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New FCAI president calls for federal action on key issues

New address: The FCAI’s new president Dave Buttner is calling for a ‘whole of government’ approach to reducing Australia’s CO2 tailpipe emissions, rather than requiring the car industry to take full responsibility.

Federal policy clarity needed for car sector on CO2, intelligent transport: Buttner

7 May 2015

NEWLY elected Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries (FCAI) president Dave Buttner has urged the Abbott government to devise a strategy that lays the groundwork for the industry’s future in key areas such as carbon dioxide emissions and intelligent transport systems.

Mr Buttner, who is also president of market leader Toyota in Australia, used his speech to the FCAI’s annual dinner this week to dispel the notion that the manufacturing exit of the three remaining car-makers – Ford, Holden and Toyota – by the end of 2017 will eliminate the need for ongoing federal automotive policy.

He said government action was required on a number of pressing issues, including broad-reaching strategies to deliver “real and lasting CO2 reductions” and securing the broadcast spectrum and developing “the correct regulatory framework” needed for the introduction of emerging transport systems, such as vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) and vehicle-to-infrastructure (V2I) technology.

Regulations governing the importation of motor vehicles remain high on the FCAI’s agenda, as the federal government undertakes a review of the Motor Vehicles Standard Act.

Environmental policy has emerged as a key area of concern for the FCAI, which argues that further reductions of Australia’s national average CO2 tailpipe emissions for light vehicles – currently at 188 grams per kilometre – would not be achieved by unilaterally reducing limits for vehicles.

“It is important that we work with the government to ensure that there is an understanding of the efforts and achievements of manufacturers in this area,” Mr Buttner said.

“There must also be an understanding that, to deliver real and lasting CO2 reductions from private road transport, a whole-of-government approach is required.”

As GoAuto has reported, Australian automotive CO2 levels are still a long way behind other comparable markets, such as Europe.

While arguing that it would be difficult to match CO2 levels achieved in other markets because Australian drivers preferred heavier vehicles with more powerful engines and automatic transmissions, Mr Buttner urged the government to assist with the provision of refuelling infrastructure for electric vehicles, plug-in hybrids and hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles.

He said taxpayer-funded incentives were needed to encourage car buyers to adopt the new energy platforms, “which come at a higher cost”, and that steps should be taken to further reduce the age of the Australian vehicle fleet by getting rid of older, less efficient vehicles.

Another area singled out was Australian fuel quality, which he said does not match the low-emissions powertrain technology currently available in motor vehicles.

Mr Buttner also said government could help ease congestion in major cities by looking at the way drivers use light vehicles so readily for such trips, and that campaigns targeting driver behaviour could further reduce emissions.

“To focus on only one area would increase the overall cost to the community without delivering the expected CO2 reduction benefits,” he said.

“Throughout 2015 and beyond, we will work with the government to facilitate a complete and considered discussion, thus ensuring that policy-makers have a thorough and comprehensive understanding of this complex issue.”

On the issue of automotive safety, Mr Buttner acknowledged the imminent arrival of V2V and V2I dedicated short range communications (DSRC) technology, which has the potential to reduce road accidents and improve driver, passenger and pedestrian safety.

“It is important for the industry to lead this issue,” he said.

“We need to set a timetable with the government to allocate the required frequency band, and have the correct regulatory framework in place to facilitate the introduction of co-operative intelligent transport systems.

“While these technologies have significant safety, environmental and performance benefits, they can only succeed with the appropriate infrastructure and support in the country in which they operate.”

Mr Buttner also used his inaugural speech as FCAI president to dismiss the stated policy position of the assistant federal minister for infrastructure and regional development, Jamie Briggs, who recently said he favoured dropping restrictions on the personal importation of new cars.

“FCAI member brands are continuously working to provide Australian consumers with fit-for-purpose vehicles,” Mr Buttner said.

“Any diminution of this effort through the importation of ‘non-fit-for-purpose’ vehicles would most certainly not be in the best interest of the industry, consumers or, indeed, regulators, who have a stated intent of reducing red tape.”

The other issue high on the FCAI’s agenda is the safety of all-terrain vehicles (ATVs), with Mr Buttner highlighting the importance of “known safety practices and training” and warning against proposals such as the introduction of a star rating for ATV safety and the fitment of rollbars.

“Such calls are based on research that doesn’t correlate sufficiently with the real-world performance of an ATV,” Mr Buttner said.

“This distracts both the media and public from practices that are proven to have an immediate impact on ATV safety.”

He said these include “following the manufacturers’ instructions and recommendations for ATV use, wearing helmets and never allowing children to ride adult-sized ATVs”.

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