The message from Volkswagen Australia managing director, Michael Bartsch, is clear: Government incentives to drive the sales of electric vehicles are “fundamentally wrong”.
In an interview with TMR at the recent Australian launch of the Volkswagen Arteon, Bartsch bucked the industry trend calling for government assistance to help introduce electric vehicles locally.
Several car makers and the Electric Vehicle Council have been lobbying the Federal Government for years to introduce incentives for EVs, but Bartsch believes that isn’t the right way for electric cars to be introduced if they are to have long-term viability replacing internal combustion engined cars.
“I think it’s fundamentally wrong,” Bartsch said.
“Why should the public purse pay for something? Why distort the market with incentives? I’m really against it. I think what should be allowed to happen is let the entrepreneurs, let the capitalists work it out, because ultimately if it doesn’t make economic sense it won’t be sustainable.”
“At some point the government will say ‘we’ve done this long enough’ and I’ve seen it in the US. I saw it with the [Toyota] Prius and the Nissan Leaf; you had at a state level the government giving $3000 subsidies on these cars and sales went through the roof. Then they got taxpayer fatigue and they pulled it off and suddenly the whole thing crashes, and you really want to avoid that here."
Volkswagen has switched to a massive investment in EV technology in recent years following the fallout from its diesel emissions scandal.
By 2025 the German group intends to introduce electrification to one-third of its range, either through full EV or hybrid technology, and Bartsch wants Australia to be a part of that transition.
However, he maintains that Volkswagen and the private sector have to lead the transition and not rely on government support.
“We’ve seen what happens when the government gets over-involved in creating a nanny state or market that creates a false sense of security,” he said.
“What happened to the Australian car industry? What happened to Ford? What happened to Holden? What happened to Toyota? When I joined General Motors in 1984 they were talking about closing those plants down for efficiency reasons and it’s now 2017.”
“What you want to make sure is when we launch this in Australia you have an environment that is sustainable. An environment where it’s not being paid by the taxpayers. It’s been developed and paid for by the capitalists and they come out with a product that is genuinely more efficient and more beneficial financially and environmentally than what we have in the market right now.”
"Volkswagen has made it very clear, very public, that they want to introduce electric vehicles at the same pricepoint as what you would pay now for a diesel.”