In our first podcast episode of our new podcast, Legally Consumed, our CIE Legal hosts take a peek under the hood into Polestar, a new entrant into the Australian automotive industry that exclusively produces electric vehicles (EVs). Joining us for this inaugural podcast episode is Samantha Johnson, Managing Director of Polestar Automotive Australia, who shares her professional journey from the mailroom at Ernst and Young to the boardroom at Polestar.
This episode explores Polestar’s foundation in sustainability and how they consider the environment in all aspects of their strategy while highlighting the urgency for the National Electric Vehicle strategy and nationwide infrastructure changes.
Samantha shares the importance of adaptability and innovation and how they have helped drive Polestar’s rapid growth since its entrance to the Australian industry just over two years ago. She also discusses the legal intricacies of setting up operations in Australia due to regulation disparities between states.
If you’re interested in how EVs are driving changes in the automotive industry now and in the future, or are simply intrigued to hear more about launching innovative consumer products into new markets, then this podcast is for you.
If you would like to provide feedback on this episode or have any questions for CIE Legal, please feel welcome to reach out below:
Raph Goldenberg (00:00): Hello and welcome to Legally Consumed, a consumer products podcast by a consumer products law firm in Australia. I’m Raph Goldenberg and I’m joined by co-hosts Kaye Ho and Will McMinn, who are members of the team at CIE Legal.
Kaye Ho (00:13): We chat with executives of consumer products companies, their legal teams, and industry experts who give us a peek into their journeys as people. We explore industry-changing ideas and even share tips and tricks on how to navigate the consumer product space.
Will McMinn (00:26): This season we’ll feature guests from the automotive, retail, advertising and insights, food, beverage, and primary production and franchising sectors.
~ Music Interlude ~
Raph Goldenberg (00:53): Welcome to another episode of the Legally Consumed Podcast. Today we are joined by Samantha Johnson and Kaye Ho, my co-host. Samantha is the managing director of Polestar Automotive Australia and Polestar is a new player in the Australian automotive market and sells electric cars only. It’s a very cool company. I’ll let Samantha talk a little bit more about it, but firstly, I really just want to say thank you to Samantha for joining us. We did have a go and recorded a podcast, I think in Sydney probably a month or two ago, and afterwards, we had some technical issues. So, Samantha’s been very kind to come back and join us. So welcome, Samantha!
Samantha Johnson (01:37): Oh, Raph. It’s great to be here. Thanks for inviting me along.
Raph Goldenberg (01:40): Along. Thank you for coming. We’ll talk a lot about Polestar and what makes it different soon, but, it’d be good to just start off, hearing about your personal journey and, you know, things you’ve done along the way before you got here. And I’ll start with a question about your first job. What was your first ever job?
Samantha Johnson (02:02): My first job was in the mailroom of, Ernston Young, which is actually, Ernston Winnie back then. And then it merged with Arthur Young. So I started in the mailroom and my boss didn’t like doing all the accounting work, so all the accounts and I started helping her with that. And then a position came up and the accounts team, and then I moved up and then I did my studies and just sort of worked my way into a great family company that I worked with for six years. I started as a sub-junior credit controller, worked my way up to be their financial controller and just went from a small business with one office to, you know, a national business looking after all big ASX firms. So, it was very exciting. You learn a lot when you start with a small company, you learn every part of it. Which is a really good foundation for when you go into a big company, you understand how everything runs.
Raph Goldenberg (02:58): Yeah, sounds great. And so, you were studying at university whilst you were doing this? Is that right?
Samantha Johnson (03:02): Yes, yes. I was, yeah, studying at Monash Univeristy here, down here in Melbourne. Yeah, it was, a really exciting time. And it was very difficult when it came to like, you know, end of the financial year. You’d be putting board reports together. You’d be doing exams and assignments and everything all at the same time. So, it was a pretty busy time. Pretty full-on.
Raph Goldenberg (03:21): And I know that, you spent some time overseas, didn’t you? And you had some interesting adventures before you kind of ended up back in Australia. Do you want to tell us a little bit about those?
Samantha Johnson (03:33): Yeah. Well, my mom was living over in Hong Kong, working in some of the international schools. So, when I finished my studies and I went over there and worked for a couple of really interesting companies there. One was a promotional premiums company. So, they make your McDonald’s, happy Meal toys, and little toy products.
