EV car giant Tesla has gained a seat on the board of Australia’s main car lobby for the first time, little more than a year after it joined the group and amid an accelerating uptake of EVs in the country.
The Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries has also announced that the local head of Toyota Australia, the best selling car brand in the country, has stepped down as chairman, and will be replaced by the local head of another Japanese car giant Mazda.
The moves are interesting as the local car industry is in the midst of rapid transition to electric, with EVs making up eight per cent of total new car sales in April, and tipped to reach more than 50 per cent in coming years as the flow of vehicles into the market increases.
However, there is still big resistance to the transition from the incumbent car industry in Australia, and the role of lobby groups like the FCAI will be critical as the federal government considers the speed and intent of the proposed vehicle emissions standards.
The lobbying power of Toyota and the incumbent car industry – including the FCAI – has been criticised for standing in the way of policies and standards that could accelerate the switch to EVs in Australia, a country which has lagged the rest of the world in the uptake, but which is now catching up.
Australia’s EV car sales have, however, been completed dominated by Tesla, which has accounted for nearly two thirds of total EV sales in Australia.
Its Model Y is now poised to become the best selling SUV of any type in the country, overtaking the Toyota RAV4, and the Model 3 is the second best selling sedan.
Last year, car makers that favoured EVs were urged to boycott the FCAI because of its stance on emissions standards, but Tesla believes it can influence debate by getting a seat at the table. It joined the FCAI, and started sharing its sales data, early last year.
The board changes were announced by the FCAI on Thursday. It might not make much difference because Mazda is another Japanese car maker that has been slow on the uptake of electric drivetrains.
Yet another Japanese car maker slow on EVs, Honda, has the role of treasurer.
Other board members include representatives from Hyundai, Nissan, Honda Motorcycles, Inchcape, Ford, Volvo, and now Tesla. That seat will be held by Tesla’s Australia country manager Tom Drew.
FCAI chief executive Tony Weber says the lobby group membership encompasses over 63 brands and sub brands.
“Having a Board made up of a diverse range of directors from different areas of the marketplace is critical in ensuring the FCAI continues to offer the best representation of Australia’s motoring industry,” he said in a statement.
“With more change occurring across emissions, intelligent transport, business models and customer experience than ever before, I am confident our Board will provide the critical insight and guidance our industry needs as we move forward.”
Keyword: Tesla gets seat on car lobby board, as Toyota steps away from chair