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FCAI president urges EV support

Plugged-in: Chevrolet's production Volt - to be sold here as a Holden in 2012.

Holden chief, in new role as FCAI president, calls for government EV support

6 May 2010

NEWLY elected Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries (FCAI) president Mike Devereux has called on the Rudd government to offer incentives to boost the fledgling electric vehicle (EV) industry in Australia.

Speaking last night at the FCAI’s annual dinner in his maiden speech as president, Mr Devereux, who is also GM Holden’s chairman and managing director, said federal government support was a critical factor in attracting greater numbers of EVs than the trickle now being allocated by global manufacturers.

While there is some minor tax relief at state level, Australia not followed other national governments in countries such as Britain, Japan and the US in offering large incentives to bring the price of EVs down and to fast-track EV network development.

Some countries are offering government-funded consumer incentives of more than $10,000 for ultra-low-emission vehicles, and are in turn receiving the lion’s share of world EV production.

Directing his comments to federal transport minister Anthony Albanese, who attended last night’s dinner, Mr Devereux said EVs would not reach a broad audience in Australia unless the government provided the car industry – led by importers such as Mitsubishi, Nissan and, before long, Holden – with incentives.

“In only a few years’ time, the Australian automotive industry could be a transformed landscape – but there is a need for the industry and government to work hand in hand to build on the progress that has been achieved to date,” he said.

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“Take electric vehicles, for example. In Australia at the moment, it is difficult for the respective brands to mount a valid business case for these vehicles when many other countries are already offering large incentives to consumers who buy these low-emission vehicles.

“This is a case in point that it is only through a partnership with governments, car-makers and customers that we will achieve greater outcomes.”

Low-volume conversion specialists have offered EVs in Australia for some time, and while Mitsubishi (with its i-MiEV) and Nissan (with the Leaf) are striving to become the first mass-market car brands with EVs available for general sale here, large volumes are not expected until 2012 at the earliest.

There are other brands working to a similar timeframe, including Holden, which expects to offer the imported Volt range-extending plug-in hybrid in 2012.

Federal industry minister Kim Carr has previously told GoAuto that the government’s priority was not to popularise certain technologies but to build up domestic car manufacturing capacity, as it has done with the Toyota Camry Hybrid, to ensure the local industry remains viable.

Mr Devereux’s comments echoed those of FCAI chief executive Andrew McKellar, who told GoAuto in March that Australia could be left behind the rest of the world if significant government incentives for low-emission cars were not forthcoming.

“The reality is that other national governments are already offering significant incentives and we must determine whether or not we want full and early access to some of these technologies or whether we are going to be content to slip back and let others take the lead,” he said.

Mr Albanese said last night that he had driven the i-MiEV and “was impressive with its on-road performance”.

He highlighted that the government had approved the vehicle for sale in Australia – as the first full-volume fully electric car on the market – but stopped short of offering specific incentives to bring the price for the micro-car down from its likely starting mark of $70,000.

“I am profoundly aware of the challenges you as manufacturers and economic wealth-creators face, both domestically and globally,” he said.

“The challenges for us, the policy-makers and regulators, are to provide you with a well structured, equitable business environment while meeting community expectations for a cleaner, safer and friendlier world.

“Governments and industry need to continue to show the leadership necessary to achieve this.

“I look forward to the continuation of our strong and constructive relationship.”

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