Raph Goldenberg (03:54): That’s neat!
Samantha Johnson (03:55): Your Cola umbrellas and bottles and anything to do with like, merchandising and promotional premiums. They did that, which was really, really interesting. They won the FIFA World Cup, many, many years ago. So, they restructured the company to handle the World Cup that was coming along in four years’ time. So, that was really interesting going through that sort of turnaround. I worked in another company there that manufactured all the big posters that you see around Hong Kong and Japan, you know, Louis Vuitton, Gucci, all the fashion posters. So, we were the market leader in that product. And then they took over a Japanese company and started up over there and it was originally a local Hong Kong company that got sold to a UK multinational.
(04:42): So, they had all this expansion so, I got sent over to Japan, for three months to put in this system ERP system that I’d never heard of before. Uh, I had never really worked with manufacturing directly with the system, you know, implementing new systems before. And only two people spoke English, which were the systems consultants. So, it was very interesting, but we did it. I had my little palm pilot at the time. It’s how long ago it was <laugh> and, uh, we just, every day from like 5:00 AM to like 11 o’clock at night, just powered through all these things that had to be done. And you know what, it had to be done and we got there. Yeah, it was funny going. Coming to the go-live meeting at the end because no one says anything because I don’t… the boss is there, so…
(05:25): Yeah, right. It was, you know, do you, yeah, you all are happy to go live. You’re ready. Everything else… pure silence, so we’re going to <laugh>. So anyway, it was very interesting and I learnt a lot. It was a great experience being in Hong Kong and in Japan. But then it got to the stage where my husband and I said, it’s, you know, it’s time to head back to Australia. So, we’d been living on a yacht for a couple of years and doing a lot of racing in Hong Kong. So, we decided to sail our boat back to back to Australia.
Kaye Ho (05:53): Oh, wow!
Raph Goldenberg (06:00): Amazing! So, so tell us a little bit about that trip.
Samantha Johnson (06:05): Oh, look. I loved planning for it. I spent three months literally. We had my husband who was experienced and also had my best friend’s boyfriend who was a yacht master. So, he loved sticking his head into diesel mechanics. He was an engineer, so he sailed really well. He’d been out in horrendous conditions, and he knew his way around engines. So, he helped me with all the safety planning, equipment, and everything. Getting us prepared. We had to have all the food planned out, the fuel, the water, and where we were going to stop. I had to be warm the whole way everywhere and, uh, no cyclones, typhoons, or anything like that. So, we had to time where we went and just making sure that you had the spares for the mechanics if things went wrong. Yeah, because we had to plan for that.
Raph Goldenberg (06:53): You’re in the middle of nowhere, where you can’t just drop in and call!
Samantha Johnson (06:55): And that did happen! So we went through the Philippines, spent a month there with friends and family and just people coming on and off and there’s a lot of diving and there were some great experiences there. And then we went to Papua New Guinea for a month spent time around there and then we came into Cairns and spent a month in Cairns and a month in the Whitsundays. But when we were coming out of the Philippines, there’s this, strait of water called, Surigao Strait. You can only run at eight knots, which is about the maximum that our boat could go with the motor on. So, we were told, we had the local tides printed out that told us when the slack tide was which is a good time to head through.
(07:40): But then there was a small cruise boat in the harbor. So, we asked the captain there, we said, you know, can you just verify? And he said, no, no, no, it’s totally different. Well look, what do we do? Do we trust him, or do we trust the written <laugh>? So, we trusted the written, we just went for the written <laugh>, because that is explicit and from a marine authority. And we went through, and this strait literally has whirlpools and eddies. And when I say whirlpool, it was the size of the boat, which is 40 feet. It was just a mess of round circles of water, and you would go onto it and you’d just have no steering. You just have to sort of come out the other end. Our morse cable went, which is the gear cable.
(08:22): So, we couldn’t get the boat into gear going down this strait. I was heading in one direction and we were going sideways in another direction. So, I had to steer in a totally different direction to where we were going, where the current was taking us. I had to sail to get us to where we needed to go while my husband and this other fellow, one underneath and one up top, getting this morse cable gear cable from down in the engine up to the gear lever up the top in the cockpit and testing it, making sure it all works. I was just sailing while this is all going on. So that was one adventure. That was all fine. We spat out the other end and we’re all okay <laugh>.
