Volkswagen quits Australia auto lobby committee as fight grows over green fuel standards

SYDNEY, (Reuters) – Volkswagen Australia said on Monday it had quit the policymaking committee at the country’s auto lobby, days after Tesla cut ties with the group, as the German carmaker distances itself from a campaign against new fuel standards.

In a letter sent to other members of the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries, Volkswagen said it quit the lobby group’s Policy Advisory Committee before a meeting later this week, according to a spokesperson.

“Volkswagen Group Australia … speaks for itself on public and policy matters including the New Vehicle Efficiency Standard,” the spokesperson said in an email.

“A strong NVES is in the best interests of this country.”

The move widens a breach first opened last week when electric car maker Tesla accused the group of making false claims and quit in protest over its campaign against the new standards. Fellow automaker Polestar followed a day later.

To get more electric vehicles on the road and cut emissions, Australia last month proposed vehicle efficiency standards that will penalise car makers who import emissions-intensive models and reward those who bring in cleaner vehicles.

Russia and Australia are among the only industrialised countries without the standards.

The peak automotive lobby group has said the government’s preferred option would raise prices and limit options, especially for the pick-up trucks popular in Australia. It wants the government to water down its policy.

Toyota which tops auto sales with its range of pick-up trucks and SUVs, last week backed the lobby group’s position and called on the government to revisit its plan.

Energy Minister Chris Bowen hinted on Sunday the government was open to a compromise and “where an idea has been made to us sensibly, we will consider it sensibly.”

Reporting by Lewis Jackson; Editing by Stephen Coates