Get rid of those unfair diesel RUCs, says motor industry
New Zealand's new vehicle industry wants the Government to get rid of the dreaded Road User Charges on diesel vehicles, and replace them with electronic versions for all vehicles.
The Motor Industry Association (MIA), which represents all New Zealand's new vehicle importers and distributors, says the current RUCs are becoming increasingly unfair because they don't differentiate between lightweight diesel passenger cars and larger vehicles that weigh up to 3.5 tonnes.
They're all charged $62 per 1000km which in some cases is more than the cost of the diesel fuel a vehicle needs to cover that distance.
And with the advent of electric vehicles, an increasing number of passenger cars and SUVs aren't paying any road or fuel taxes at all, says the MIA.
The Government has exempted EVs from road user charges until they make up 2 per cent of the national light vehicle fleet - latest statistics show the figure is at just 0.04 per cent via the 4500 EVs now on our roads - and even plug-in diesel-electric hybrids don't have to pay RUCs.
"The situation is going to remain unfair until there is equal treatment of all vehicles, no matter how they are powered or what fuel they use," says MIA chief executive David Crawford. He adds, however, that the MIA supports the current temporary RUC exemption for electric vehicles.
"Our view is that electronic RUCs on all vehicles is the way to go in the future. That way, all vehicles using New Zealand's roads would be treated exactly the same.
"If you want to tax people for using a road, the tax needs to be agnostic of type."
New Zealand is the only country in the world that operates a mileage-based road user charge regime for diesel-engined passenger vehicles, while at the same time charging excise tax on petrol - in this country's case the tax is 59.52 cents a litre.
The MIA wants all that dumped, replaced instead by an electronic RUC system for all vehicles. On-board responders would send out information on individual vehicles' time on roads and distance covered, and calculate the road user charges.
These charges could even be varied to take into account such factors as the time of the day, air pollution, and whether a vehicle is being driven in heavily-congested inner city areas.
"They would essentially be impact charges, and they could be varied according to a vehicle's impact or lack of impact," says Crawford.
Discussion about the RUCs comes at a time when New Zealand demand for diesel-engined vehicles show little sign of abating, thanks to the growing popularity of one-tonne utes and SUVs.
Latest statistics show that six of the 10 biggest-selling vehicles in New Zealand are utes, which are almost exclusively diesel. Registrations of diesel-engined SUVs are also growing slightly, with only passenger vehicles experiencing a fall in diesel sales.
This is in stark contrast to what is happening in Europe, where concerns over emissions from diesel vehicles is resulting in a decline in sales - during the opening six months of this year diesel sales fell 10 per cent in Britain, 9 per cent in Germany and 7 per cent in France.
But Crawford says diesel emissions are much less of a concern in New Zealand - it is the RUCs that are the big issue.
"How could there be any concerns? While the Government requires all new diesel vehicles sold here to be meet Euro 5 emissions regulations, it allows thousands of used vehicles to be imported from Japan that only meet Euro 4 standards."