(09:06): But there are lots of things that happened in different places. Between Papua New Guinea and Cairns, the steering went. One of the bolts or something, came loose. So, instead of the steering wheel, which has a lot of different levers so that you don’t have to use much weight. We had to use an emergency tiller, which is this big, big stick, which is like trying to move an elephant <laugh>. Yes. And, so we had to put that, I had to do that and steer the boat while again the guys were going up and down trying to get the steering fixed.
But we had spares for everything. We had tested the steering out before we left. It was just about making sure you had your risk covered and we did that. We were okay but yeah. And there’s lots of other adventures that happened along the way.
Raph Goldenberg (09:56): Oh, that’s amazing. So how long was it from Hong Kong and was it, Sydney? Sydney Harbor you sailed?
Samantha Johnson (10:00): Yeah, nine months. You could do it in six weeks if you wanted to, but we spent nine months, when we left Cairns, we just literally hopped down the coast, spent a month in the Whitsundays and met a best friend on the way in her boat. That’s been really good. And then we came down into Sydney, into, Homebush Marina, I think it’s in Pittwater. And we finally got her home into it and we lived there for a little while before we got jobs and became responsible parents <laugh>.
Raph Goldenberg (10:34): And talking about being responsible. So, from there, how did you kind of find your way into Polestar?
Samantha Johnson (10:41): Yeah, well I ended up, I got a job with Harley Davidson. And I remember being offered the role and thinking, you know, what does that mean? Harley Davidson? Is that sort of an old-fashioned traditional company? Or is it something more exciting and they’re actually doing some really innovative things? And it was a real opportunity to join something where you are part of the new growth. So it was literally four of us as a start-up in Australia, in a shared office in Lindfield, in Sydney. Because the distributorship was held with three large dealer groups. So, what we did is we took over as the manufacturer’s distributor and there was quite a period to go through there and literally built it up to be, you know, maybe 40, 50 people. 50 dealership networks in Australia and New Zealand which was quite substantial.
(11:28): And we just grew. We set up ERP systems and then moved offices a couple of times to a bespoke office. There were a lot of different experiences, but I was always really interested in what happened on the dealership side and the profitability was something I, you know, was always interested in working with. And an opportunity that came up in the sales team and looking after the dealership network and also looking after sales. So, I took that on for a couple of years, which was great. Because they wanted me to bring structure to that team. So, it was about how we could best get everyone working together within the team and also with the other teams more collaboratively. And getting them to go out and be really constructive around ‘right, here’s your dealer dashboard, these are the KPIs, where is a dealership sitting, these are the opportunities we can improve, let us help you in how you can do that.’
(12:23): It might be, you know, digital marketing. ‘How can we have a better customer journey?’ ‘How can we connect with our customers a bit more on social media rather than just posting?’. Actually, you know, interact with them and a lot of other things. So, we put in place a lot of really good things. We grew really well during that time. It was very, very interesting and got some great experience. And then when I left there, I got a role with, Volvo. I went in as a business controller there. They didn’t have retail finance and insurance, which I always just worked with at, at Harley. And so, I said “Look, we really need to set up a team here”.
(13:03): So, we started that, and we built up the finance partner and GFE product and the whole online journey, because that wasn’t there at that time. And took on digital transformation as well because we were starting that journey. I hired the fellow who came in and worked with that project and helped to get that off the ground to start on that project. My managing director at the time at Volvo was the ex-CEO of Polestar in Sweden. So, we started working with Polestar and that’s where that opportunity came up for me to move across. And I had broad experience in all different areas, and I was really interested in that online space, doing things differently, more the digital marketing side and working with EVs as well, more sustainable. It was a very enticing invitation.
Kaye Ho (14:01): Could you tell us a bit more about the history of the Polestar brand?
