Most Aussies feel fuel cost pressures, want better cars

Jennifer Dudley-Nicholson |

Most Australians are feeling the fuel price pinch and support a vehicle efficiency standard.
Most Australians are feeling the fuel price pinch and support a vehicle efficiency standard.

Most Australian drivers support changes to deliver more efficient vehicles to the nation, despite a fierce, industry-wide debate about new car emission rules. 

The Climate Council released an opinion poll about Australia’s proposed New Vehicle Efficiency Standard on Saturday, showing more than half of Australians wanted to see a standard introduced.

But even more respondents reported feeling pressure from the rising cost of fuel prices and almost two in three people thought Australians deserved access to more efficient vehicles already being sold overseas. 

The research follows heated arguments over the federal government’s proposed fuel-efficiency standard, to be introduced in January, which proponents argue will increase the availability of efficient cars and opponents say could raise the cost of high-polluting vehicles. 

The Climate Council’s survey of more than 1100 Australians found 54 per cent supported the introduction of a fuel-efficiency standard on new cars and only 14 per cent opposed it. 

More Australians (58 per cent) said a standard would help to reduce climate pollution, while slightly less (52 per cent) said they believed new rules would help to cut the price of fuel. 

The study also found four in every five Australians were feeling budget pressure from rising petrol prices, and almost two in three felt Australians deserved to be able to buy the same “cleaner” cars sold in other countries with standards in place. 

Fuel-efficiency standards currently cover more than 85 per cent of the world’s vehicle market, in countries including the UK, US, Japan and China. 

Climate Council advocacy head Jennifer Rayner said the survey results showed while car makers and politicians were debating its contents, drivers wanted to see changes to the cars sold in Australia. 

“We’ve heard a lot of self-interested talk lately from multinational car brands about what Aussies want to drive,” she said.

“The answer couldn’t be clearer: the majority of Australians want cars that are cheaper to run and don’t pollute our air and climate.”

An electric vehicle charging station
Most Australians believe cutting vehicle emissions is critical to tackling climate change. (Bianca De Marchi/AAP PHOTOS)

The study also showed 74 per cent of respondents considered cutting emissions from cars is an important way to tackle climate change.

Parents for Climate chief executive Nic Seton said support for vehicle-emission limits were particularly high among parents, with 60 per cent backing a fuel-efficiency standard and 86 per cent reporting feeling pressure from high petrol prices. 

“Parents often choose vehicles that cater for both their kids and their business, for journeys that can’t be replaced by walking or rolling,” she said. 

“Families deserve access to the same cleaner and cheaper-to-run vehicles that manufacturers are currently sending to countries with fuel-efficiency standards in place.”

Toyota's prototype electric ute, the HiLux BEV,
The opposition says the new vehicle emission scheme could raise the price of SUVs and utes. (Jennifer Dudley-Nicholson/AAP PHOTOS)

Public submissions into the government’s preferred model closed early this month but the standard has attracted debate from both sides of politics and different car brands. 

Electric automakers Tesla and Polestar recently resigned from the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries over its commentary opposing the standard, while opposition transport spokeswoman Bridget McKenzie called it a “flawed scheme” that could raise prices for SUVs and utes.