Honey and vinegar

In Newsletter Editorial4 MinutesBy Gavin MyersAugust 13, 2021

Well, it’s all happening – the government’s Clean Car Discount programme is well into its second month, and the headlines have been intriguing, to say the least.

Of course, the big news stories have extolled the virtues of the ‘freebate’ incentive, highlighting the numbers of electric and hybrid-electric vehicles bought by incentivised consumers in the programme’s first month. As has been widely publicised, the raw dollar figure was $5.7 million paid out in the first month, as 1944 new and used plug-in vehicles were registered in July.

At face value, if the government wanted to encourage people to buy EVs, it seems to have succeeded. And credit where it’s due – globally, it’s been shown that the best way to encourage a shift in behaviour is to incentivise rather than punish. After all (apologies if I’ve used this one before), you can catch more flies with honey than vinegar. And that’s exactly why I don’t expect much impact from the widely bemoaned ‘ute tax’.

Interesting news story No.2 from the past month or so – Ford NZ has been taking 100 orders a day for the Ranger. Not only are people buying EVs under the discount programme, but they’re also buying their utes before ‘the tax’ is expected to come into effect in January 2022. One couldn’t claim that this was unexpected, and I wouldn’t expect it to stop, either.

Just this week, I was chatting with a mate who mentioned he and one of his employees were discussing buying a ute for his business sometime in the future. They already have a stonking great Dodge Ram as a company workhorse/promo vehicle, and that’s not going anywhere. The second they’re considering won’t be another Ram or a Ranger, Hilux, or D-Max, but a GWM. Ute tax? Meh, just buy one that’s more keenly priced and absorb it.

The bottom line is that if people want to do something, they’ll mostly find a way of doing it. As I said in an editorial a couple of weeks back, the alternative will have to be far sweeter to warrant consideration. The sad thing about this vinegar-over-honey approach is that the stated goal of reducing emissions will be a tough one to achieve (at least until those elusive electric utes make their appearance), and the only benefactor will be the government’s coffers.

This leads me neatly onto interesting news story No.3: “Government ignored treasury warnings that its Clean Car Discount would make little difference to emissions – and questioned whether the scheme would provide value for money.”

The story says that treasury warned – in March – that there would be a burden on rural and farming communities. The events of 16 July proved that one beyond any doubt. The story also said it warned lower-income households would be disproportionately burdened. If the treasury also called that one right, it’ll be interesting to see how that portion of the populous makes its discontent known. Recent polls might give a hint.

One thing’s for sure, interesting times lie ahead.

Take care out there,

Gavin Myers
Assistant editor