Samantha Johnson (14:06): Yes. We started as a racing brand. And then Volvo had a partnership with Polestar and then Volvo bought Polestar and made it part of its product range. So, you would buy maybe a V 60 or an S 60 Volvo and you can have Polestar engineered. So, it would come out of the factory with, you know, your pipes and accessories and software and other things to make it a little bit more hotted up than the traditional cars. So, we had that for a while and there, there still is sort of polestar engineered like software or Polestar software. But Volvo no longer makes Polestar-engineered cars, so it’s just Volvo. What they found is they were making this car and the design team, and they realized this is not really a Volvo, it’s something more exciting, it’s something different.
(14:59): They decided to take Polestar out of Volvo and make it into a separate brand altogether. So, they did that, and they’ve been growing ever since. It’s owned by Julie and Volvo, Volvo Car Group. But, you have the two different brands, Volvo Car and Polestar cars – very separate brands. Polestar stands for design, innovation, and sustainability, which are our core pillars. Sustainability is absolutely number one in everything that we do and when we design a car, it has to be sustainable. And innovation helps us with innovation safety, connected car and sustainability.
Kaye Ho And how does Polestar Australia fit into that? How big are they? The operations here, what does Polestar do?
Samantha Johnson (15:55): Well, we started live in February this year, set live with sales. It’s been very exciting. We had a really good backlog of customers who were just really keen to get started in a Polestar. And we went through quite a lot of interesting times going live and getting things right because you have everything tested and planned out, but nothing ever goes exactly to plan. So, we had a bit of learning and we had to work with partners and work with global on improving and escalating different areas. So, we did all of that. But now, at the end of last month, we had, 1200 cars on the road we are pretty impressed with that effort since February.
(16:39): Yeah. So, you know, the logistics. Everything to be able to, and the retail locations to be able to deliver at that with high quality as well. And we are still learning, there still are things that sometimes you’ve got to still improve on, but I think there are some very happy customers out there. I think we’ve gotten to a very good stage now and opening up Chadstone is kind of… you know, we’ve done really well to get to where we are now. This is now the next level. Because we are moving from Polestar 2 and in a year’s time, we’re going to have the Polestar 3 large SUV and then Polestar 4 mid-size SUV and more products after that. So, we need to sort of now move up to that next level. And Chadstone is really going to show that level of luxury is really shifting up. And we’re going to be expanding our retail network into sort of more luxury locations.
Kaye Ho (17:29): Yeah. Wow. I mean, you launched a new automotive business from scratch in less than a year. Could you tell us a bit more about the process and the challenges you faced in dealing with that?
Samantha Johnson (17:41): Absolutely. Well, it’s actually been about two years. From the start of sales this year, there’s been a lot that we’ve done this year. But last year, I literally started on my own at home because it was Covid and working with the headquarters teams. They’ve got really qualified and experienced teams in every single area. So, you think of logistics, after sales, marketing, e-commerce, finance, and a lot more. PR there’s all these different departments and I just met with them every week, going through steps in the project and what needed to be done. Brought the team on board, the leadership team on board, and then they brought their teams on board.
(18:26): And we had events, PR events, that we had to launch with media during covid. So, we couldn’t do the big events, the big sustainability events that we wanted to do. We had to individually send a car to a reporter’s location and with the experience that went with that and do it all individually rather than what we would usually do, getting everyone together and taking them somewhere. So, you had to really adapt and just do things differently and make things work. But it’s amazing what you can do and what you can achieve when you are in a situation. You just adapt.
Raph Goldenberg (19:02): Yeah. I mean, it sounds great and the car’s great. I had a test drive of the Polestar 2 a while ago with my wife and it was just an incredible experience. The one-pedal driving in particular, just kind of getting used to the fact that there’s just one pedal to brake and accelerate. And the power and the performance were just amazing. So as a car, it feels fantastic. Can you tell us a bit, you were talking about sustainability before, and for you guys, that’s obviously one of your pillars, but can you talk a little bit about how that manifests itself, sort of through the lifecycle of the car?
Samantha Johnson (19:45): Yeah, so Polestar has four drivers of sustainability: climate neutrality, transparency, circularity, and inclusion. So, the climate neutrality, we’re talking about having a climate-neutral vehicle by 2030. Having our emissions, the company overall by 2030, and then by 2040 having a climate-neutral company in everything that we do. Including every car that comes off the production line. So those are the carbon-neutrality drivers. But then you’ve got transparency, which is about having a lifecycle assessment report which we publish and provide the methodology to everyone in the industry that shows us where the Polestar 2 is now compared to an equivalent petrol engine. And if you are just using energy off the grid, it’s fewer emissions, sizeably fewer emissions than an equivalent petrol engine or petrol car.
