28 Jul 2022

Clean car discount scheme working as expected, minister says

2:30 pm on 28 July 2022

The clean car discount scheme has had only 80 cases where rebates or fees had to be corrected, Minister of Transport Michael Wood says.

Parked cars for sale, car yard.

Photo: 123RF

The Vehicle Industry Association (VIA) has withdrawn its support of the scheme due to what it says are ongoing implementation failures. The association had claimed in failing to fix the problem the government had continued to "steal from" consumers.

Wood said there had been teething issues but "no vehicle purchaser has had, or will have money 'stolen' from them".

"I am confident that for the majority of Kiwis, the clean car discount is working as expected with correct rates charged."

VIA said the cases brought to NZTA's attention were "only the tip of the iceberg" because the data problems either became apparent at registration time, or slipped through.

"We're not getting the corrections made or the additions made to the database to make sure it's comprehensive, so that consumers can be sure they're getting the right discounts and the right penalties," chief executive David Vinsen said.

One industry operator in Auckland told RNZ today that they alone had needed data fixed on more than 100 used vehicles since April.

The common problem - of hybrids having no data and therefore defaulting to the highest fee of $2875 - was continuing at a rate of several per week, they said.

Wood said that in the big picture, the scheme had been a "huge success" at encouraging the import of 57,000 electric and non plug-in hybrid vehicles.

"This is the scheme working as it is meant to, to clean up our fleet.

"Of the cases brought to Waka Kotahi's attention for investigation between 1 April and 30 June 2022, only 44 required a correction. In addition, Waka Kotahi is undertaking an ongoing proactive audit of the scheme which has identified a further 36 that required a correction," Wood said in a statement.

VIA has also withdrawn its support for the clean car standard that comes in next year.

At the consumer end, the withdrawal of support for both the scheme and the standard will make little or no difference to car buying, as they both stay in place.

Vinsen said the association backed the government's goal and intention but the mechanism was broken despite months of VIA helping NZTA to try to fix it, both before and after 1 April.

"Despite best endeavours, a year into it we've realised we're not making traction," he told Morning Report today.

"The dealers are complicit in that they know what is going on, but the money is being taken at the time of registration."

A 15-point list of VIA's concerns gave the example of inconsistency with how plug-in hybrids in Japan were being rated, as an example of "the willingness to knowingly use flawed data in calculating feebates".

"Although we have highlighted this issue to government, provided a well-researched and fair solution, there is no evidence that government has an interest in fixing the problem.

"The government continues to steal from consumers by not fixing the problem."

Read the VIA document here:

NZTA documents, reported on previously by RNZ, show the agency was struggling with the nil-data-default-to-fee problem, was very unsure of the scale of the problems in and was fielding emails from alarmed car dealers in the days after the scheme began.

Wood said the climate change impacts being seen globally required a "comprehensive response" on emissions.

The discount scheme had clearly influenced importers to bring in lower emitting vehicles, he said, adding he had asked NZTA senior officials to assess VIA's concerns "to determine if we can iron out any remaining obstacles".

The clean car standard is aimed at pushing the market this way still further, but importers and dealers have expressed concern it will likely be flawed.

VIA has been raising its concerns on behalf of its dealer members for months, many of them arguing the scheme is weighted against used cars versus new cars.

They extend beyond emissions data, to safety ratings, which apply different approaches to used versus new vehicles.

"Since the government does not have information on all the models and variants that have been available in source markets and they do not trust importers to provide the information, the government cannot know all the options and therefore cannot accurately identify vehicles consistently," it said.

The scheme's design instead made used importers reliant on their commercial rivals, the new vehicle manufacturers, for data to prove a car's emissions, which was "simply absurd".

VIA accused authorities of failing to communicate the known problems to the industry and the public.

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