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Leading Australian car importer Suzuki has urged the government to further commit to green cars.
Suzuki Australia General Manager Tony Devers suggested all levels of government could provide leadership with incentives to make globally efficient cars cheaper for all Australians.
“Compared to what’s happening in the rest of the world, the lack of policy and direction in Australia is hard to fathom,” said Devers.
“As it stands in Australia at the moment, the only customers who can benefit from a decision to purchase a more fuel efficient car are those who can afford vehicles costing between 60 and 75 thousand dollars, with the price of a BMW 5-Series diesel dropping from $81,000 to $76,000.
“Where is the incentive for people wanting to purchase a much less expensive car that’s good for the environment?”
Devers said the time had come to define exactly what constitutes a green car.
“Look at what’s happening around the world – in countries like France, Belgium and Italy – where bonuses exist for cars emitting less than 130 grams of CO2 per kilometre.
“We call on the government to use that figure, defining a green car as one with CO2 emissions of 130g/km or less.”
Devers said Suzuki would this year become the first local car company to offer a genuine green car for around $13,000, when the Alto goes on sale in August.
With a three cylinder 1.0-litre engine, the Alto emits just 113g/km, while still offering advanced safety features such as side curtain airbags and stability control.
Suzuki unveiled the car to customers at the recent Melbourne International Motor Show, and Devers said the response from potential customers was enormous.
He added that almost every manufacturer had a vehicle similar to Alto available in their global product portfolio.
“It is remarkable that customers shopping at this end of the market should not be rewarded for thinking with their conscience, as well as their wallet.”
Devers said the time had come for rewarding customers who based their decision on fuel consumption and greenhouse gas emissions.
“It’s time to get serious about greening the industry by linking subsidies to efficiency standards and supporting environmentally friendly vehicles like Alto with real benefits through taxation changes.”
Devers said Australia was lagging behind the world in its slow-paced approach to reforming emission practices.
“In Australia, the most recent ABS Survey of Motor Vehicle Use revealed the average motorist emits 250 grams of CO2 – or five ‘black balloons’ of harmful greenhouse gas – for every kilometre driven.
“The industry average for Australian motorists is 15,000 kilometres per year, equating to 75,000 balloons.
“Alto emits just 113 grams of CO2 per kilometre – or just over two balloons. Over a year of travel, Alto will produce 30,000 balloons or around 60 per cent less.”
Devers said the Alto’s remarkably low emission figure was matched by its frugal fuel consumption.
“The ABS survey showed the average Australian fuel consumption is 11.5 litres of fuel for every 100 km, while the Alto uses just 4.8.
“Over one year of travel, that means the average car will consume more than 1700 litres of fuel while Alto will use about 700; again around 60 per cent less.”
On the basis of those figures, Devers said driving a green car made economic sense as well.
“At today’s price of $1.20 a litre that one year of travel will cost the average motorist $2040 while an Alto driver will only have to spend $840.
“We could see a fleet of vehicles with the latest technology in safety and ultra low emissions, while also providing a much-needed stimulus for the automotive market.”
Devers said it was time for the government to offer real benefits for all Australians in the form of green car incentives like a national scrappage scheme.
Devers explained a scrappage scheme would encourage motorists to replace their old vehicles with more environmentally friendly new vehicles via a government incentive.
“The German government offers private consumers up to $5000 towards the purchase of a new car if they trade in an old car aged nine years or more.
“That resulted in a sales increase of nearly 22 per cent in Germany in February, providing a much need fillip for the industry, while ensuring more environmentally efficient vehicles were on the road.
“Australia statistically has one of the oldest vehicle fleets in the world, offering real potential for this type of scheme to work here.”
Devers suggested the level of incentive should be based on a sliding scale, with greater reward for people purchasing more environmentally friendly vehicles.
“It would be a relatively simple exercise to categorise cars according to their CO2 emission levels.”
He dismissed claims by Federal Industry Minister Kim Carr that such a scheme was too expensive.
“Mr Carr believes a government tax break for business buyers is a more effective incentive. But how does that help low income earners?”
Devers said cars like the Alto would offer low income earners the chance to lower their running costs, as well as helping improve the health of the environment.
“Low income earners are particularly affected by petrol price increases, as they typically live in outer suburbs and are dependent on their car for transportation.
“The Future Fuel Forum revealed that oil price increases will add around $200 to weekly fuel bills in the next 10 years, exacerbating the situation for low income consumers.
“Adding incentives to purchase low cost, low emission vehicles like the Alto not only help protect low income earners from price increases but also helps them contribute to decreasing their carbon footprint.”
Devers added that a replication of the German experience could result in a 20 per cent increase in government revenue via GST and stamp duty.
“If it was managed correctly, this scheme could be self funding”
Devers also suggested the government could consider a First Green Car Owner’s Scheme as part of an ongoing campaign for greater incentives for green cars.
“We’ve all seen the benefits to the building industry as a result of the First Home Owner’s Scheme, which contributes up to $21,000 to first home buyers.
“If the government was serious about making environmentally efficient cars more appealing, why don’t they consider a similar scheme for first car owners?
“By linking the scheme to cars that meet the 130 g/km criteria, this scheme has enormous potential to not only lower our greenhouse gas emissions, but to also help save the lives of hundreds of young Australians.
“Last year, drivers aged between 18 and 25 made up nearly 30 per cent of all fatal crashes, despite representing only 14 per cent of all drivers.
“One of the acknowledged factors in many of these crashes is the fact young people traditionally drive older vehicles, most of them lacking advanced safety features such as side curtain airbags or electronic stability control.
“Making fuel efficient cars with high safety levels more financially attractive with a bonus – like the home owner’s scheme – addresses two major issues.”
Devers said the industry – and most manufacturers – would benefit from such schemes.
“Again, with an increase in new car sales, tax revenue is also increased, along with GST on accessories and other associated services.
“Most manufacturers have an ultra-low emission car like Alto in their global portfolio that could be available to Australian consumers.
“At Suzuki, we believe the best way to broaden the choice is for all levels of government to maximise the potential by offering real incentives,” Devers said.
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