(20:42): If you are using renewable energy, it’s less than half of the emissions. So, if you buy a Polestar 2, it is less than half the emissions and it’s going down each year because we’re making it more sustainable than a petrol engine. So, it’s definitely worthwhile. But we look at that and we say, okay, well we’ve been very transparent about where we are now, but we’re saying, electrification is only in the beginning. We have to do more and get the emissions that are remaining down to zero. So that’s where we use that to guide us on where we go. We use blockchain technology to source risk minerals like cobalt. We might use it to source mica and also leather.
(21:24): So leather is an option in our cars. But the leather is a by-product of meat and also there’s no animal cruelty and that’s all certified. So that’s where we use blockchain technology, where we can really make sure that we’re doing the right things there. Circularity, which is another driver of our sustainability, is about making your cars last as long as possible. So, using more highly durable products that last longer, but still have over-the-air software updates. So, your cars can still improve on range and stay relevant. We’ve also repurposed as much as possible or the components. So, let’s say it ends up in a dismantling yard. All the car components that pass a quality test can go back through the new car manufacturing process without a new carbon footprint.
(22:17): So, it’s about being able to reuse those parts or repurpose those parts and those that don’t pass the test can go into parts workshops. You’re looking at batteries and making sure that they can be repurposed as much as possible. After the end of the life of the car, they might not be able to be used for the car anymore, but they can be a battery for a home or a solar-powered charging station or broken apart and used for electronic goods or something else. So, there’s a lot being built into it. It’s about lasting longevity, serviceability and increasing accessibility to the different components. Adjust and detach and repurpose, recycling. We use a lot of natural products in our cars, so in the cars now, but in the future, cars will be even more. So materials like flax are being used in natural products instead of hard plastics on the insides. Recycled PET bottles, recycled fishing nets, cork, our aluminium is labelled so it can be recycled more easily at the end. And what else do we have?
Raph Goldenberg (23:26): What do you make out of recycled, like what part of the car comes out of recycled bottles for example?
Samantha Johnson (23:31): With seat moulds, we use fibres to make some of these seats. It’s one sort of fibre, so there’s no wastage at the end. We have different seats because there are different seats we use for different models. We have a single mould rather than different products within that mould so that you’re not having to break apart different things at the end. So, it’s just a singular product. There are just so many things that we are doing really. We have the Polestar Precept, which will be our Polestar 5. And we also have the electric Roadster, which will be our Polestar 6. They have both been our concept cars for sustainability and just showing everyone and showing ourselves that we want to get to a zero emissions car or a climate-neutral car. This is what it looks like. This is what we can build into it. And we’ve gone out there and shown people because if it is exciting, people take notice. So, it really just shows people what we’re capable of, but it gives us a guiding light and says, “this is what it looks like to be sustainable”.
Raph Goldenberg (24:45): Yeah. You can sort of plan, like if you sort of aim or produce that, now you can, you’ve got something. Okay, well that’s what I’ve got to do to get the cars to that point. I’ve got to find more of these materials. I’ve got to systemise it all.
Samantha Johnson (25:00): Exactly. Yeah.
Raph Goldenberg (25:02): I guess another thing that’s different, we do quite a lot of work in the automotive industry, and Polestar does a few things differently from other car companies in Australia. One of which is, you sell your cars online and sell them directly to the customer. So, can you tell us a little bit about it? Why do you do that, how that all works and how it stacks up? I mean, you’ve seen the other side of it as well, obviously with the dealers.
Samantha Johnson (25:35): I was talking before about the drivers of sustainability. The last one is inclusion. And part of that, apart from looking after everyone in your supply chain, is treating everyone fairly and equally. And when we talk about selling online. When you buy online, no one knows who you are, whether you are what gender you are, whether you’re in tracksuit pants or a suit, what you wear or anything else. So, there’s no bias, there’s no difference in pricing. When you buy a car or when you are going for finance, it’s who you are in that transaction. It’s not going into a location where someone assumes who you are and whether I can get more money out of you <laugh> or less or anything like that.
