Comment, News, Regulations ,

THE chief executive officer of the Australian Automotive Aftermarket Association Stuart Charity has welcomed the government’s relaxed CO2 emission regulations for four-wheel drive SUV and light commercial vehicles but he warned that it was important that the New Vehicle Efficiency Standard (NVES) was implemented in a manner that allowed both OEMs and aftermarket providers ample opportunity to change tack. 

Speaking with GoAutoNews Premium at the Australian Auto Aftermarket Expo in Melbourne this week, Mr Charity was discussing the effect the NVES might have on aftermarket accessories sales which typically can run to $10,000 to $20,000 per vehicle, especially on utes and SUVs.

Mr Charity said the implementation of the 4WD Innovation Zone at this year’s Expo was testament to the growing number of accessory suppliers working to develop products for the Australian market – and beyond.

Some 2100 four-wheel drive accessory and part suppliers operate in Australia, with several now having successfully expanded into international markets.

Mr Charity said that with stricter NVES rules comes the very real likelihood that development of such products would be forced to cease, creating consequences that may not previously have been considered.

“We are of the view – and we have backed this up with our own Innovation Centre – that cars, particularly four-wheel drive SUVs and light commercial utilities, are still going to have to be modified to suit Australian conditions, irrespective of what the powertrain is,” he said.

“However, we need to understand the technology, and what the limitations are. From an innovation perspective, we need to come up with a means of being able to safely and effectively modify those vehicles.

“I think the biggest concern among those we represent, at least from a short-term perspective, is that if the government goes too hard on this (NVES) too early, then the rate at which change and innovation will be able to keep pace will fall away.

“Car companies and accessory developers cannot change their line-ups, or their powertrains, at the click of a finger,” he said.

Stuart Charity

“By introducing strong NVES rules too early, we will see a kind of freeze on new car sales – people will hold on to their older cars a lot longer.

“That has the exact opposite effect of what the government is trying to achieve … and we have seen that already in various countries, including New Zealand and the United States, where they are rolling back some of their emissions standards in recent times.”

While he agrees that the NVES is a step in the right direction, Mr Charity said it was important that policy makers recognise the bigger picture.

He said it was not only important that the automotive aftermarket was considered in adopting stricter regulations, but that charging, maintenance and other considerations are factored in to ensure a smooth transition.

“Our advice to the government is: ‘don’t go too hard too quickly’ because you’ll actually have the opposite effect of what you’re setting out to achieve,” he said.

“Let’s factor in not just encouraging people to buy new cars and forcing manufacturers to bring in low-emission and zero emissions vehicles, let’s also factor in that we must be able to service, repair and maintain these vehicles for their useful life – all around the country.

“It is also imperative that we talk about charging infrastructure as one of the many considerations required to serve and facilitate an orderly transition to a lower emission vehicle transport fleet,” Mr Charity said.

By Matt Brogan

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