Aussie motorists might miss out on cheap electric cars

Australians might miss out on thousands of near-new electric vehicles at significantly cheaper prices than existing offerings if laws banning imports are not quickly addressed.

The vehicles, from countries including Japan and the United Kingdom, can be imported to Australia for about $20,000 ā€“ less than half the price of the cheapest new electric car.

But motoring bodies, including the Australian Automobile Association, have warned against legal changes, saying allowing more vehicle imports could increase the average age of vehicles in the country.

The Australian Electric Vehicle Association highlighted the issue after the federal government did not address changes to parallel import laws in its National Electric Vehicle Strategy, released last week.

Electric vehicle association national president Chris Jones said the laws stopped local companies importing some second-hand electric cars and accelerating Australiaā€™s transport transition.

ā€œThese are near-new vehicles that are high-quality, certainly very safe, and they can be brought to a customer in Australia for less than $20,000, so why the hell arenā€™t we doing it?ā€ he said.

ā€œThis is a proven strategy to bring more affordable EVs into the country thatā€™s not being covered.ā€

Current laws prevent vehicles being imported if they have already been sold in Australia, he says, even if they are no longer being offered.

Mr Jones said these laws stopped cars like the 2018 Hyundai Ioniq hatchback from being imported second-hand from the UK.

Good Car Company co-founder Anton Vikstrom said the Tasmanian start-up could ā€œprobably bring over 10,000 to 20,000ā€ electric vehicles at lower prices into the country if parallel import laws were changed.

The move would make electric vehicles available to new customers and feed the fledgling used market, he said.

ā€œMost people donā€™t buy new cars and the sort of price point where people are comfortable purchasing cars is not $70,000,ā€ Mr Vikstrom said.

ā€œMost people are driving around in a $15,000 car. To get there, weā€™re going to need a strong second-hand market and this is a pathway to get there.ā€

New laws would need to include consumer protections, Mr Vikstrom added, including guarantees for managing local safety recalls.

But Australian Automotive Association managing director Michael Bradley said changing rules for second-hand vehicle imports could be counter-productive.

He said the government should focus on encouraging car makers to bring new electric models into the country and buying more electric vehicles for fleets.

ā€œThe AAA does not support relaxing rules to increase second-hand vehicle imports because newer vehicles offer higher levels of safety through more advanced design and vehicle safety features,ā€ he said.

ā€œThe way to increase the availability of second-hand EVs in Australia is to focus on new EV fleet sales through an appropriately designed fuel-efficiency standard.ā€

Submissions are currently being sought on a fuel-efficiency standard that will introduce limits of vehicle pollution and encourage car makers to launch more low-emission vehicles in Australia. Feedback is due by May 31.


Jennifer Dudley-Nicholson
(Australian Associated Press)


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