(26:19): So, it’s really about not having any biases there. It’s just straight. This is the price, this is how you buy it. You can do that on your own. Some people want to just go online and not be bothered. But some people want to talk to people, they want to look at the car, they want a test drive, they want that whole experience. So, they can still come into our retail locations and talk to anyone and have a good chat and talk to them about the car, about any of the technicals or what it’s like to drive, what it means to be an EV owner and understand what that journey is. So, people have got the choice to go in-person, or they can just buy online, and you’ve got your web chat, you’ve got emails, you can also get on the phone and talk to our customer care centre. They’re here in Ballarat. Lovely people. Very grounded. So, they’ve been so helpful to so many customers. We get very good feedback on how they help people. So, it’s a very personalized experience. It’s non-negotiable pricing online and very much ‘you do it when you want, how you want’. But it’s a very personalised approach to looking after customers and making sure that we are helping them on that journey.
Raph Goldenberg (27:31): Terrific. And do you have goals about where you want the business to be in Australia? Short, medium, and long-term? What’s the vision for Polestar in Australia?
Samantha Johnson (27:48): We are moving towards being a more luxurious brand in the products that we are bringing into Australia in the future. We want to be the most sustainable luxury brand. I would say at the moment that we are the most sustainable luxury auto brand, probably even auto brand full stop. But what we want to be is the most sustainable luxury brand. So that’s a really strong direction for us. And we are working with a lot of different partners, and events. We are very much involved in the circularity sustainability community. We have some very good partners. We’re working with Sam Elsom from Sea Forest. We’ve just brought him on board as our ambassador.
(28:37): We are working with others, partnering with others as well, that are all on the same kind of journey. And that’s really powerful at the moment because we need to do a lot more than what we’re doing now. So, the more people that are really, um, you know, push that story, and really get out there to other people and influence others that they need to do more and more quickly, that’s where we’re going to have change coming. We’ve been very involved in this National Electric vehicle strategy consultation paper with the auto-industry groups and also individually providing our feedback on what’s needed to accelerate the growth to more sustainable mobility.
Raph Goldenberg (29:15): Excellent.
Kaye Ho (29:16): I mean the EV market in Australia is still quite new compared to other markets. Tesla’s been around for quite a while now, but they haven’t really had any real competitors until recently. So how will Polestar and other similar electric vehicle brands compete and catch up after such a big start from Tesla?
Samantha Johnson (29:42): Well, I think they have helped lead the way. They’ve done a good job because it’s about bringing more EVs to Australia. Not even just individual brands. We need to get more sustainable vehicles on our roads. Transport is about 18% of emissions. Passenger vehicles are probably about half of that. So, a lot needs to be done. We welcome the other competition coming in, and I think when you have more coming in, there are a few brands that have already started to deliver now in higher volumes. Consumers are moving to those brands because they want choice. Not everyone wants the same things. So, people will want different values, different performance, different interiors, and different looks. And for Polestar, we’ve got more demand than what we can get supply at the moment.
(30:30): And it’s not because we’re short of supply. The demands are just more than what anyone expected over time. So that’s really healthy. There’s a lot more competition coming in, but there are also a lot more people who are feeling more comfortable moving to EVs. There is a lot being done. There’s a lot of growth in charging stations being put online that are expanding quite rapidly. There are federal, state, and local governments, businesses, shopping centres, and hotels. Everyone is putting charges in place. You’ve got the motoring associations, NRMA and RAC, they’re all putting in charging stations in partnership with some of these other companies. So, it’s exciting. It’s going to be exciting to see what happens over the next couple of years. And I think it’s a matter of the government having the right well-thought-out policies to really promote sustainable mobility and if they do all of those right things, we should see more supply coming in as well.
Kaye Ho: I think people tend to probably compare Polestar to Tesla, but I think you made recent comments about Polestar being more like Porsche rather than Tesla. Could you please explain what you mean by that a little bit?
Samantha Johnson (31:45): Well, I think Polestar 2 has come in and has been quite a competitor with the Tesla 3 model. But our newer models that will be coming out, the Polestar 3 and Polestar 4 onwards, they’re going to be at the next level of luxury. So, we really are going to be at a very different level. I think consumers that are coming into our brand will be looking for something a bit more than what they’ll get with some of the other brands. So, that’s where we really are moving to a different space.
