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Auto industry bushfire relief tops $4.8m

Echoes of 2009: Bushfires rage in Australia and much of the automotive industry has pledged generous aid for those affected by the disaster, despite a serious slump in new-vehicle sales.

Huge pledges from VW, Holden boost auto industry contribution to bushfire relief

24 Jan 2020

AUSTRALIA’S automotive industry has contributed at least $4.8 million of cash and in-kind aid to areas ravaged by the bushfire crisis, with the true total likely to soar north of $5.0m due to several corporate donations remaining undisclosed or unannounced.


There have also been significant fundraising and other support efforts by individual vehicle dealerships both in bushfire-affected areas and nationally.


Volkswagen and GM Holden have respectively chipped in $2.5m and $1m, with another $473,000 coming from Toyota, $400,000 from BMW and up to $150,000 pledged by the Blue Oval through its philanthropic Ford Motor Company Fund.


Other big pledges have come from Isuzu Ute Australia and motorcycle dealership group Peter Stevens. Mazda and Hyundai have confirmed they made unpublicised contributions while Kia’s donation is linked to its sponsorship of the Australian Open tennis tournament that has in turn raised many millions of dollars.


Mitsubishi, Nissan, Jaguar Land Rover and Peugeot are among those helping out with the supply of vehicles to affected areas, with the former joining Nissan and VW in offering support to customers of their financial services divisions whose ability to keep up repayments are impacted by the bushfires.


Mercedes-Benz Australia/Pacific has also confirmed to GoAuto that it is "finalising a comprehensive response plan to ensure our contribution has the greatest possible impact to those in need" that will include "a combination of monetary donations, fundraising efforts, vehicle support and volunteering opportunities to assist the rebuild".


Volkswagen Group Australia's managing director Michael Bartsch said the company’s bumper donation would be split three ways; $1m to “organisations involved with endangered wildlife” and $1m “towards reforestation” with the remaining $500K “designated for the fire services and the relief of those affected by the fires”.


“Thousands continue to suffer from this unprecedented disaster,” he said. “Volkswagen has been part of Australian life since the 1950s. Therefore, we step up both to assist those at forefront of this crisis and to aid in what will be a protracted recovery.”


GM Holden announced that it will plough the first $200,000 of its $1m donation toward Australian Red Cross Disaster Relief, with the rest “directed to where it will make the most meaningful impact”.


Toyota Australia pledged donations to Salvation Army of $3000 and $6000 respectively for every four and six hit during the Sydney test and Big Bash League (BBL) cricket match on January 6, culminating in a total of $223,000 in addition to the $250K jointly pledged in November by Toyota Australia and its Japanese parent company, also destined for Salvos.


BMW Group Australia confirmed to GoAuto that the company is “contributing $400,000” to bushfire relief causes and that “dealers have also proven extremely generous and added to that”.


Two-thirds of Ford’s $150K pledge will go to Australian Red Cross, with the rest being a promise to match up to $50,000 of donations made by the company’s employees and dealers.


Isuzu Ute has also announced a $50,000 donation split evenly between the Salvation Army Australia Disaster Appeal and the World Wildlife Fund, while Peter Stevens has promised to donate up to $50K of its February online sales revenue plus proceeds of other fundraising efforts to Salvation Army, Red Cross and Wildlife Victoria.


The Mazda Foundation has donated an undisclosed amount, in addition to a $20,000 contribution from Mazda Australia as part of fundraising efforts surrounding the BBL cricket match between Sydney Thunder and the Sydney Sixers. Funds will go to Australian Red Cross.


A Hyundai Motor Company Australia spokesperson confirmed to GoAuto that the company had made an unpublicised donation as the bushfire disaster unfolded late last year and that it was “also currently working on a new initiative, but nothing to announce at this stage”.


Kia Motors Australia is also contributing to bushfire relief through its position as major sponsor of the Australian Open tennis tournament that has so far raised more than $5.4m for the Bushfire Emergency Wildlife Fund and Australian Red Cross, although the amount Kia pitches in will not be known until after the final call of game, set and match.


Mitsubishi Motors Australia Limited (MMAL), in addition to extending emergency service leave for its employees from one week to four and offering support to customers of its financial services division who are affected by the bushfires, is responding to the crisis through its ‘Community Fleet’ initiative that supplies vehicles and people to support disaster relief and humanitarian work.


A spokesperson for MMAL told GoAuto: “MMAL and our dealers are supporting a number of organisations around the country however, at this stage we are leaving it to the receiving organisations to choose whether they publicise our support.”


Similarly, Jaguar Land Rover has extended its long-term support of Australian Red Cross by supplying an additional 20 Discovery and Discovery Sport vehicles for use in disaster relief and recovery efforts across “the worst affected areas of New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia, Queensland and WA”. The company estimates the equivalent value of this contribution as around $150,000 over six months.


Subaru, Peugeot and Citroen importer Inchcape has provided Sydney’s Taronga Zoo with a Peugeot van to help with the relocation of Koalas from bushfire-impacted areas. Subaru ambassador and rally driver Molly Taylor also raised $7315 for Australian Red Cross by auctioning a race suit she wore during her 2016 Australian Rally Championship win.


Beyond this, a Subaru Australia spokesperson told GoAuto the company was “still evaluating” its bushfire response and “hasn’t made any decisions as yet”.


Like MMAL, Nissan and VW are also extending support to customers of their financial services divisions whose ability to meet repayments are affected by the bushfire crisis.


Nissan Australia issued a statement that it was also “working closely with dealers in affected areas to support their businesses and customers during this difficult time, providing vehicles where appropriate to impacted communities, and assisting customers who need to purchase a new vehicle as a result of vehicle loss”.


From an industry body standpoint, Australian Automotive Aftermarket Association CEO Stuart Charity said the organisation had “provided a financial contribution to a number of national funds” and extended an offer of help to affected service and repair businesses, particularly with navigating the various support services and programmes.


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