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Nissan irked by confusing government policies

Double standards: Nissan has questioned “the government and bureaucratic contradiction” with various issues currently in play behind the scenes in the car industry.

Contradictory policies highlight lack of cohesive approach to the auto sector: Emery

21 Apr 2017

NISSAN has highlighted the double standards inherent in the federal government’s mix of policies, proposals and enquiries concerning the automotive sector, one of the country’s largest service industries.

Nissan Australia managing director and CEO Richard Emery told GoAuto that on the one hand the government and its authorities are demanding more accountability from car companies, yet on the other hand it is considering forcing car-makers to release their service and maintenance data to all-comers.

And while car-makers are facing demands for better crash safety and emissions standards, the Turnbull government is considering allowing parallel imports of near-new vehicles with no means of ensuring their crashworthiness or assessing their exhaust cleanliness, Mr Emery said.

As if to highlight the incoherence of the overall policy situation, Mr Emery also pointed out that Australia should still be making its own cars and that this could be done profitably with the Australian dollar at current levels.

“I have a problem with the government and bureaucratic contradiction in a lot of the things going on behind the scenes about our industry,” Mr Emery told GoAuto at this month’s launch of the Infiniti G60 Red Sport coupe.

“So, you’ve got the ACCC (Australian Competition and Consumer Commission) wanting us to stand by our products, under ‘lemon laws’, because they feel there is a problem with how car companies and dealerships deal with customers who have got problems with their cars.

“And we’ve got another part of government wanting to put strict CO2 emissions laws in place, sooner than is practicable.

“So, you have all this responsibility and accountability they want to place on us, but another part of the bureaucracy is saying you have to provide all the service information and data to third-party people who will have people who aren’t trained and who will use non-genuine parts.

“But yet you want me to stand by the car.”

Mr Emery said the policy incoherence was highlighted by the proposal to allow the parallel importing of new or near-new cars by individuals. The whole idea, as outlined in various statements by ministers, appears to cause a host of problems by subverting a number of existing laws.

Mr Emery pointed out that there has been no mention of how parallel imports would be regulated or inspected to ensure that they comply with Australian laws on safety and emissions and that they are not stolen or are not resurrected insurance write-offs.

He said car-makers must meet emissions regulations and are under pressure to always produce vehicles with five-star crash-test ratings – as assessed by the Australasian New Car Assessment Program (ANCAP) – but parallel imports would not have the same demands.

“You’ve got CO2 restrictions and ANCAP five stars, but then you are going to allow people to bring in cars from other markets and not even check whether they’ve got ABS or other safety features,” he said.

Mr Emery said that he was particularly concerned by the growing support in Canberra for the Choice of Repairer campaign being championed by the Australian Automotive Aftermarket Association (AAAA), which deals with the provision of repair and maintenance data to independent operators.

“I use a picture in my presentations and it shows two passenger planes,” he said. “It shows a Qantas plane with a Boeing-trained technician using genuine Boeing parts. The other plane is a generic plane with a guy in a pair of overalls whose level of training is unknown and who is fitting non-genuine parts.

“I want to ask the chief of the AAAA which plane is he going to get on?”“So, you want to stand behind my car in terms of quality, but you’re actually forcing me to allow non-trained people to work on that car using non-genuine parts, and yet you still want me to stand behind it. How does that work.”

Nissan Australia will be the only former car-maker that still has a manufacturing operation in Australia when GM and Toyota close their factories later this year because it is still producing aluminium castings in Dandenong for the rest of the Nissan world.

But Mr Emery says Australia got it wrong when former treasurer Joe Hockey and former deputy prime minister Warren Truss effectively forced GM and Toyota to announce they would close their local plants and cause the retrenchment of tens of thousands of workers across the parts industry.

“We still should be building cars in Australia, to be honest,” he said.

The strong Australian dollar caused by the mining industry investment boom spelled the end of the industry, but it didn’t have to close, Mr Emery said.

“What they should have done is have a sliding scale of government support based on the currency position, because there is a point where you can make cars in Australia profitably.”

He said the currency is now back to that level, around US74 cents to the Aussie dollar.

He said assistance should have been geared to the currency, as in Brazil, so that tariffs went up as the local currency went up, because the stronger currency means imports can be cheaper.

“So, if you said that, when the currency is low, you’ll getting nothing from us. But, if the currency is a bit higher, you’ll get a little bit from us and, if it’s really high, you’ll get more again,” he said.

That would have kept the prices of locally made and imported models comparable and not disrupted the competitive balance, as happened in Australia, he said.

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