Kaye Ho: In terms of the electric vehicle industry itself, where are we at with electric vehicles in Australia? What do you think can be done to increase that uptake further because the general focus is on the uptake? What are your thoughts on that?
(32:33): In all of Australia, we’re only probably nearly 3% EVs versus new car sales. The UK at the end of last year was around 14%, and Norway was north of 80%. Norway has been working, probably since the nineties, with different policies. But for us, we are only now providing input into the policies that are needed in Australia. It started off with state governments putting different incentives, be it rebates, stamp duty, transit lane use, or different things, but it’s very different in every state. Very different to administer in every state. So, it’s very difficult. Confusing for consumers and very difficult for companies to administer. So, this National Electric Vehicle strategy, if the right policies are adopted from that. It would be very good to see on the demand side, better incentives, and more appropriate taxation.
(33:30): There are some very good benefits out there at the moment with the FBT that was retroactive from the 1st of July this year (2022) on novated leases and that’s going to have a real impact. You also got import tax that has been taken away from companies that don’t already have a free trade agreement in place. So, there are benefits that are out there now. And there are other state-wide benefits there. But nationally, if we can have benefits that are nationally consistent at levels that really take into account that the costs have increased over time. So those benefits, the thresholds need to increase as well. Road user benefits, transit, land use, parking tolls, any kind of incentives that really help people to say, “all right, well it’s more beneficial for me financially or road user benefit to get into an EV. On the infrastructure side, you need the charging stations to be rolled out, which is all happening now, but we need that to happen at a faster rate.
(34:29): And it’s not just a matter of rolling out chargers. You need to have the energy infrastructure that can go to rural for example. How do you get the energy out to these rural charging stations and the cost of that, the business case versus doing it in metro areas? So, you need to have all the metro that’s going to help look after all the people living in apartments and what have you, and the day-to-day running around. People in their homes can use a charger at home. So, there is a lot to be rolled out from the charging infrastructure and good maintenance of the chargers. The energy infrastructure to get to that and renewable energy where possible, that’s got to be happening.
(35:13): So, you’ve got the demand side, you’ve got the infrastructure side, but then you’ve got the supply side. You really need fuel efficiency standards to be put in place because, at the moment, I think it’s only ourselves in Russia that don’t have these standards in place. So, if you are sending a manufacturer and you’re sending a batch of cars to the UK, if the batch of cars goes over the CO2 thresholds, then you are penalised and can be like $15,000 per car. So, it’s quite a lot. Australia doesn’t have those. So, where are you going to send your dirtiest cars? You’re going to get the worst cars and the dirtiest fuel in Australia because we don’t have any penalties for otherwise. Which is a really bad position to be in, especially for Australia. We’re supposed to be the land of plenty, the environment and the great outdoors and we’ve got the worst environmental policies when it comes to motor vehicles.
(36:03): But with this National Electric Vehicle strategy, the input has been given back from the consultation paper. We are now waiting on those policies to come out. There are a lot of different inputs so the government if they come out with well-thought-out policies, that’s definitely going to drive EV sales and supplies. But it just depends on how that comes out and how soon it happens as well. The sooner it happens, the sooner you’re going to get more people having the confidence to move into EVs and manufacturers having the confidence to send EVs to Australia.
Kaye Ho: Yeah, it looks like there’s still a lot of work to do in this space.
Samantha Johnson: There is indeed.
Kaye Ho: So, what do you see as the future for the automotive industry?
Samantha Johnson (36:46): Well, I think those who are lucky can move to EVs at a faster rate. We are very fortunate that we’ve moved there straight away. That’s the number one thing that we’ve done. We don’t sell anything other than EVs. Uh, but others are, others are coming on the journey, and we hope we are influencing them to come onboard faster. I think there have been some in the industry who have not made the right decisions in the past that are now having to rethink their strategy on what they’re doing. So, we’re seeing some of that happening, which is good. They are, changing their plans, but it’s a slow-moving ship. Auto manufacturing is not something you can just switch over overnight. So, it’s a matter of having very clear targets and if you have targets and say, this is when we’re going, to full EVs by this time, then people will make that change. But if you don’t have any targets in place, like UK or Norway, then that, that change is going to happen at a very slow rate. I think you need to have a commitment to it for the manufacturers to be able to plan for that. Otherwise, they will just keep making these fossil-fuel cars and
Raph Goldenberg (37:55): Going down the easier path. Yes.
