Clean Car Discount: Michael Wood, Simeon Brown clash over Government's 'ute tax' increase

The Clean Car Discount scheme has had a tune-up after the policy proved so successful it was becoming unaffordable. 

The Government has scrapped discounts for low-emissions petrol vehicles - now only hybrids and electric vehicles are eligible.

It's also lowered the discount for new EVs, while increasing the kickback for used clean cars.

But sorry farmers - the ute tax is going up - fees on imports of high-emitting gas guzzlers are increasing. 

Zeck Li's been a Tesla owner since before it was popular.

"I was just thinking a Tesla is a cool car and they were rare on the roads and so that's why I bought a Tesla," he said.

He ordered one of Elon Musk's finest in 2020 before the Government gave buyers cashback for clean cars.

"Those people were definitely more keen to buy EVs."

In fact, the Government's plan worked too well. So many people wanted to be Tesla owners. The scheme was no longer paying for itself.

So what qualifies as a clean car is getting stricter, meaning cars like New Zealand's favourite the Suzuki Swift are no longer eligible.

"Of the cleaner, cheaper vehicles at the low end of the market, vehicles that cost between $10,000 and $15,000, vehicles that the average person buys… they no longer qualify for an incentive," said Motor Trade Association chief executive Lee Marshall.

Transport Minister Michael Wood denied the scheme was just for the rich.

"The top two selling vehicles under the current scheme are generally between $15,000 and $20,000 and they'll still be eligible for the scheme," he said. 

Teslas still do too.

"If you're asking me the question, is a low-income household likely to afford a Tesla, then, of course, the answer is no to that," Wood said. "That is why the Clean Car Discount scheme does not just apply to electric vehicles."

The rebate paid out on new EVs is dropping by $1500. But it's increasing for used imports a little bit, you can get an extra $50.

The tax on new gas guzzlers is rising from about $5000 to $6900 and for used imports, it's going up from just under $3000 to about $3500.

"These people are hard-working farmers and tradies, it's a kick in the guts," said National's transport spokesperson Simeon Brown.

"The National Party have a criticism that some of the benefit goes to people purchasing Teslas. I would much rather those people buying a zero-emissions Tesla than a huge big gas guzzler," said Wood. 

It's a bit more than some of the benefit.

Since the discounts began in July 2021, $83 million has been paid to Tesla owners while $71 million has been paid to Toyota owners.

Wood said the start of the scheme wasn't actually 2021 because hybrids weren't included then. Instead he's picked his starting line as April 2022.

Since then, more has been paid on Toyotas than Teslas.

Brown questioned Wood in Parliament on Tuesday, asking whether he agreed "this is another kick in the guts for our hard-working farmers and tradies".

Wood replied: "I recognise that the National Party and the member opposite wish to turn every policy that is about addressing climate change into a tacky little culture war."

A culture war pitching farmers against the city slickers with Teslas.