Aussies ‘stockpile’ thirsty utes and big 4WDs as Anthony Albanese flags new fuel efficiency standards that threaten the great Aussie weekend

Australian motorists may end up hoarding thirsty cars and big four-wheel drives in anticipation of tougher fuel efficiency standards, a climate expert has warned.

Even before Labour’s latest announcement, less fuel-efficient vehicles using more than eight liters per 100km were the top sellers.

They were all available as a diesel with the torque to tow a boat or caravan, and are far more capable than existing electric vehicles with a heavy battery.

The Ford Ranger, Australia’s top seller in 2023, was No.1 again in January with 4,747 sales, data from the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries showed.

The Toyota HiLux, Australia’s annual top seller from 2016 to 2022, was second with 4,092 monthly sales, followed by the Toyota LandCruiser in third place with 2,541 sales, and the Isuzu D-Max in fourth place with 2,541 orders.

Australian motorists may end up hoarding thirsty cars and big four-wheel drives in anticipation of tougher fuel efficiency standards, climate expert warns (pictured is a Toyota LandCruiser driver)

Australian motorists may end up hoarding thirsty cars and big four-wheel drives in anticipation of tougher fuel efficiency standards, climate expert warns (pictured is a Toyota LandCruiser driver)

Brian Fisher, managing director of BAEconomics, which has advised the United Nations on climate change, said motorists worried about new fuel efficiency standards could start stocking up on big four-wheel drives over the next nine months.

“If they believe there’s going to be shortages of certain types of vehicles, then there’s an incentive for people to buy early,” he told USA Online Post Australia.

‘I think it’s going to happen. If we’re going to see that kind of effect, we’ll see it in the next six to nine months.’

On Sunday, Climate Change and Energy Minister Chris Bowen and Transport Minister Catherine King announced a new vehicle efficiency standard based on the US Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards.

Since the mid-1970s, this US regulation has required car companies to ensure that their fleets of new vehicles meet an average fuel efficiency target.

From 2026, the car fleet will have to average 49 miles per gallon or 4.8 liters per 100 km.

The gigantic Ford F-Series pickup truck was America’s top seller last year, despite the fact that the F-150 model covered just 20 miles per gallon, or 12 liters per 100 km.

Should a US fuel efficiency policy be adopted in Australia, car companies would be penalized if they rely too much on selling large cars.

“You can offset sales of large vehicles with sales of more efficient vehicles, presumably that’s how it’s going to work in Australia as well,” Mr Fisher said.

“If you can’t settle, then you have to pay the fine.”

The Ford Ranger, Australia's top seller in 2023, was No.1 again in January with 4,747 sales, Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries data showed

The Ford Ranger, Australia’s top seller in 2023, was No.1 again in January with 4,747 sales, Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries data showed

Manufacturers can offset the emissions of larger vehicles by selling more smaller cars or designing hybrid or battery-electric versions of cars and four-wheel drives.

It would be part of Labour’s plans to cut carbon emissions by 43 per cent by 2030.

“As these emissions standards kick in towards the end of the decade, given the extent to which the government is talking about reducing emissions, it looks like you’d almost have to see a very significant electrification of the entire fleet to meet those standards,” Mr Fisher said.

“I can’t see how you can meet the target without significant electrification across the fleet.”

Mr Fisher said this could mean Ford is rethinking imports of the Ford F-150 pickup truck altogether, unless only the all-electric Lightning version was sold.

“I would have thought that there would be less incentive for them to do it now,” he said.

Labor plans to introduce an Australian new vehicle efficiency standard from January 1, 2025, with a plan to ‘catch up’ to US regulations by 2028.

The Department of Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Development argued in a frequently asked questions section that Australian motorists will continue to be able to buy four-wheel drives and cars ‘that can tow my trailer and boat’.

Ford may reconsider importing the Ford F-150 pickup truck entirely unless only the all-electric Lightning version is sold

Ford may reconsider importing the Ford F-150 pickup truck entirely unless only the all-electric Lightning version is sold

Brian Fisher, managing director of BAEconomics, which has advised the United Nations on climate change, said motorists worried about new fuel efficiency standards could start stocking up on big four-wheel drives over the next nine months.

Brian Fisher, managing director of BAEconomics, which has advised the United Nations on climate change, said motorists worried about new fuel efficiency standards could start stocking up on big four-wheel drives over the next nine months.

‘Yes. A new Vehicle Efficiency Standard allows suppliers to choose how they meet the emissions reduction target,’ it says.

‘In other countries with a new vehicle efficiency standard, 4WDs and utes are still widely available.’

But the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries warned last year in a submission to the proposed fuel efficiency laws that electric cars would have an inferior payload to existing diesel cars that can typically carry more than a ton.

The car industry’s lobby group argued that heavy electric batteries would harm carrying capacity.

“The aforementioned use case of light commercial vehicles, and their payload carrying requirements make it more challenging to electrify their powertrain,” it said.

“The mass of traction battery and other EV hardware detracts from the payload available for commercial purposes.”

Australia’s best selling cars in January 2024

1. FORD RANGER: 4,747 sales

2. TOYOTA HILUX: 4,092 sales

3. TOYOTA LAND CRUISER: 2,541 sales

4. ISUZU D-MAX: 2,541 sales

5. TOYOTA RAV4: 2,211 sales

6. MITSUBISHI OUTLANDER: 2,077 sales

7. MG ZS: 1,888 sales

8. TOYOTA COROLLA: 1,843 sales

9. TOYOTA PRADO: 1,746 sales

10. HYUNDAI I30: 1,727 sales

Source: Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries