Global motoring giant Toyota is criticising the Government after the Prime Minister suggested it’s in discussions to bring an electric version of its famous ute into New Zealand.
Toyota has since confirmed it has no plans to bring any electric utes into New Zealand within the next two years.
It comes after the Government announced its Clean Car Package on Sunday – aimed at incentivising New Zealanders to go electric by offering big discounts for both new and used electric vehicles (EV) – while imposing a “fee” on newly imported, higher-emitting vehicles from January 2022.
It’s prompted backlash from those including trade and agriculture workers who rely on dirtier models, particularly utes.
Questioned on The AM Show on Monday whether this was a “tradie tax”, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern admitted there weren’t enough electric utes to meet demand.
“We absolutely acknowledge, with utes at the moment, the market is not meeting the needs there,” she told host Duncan Garner.
“This doesn’t affect any vehicles that are currently in the New Zealand market, it’s only those that are being newly imported – so the second-hand market isn’t affected.
“The second point I’d make is that within the next – we’re hoping the next 12 to 24 months – the likes of Toyota are talking about bringing in EV utes. My hope is then people might delay their purchase in order to start building the market.”
In confirming an electric version of its famous Hilux won’t be brought into New Zealand in the next 24 months, Toyota said it’s “irresponsible” to suggest customers should immediately stop buying non-electric vehicles.
“The range and volumes of EV’s needed to meet demand are simply not available, and many customers still need a vehicle to transport their family or operate their business,” said Toyota New Zealand chief executive Neeraj Lala.
“Battery electric technology is coming but is not quite there yet.”
Lala noted Toyota has sold 23,257 hybrid vehicles in the past five years.
In the same period, the company said it sold just under 5300 EVs – 45 percent of which were in the “luxury market”.
“Hybrid technology is more readily available and is significantly more affordable for everyday Kiwis,” Lala said.
Earlier on Monday, National leader Judith Collins described the scheme as “counterintuitive”.
“National would reverse this ridiculous situation that the Government has put a lot of Kiwis into where people who have to have a ute for their work or want to have one for their work are now being told that they will get to pay for people who get choices around whether or not they have an EV,” she told Peter Williams on Magic Talk.
“It is a tax, just like Labour said they wouldn’t do – they’re now doing it again, revoking all those promises they made and just going and doing exactly what they want to do.”
Ardern earlier acknowledged the tax on higher-emitting vehicles would hit some New Zealanders a little harder in the pocket.
The Government will continue to monitor the fees and rebates to ensure the scheme is “paying for itself”, she said.