Tesla Revs Out of Australian Auto Lobby Over ‘Misleading’ Emissions Claims

On Thursday, the largest producer of electric vehicles globally announced its decision to withdraw from Australia’s central automotive lobby and step down from its board. Tesla accused the group of providing misleading information to consumers regarding the government’s proposed fuel efficiency standards. In a letter directed to Australia’s Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries, Tesla expressed dissatisfaction, stating that the nation’s primary automotive industry body had consistently made verifiably inaccurate claims.

The U.S. carmaker, which sells its vehicles in Australia, also asked the nation’s competition watchdog to investigate whether FCAI had engaged in behaviors that could mislead or deceive Australian consumers. It called on the lobby group to issue public corrections and “cease commentary and meetings in which it foreshadows or coordinates how competitor brands implement price changes in response to environmental regulations.”

The letter by Tesla, whose chairman is billionaire Elon Musk, comes as Australia’s center-left Labor government designs a new set of rules that will limit the amount of carbon dioxide emissions cars can emit and require manufacturers to offer buyers credits to cover the cost of the new higher-efficiency versions of their existing models. The government plans to introduce the new New Vehicle Emissions Standard in January 2025, and it says the standards will ensure the vast majority of cars sold in the country have lower emissions. However, many automakers, including those with significant presence in Australia, such as Volvo, the spin-off Polestar, and the EV-only brand BYD, oppose the policy.

During a series of media interviews, the lobby group argued that the new rules would force carmakers to increase the prices of popular cars such as the Ranger Raptor by up to $25,000. It has said the NVES will impose a so-called “family car and ute tax” on motorists. The Albanese government has dismissed the warnings from the lobby group, which is also backed by peak motoring bodies NRMA, RACQ, and RACWA, saying that there is no evidence that fuel efficiency standards will significantly lift consumer prices in other countries or inflate the cost of cars in Australia.

In its letter, Tesla said the alleged misinformation by the FCAI had been spread by “a concerted campaign of media releases.” It added that it was inappropriate for the group to foreshadow or coordinate how competitors such as BYD, MG, and Toyota will implement price changes in response to NVES. It said it could only be justified if it was based on pricing models the FCAI knew were incorrect.

It also asked the FCAI to withdraw a media release that had used a figure for the highest-emitting variants of some popular models. It said it was inappropriate that news outlets such as Wheels published the claim in question. It also asked the FCAI to remove comments it considered “unsubstantiated” from its website.

The resignation of the board member of Australia’s top automotive industry body reflects growing tensions over the government’s plan to address climate change while also trying to safeguard local jobs. It also paves the way for fellow EV-only brand Polestar to follow suit potentially and quit the FCAI, which currently counts Audi, BMW, Mercedes, Kia, and VW as members.

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