure, this time calling for immediate resolutions that will spark a lift in sales for emerging low- and zero-emissions vehicles.

Speaking to journalists at the national media launch of the BMW i3s EV in Warrandyte, Victoria last week, Mr Werner was frank in his assessment of the Turnbull government and the moves it needs to make.

“In Australia, we continue to languish in the doldrums as government officials focus on their private affairs rather than formulating the advancement of our society,” he said.

“We need immediately a set of short- and medium-term support options to kick-start our market – things like strong electric vehicle targets, CO2 emission targets, extended charging infrastructure and tax incentives. That all works in other countries, why not in Australia? This will allow us to catch up with our global counterparts.

“The world has given us 20 years notice that we are transitioning to electric vehicles. There is no excuse for the government to ignore that opportunity.

“But again our industry is doing the heavy lifting on their own, and the short-sighted attitude of the government is honestly disappointing.”

Specifically, Mr Werner cited Norway, Malaysia, Thailand, the Netherlands and California as global markets that are successfully pushing electrification by focusing on infrastructure and tax incentives which have encouraged more buyers into EVs.

“It is always a question about money and how much funds you actually want to put behind this technology. But on the other side, I believe what is definitely required is to have a clear strategy in place,” he added.

“And again comparing other markets to Australia, if the government has a very clear mission and a very clear goal of rolling out electric vehicles into the market, then that automatically comes with some appropriate incentives – be it incentives for vehicle purchases, or be it incentives in order to set up charging infrastructure.

“At the end of the day, the government plays a crucial role in order to make this fly.”

When questioned what these incentives should be, Mr Werner said: “The easiest and probably quick win would be no stamp duty, so stamp duty will leave.”

“We would even consider no GST on electric vehicles. That would probably be the easiest going forward, and it’s not a lot of money that's actually required to fund this.

“And as I said before, electric vehicles are not actually huge volumes that we’re talking about here and will definitely provide a good incentive in order to generate more momentum and also generate more awareness.

“It’s still a new technology, but what we know from market research is that if a customer has decided to move to an electric vehicle, they usually stay with an electric vehicle – and that was actually quite surprising from a consumer perspective, they really love that technology.”

EVs accounted for less than 0.001 per cent of new-vehicle sales in Australia last year, with 1123 examples finding homes to the end of 2017, representing a 46.8 per cent improvement over the 765 units sold in 2016.

Currently, BMW has one EV model on sale globally, the i3, which was recently facelifted alongside the introduction of sportier i3s variants that look to add a performance edge to the zero- or low-emissions light hatchback.

Furthermore, petrol-electric plug-in hybrids under its iPerformance banner include the i8 sportscar, 330e mid-size sedan, 530e large sedan, 740e upper-large sedan and X5 xDrive40e large SUV, while the Mini Countryman Cooper S E All4 small SUV is still being assessed for an Australian launch.

This line-up will expand in the coming years with production versions of the iX3, Mini Electric, iNext and i Vision Dynamics EV concepts, with the latter likely to be dubbed i5 when it hits showrooms.

According to Mr Werner, BMW Group Australia has been actively engaging with key stakeholders at all levels to increase momentum towards an electrified future.

“We’re having quite extensive discussions on every single level, not only with the government but also on the state level, the federal level, discussions with city councillors. We are really working hard … to create that awareness of BMW’s position and taking the lead here as the industry,” he said.

“And we've recently teamed up with the EV Council, and that is definitely promising as we are being heard, we are being seen one of the forward-thinking companies in that regard. And we will not give up … we will continue pushing here in order for a better future of Australia.”

The Electric Vehicle Council (EVC) was established as national advocacy body for the emerging EV industry that aims to increase incentives, develop regulations and raise consumer awareness.

Founding EVC members include BMW, Hyundai, Mitsubishi, Nissan, Volkswagen Group, Audi, Jaguar Land Rover, Porsche and Tesla, as well as ActewAGL, AGL Energy, Synergy, TransGrid and JET Change, Lennock Fleet, ClimateWorks Australia, ITP Renewables and RACV.

Mr Werner did praise federal minister for environment and energy Josh Frydenberg for his January opinion piece in Fairfax publications that forecasted a dramatic increase in EV take-up, with one million such vehicles to hit Australian roads by 2030.

“While these targets are extremely light in comparison to other country’s targets, at least the government is thinking about the situation and the policy for lower-emission vehicles, and we commend the minister for his foresight,” he said.

“However, thinking about this is clearly not enough. We need to see some action here, or Australia will continue to lag behind the rest of the world.”

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