Hybrid subsidies slammed as Soviet intervention

By Julian Bajkowski

A leading Australian futurist has told public sector and corporate fleet buyers that government financial support provided to car manufacturers like Toyota to locally produce hybrid vehicles is akin to Soviet-style economics.

In a keynote presentation to the Australian Fleet Management Association conference in Melbourne on Wednesday, Peter Ellyard called on delegates to take collective action as customers to create more sustainable vehicles in the future rather than rely on the present policy  status quo.

"Looking at the motor vehicle industry as a collective I don't think they've been a particularly visionary group of people," Mr Ellyard, a former chief of staff to environment minsters in the Whitlam government, said.

"The changes [to vehicle design] are not as bold or imaginative as they could be. But [fleet buyers] could actually press them to be bolder and more imaginative and more creative [to] create the vehicles that you would like to see on the roads of Australia in terms of their design characteristics and capabilities."

Mr Ellyard's central argument to delegates was that in a globalised market economy, the pressure for industry change had to come from customers rather than so called "direct action" from governments.
"What governments often do is they actually drive companies to do things that they won't do anyway – for example the government spent a lot of money with Toyota to encourage them to produce the hybrid Camry in Australia," Mr Ellyard said.
"That's really the old command economy view of the world, that's what  the Soviet Union would have done to be blunt. But we can have a price driven mechanism and a purchasing mechanism that is different."

Mr Ellyard questioned whether "all industrial futures should be shaped by the creators of the industries, the people that make the products and the services and they determine"

"Do we just buy what is on offer or the least worst or the most suitable for us?" he questioned.

"Or do we take a much more active role in shaping the future as a collective market participant?"

Mr ellyard said that fleet managers "as a collective group of people have some awesome power to do that."

"The question is whether you should or could use it. That is for you to decide, a moral and cultural issue."

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