Kaye Ho (37:57): Yeah. Yeah.
Raph Goldenberg (37:59): The podcast is called Legally Consumed, so we do need to ask you a question about legal things, <laugh>. You talked before about the nationally consistent benefits of the use of EVs. What have been some of the biggest regulatory and legal challenges since you launched in Australia?
Samantha Johnson (38:27): I think the disparity between the different states in how you set up licensing. So, becoming a dealer in itself was very difficult because there are different rules in different states. There are TAFE courses you have to do in some and yard managers courses in others, even though you’re, you’re not out there selling cars, you’re in a corporate office and you have a full team who do a lot of that kind of work. So there’s
Raph Goldenberg (38:52): And there is no yard!
Samantha Johnson (38:53): And there is no yard! So, some of the legislation, and some of the practices are decades old and we really need to catch up and be nationally consistent to make it easier. Some are so easy, and others are not. So, setting up dealer licenses in each state, registrations in each state as well, to be able to register cars, can be very difficult as well. Some states are easier than others, so these things you think are going to be very easy can be very drawn out. So just a national approach to everything would be much easier just for businesses to navigate and to be able to be more nimble and to set up faster and more easily.
Raph Goldenberg (39:34): Make it easier for the lawyers as well! Although thinking about what happened during Covid and the way each state and territory just did entirely their own thing, it doesn’t give me a lot of hope that we’ll get there, but you never know. It’s nice to think of. I guess, just to finish off, if you could change one law, if you were the Prime Minister of Australia for the day, Prime Minister Johnson. What be the first thing you’d change?
Samantha Johnson (40:07): Well, I’d like to go back in time and probably 20 years ago and put this National Electric Vehicle strategy in place 20 years ago, so we wouldn’t be where we are now. That is something I would like to do if there was a portal I could go back in time through. But I think nationalising a lot of what we are doing in that space and having a national approach to it, which it seems like we are now. I think that’s the most important thing and making sure that we do consider the environment as a first priority. Yes, economics is very important, but there’s no use having economics if there’s no environment. We’ve got weather disasters happening everywhere around us already. What’s it going to be like in five years’ time and 10 years’ time?
(40:51): So, let’s take it seriously and make those changes and be tough about it and make them ambitious. We don’t know how to make a zero-climate, neutral zero-emission, or climate-neutral car, but we put it in stone, and we said we are going to do it. We are on the path. We’ve got partners in place, and we actually are moving towards that, but if we hadn’t put that goal in place, we wouldn’t be where we are now. So, you have to put those hard targets in place, and you have to pull everyone together and say, right, ‘let’s understand everything, how it all works’, ‘let’s do this and let’s be ambitious about it and not do it at a comfortable pace, let’s do it at a pace that everyone needs to work towards’.
Raph Goldenberg (41:30): All sounds very sensible to me! On that note, thank you Samantha, and we are looking forward to watching Polestar’s journey in Australia. Thanks again.
Samantha Johnson (41:39): Thank you very much. Thank you.
Raph Goldenberg (42:02): Thank you for tuning into Legally Consumed, a consumer products podcast by the consumer products law firm. This was presented by Raph Goldenberg, Kaye Ho and Will McMinn from CIE Legal. Our theme song is by our very own CIE Legal House Band, which is comprised of Will McMinn, Andrew Maher and Andrew Thompson.
Kaye Ho (42:20): This podcast production is in partnership with Social Star.
Will McMinn (42:22): If you’ve enjoyed this episode, please make sure you follow us on Apple Podcasts, Google Play, Spotify, or wherever else you get your podcast from. For more updates and behind-the-scenes footage, head to our Instagram, @cielegal, all one word. You can also check out our website to listen to a range of episodes and find additional free information at www.cielegal.com.au. To get in contact with CIE legal about our consumer products and legal services, reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks again for listening to Legally Consumed and see you all in the next episode!