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By Lewis Jackson and Stella Qiu

SYDNEY (Reuters) – Volkswagen Australia said on Friday it was concerned about the exit of electric vehicle makers Tesla and Polestar from Australia’s major automotive lobby in protest over the organisation’s criticism of proposed vehicle emissions rules.

The German automaker said it supported the government’s proposed standards and wanted stronger incentives for clean car importers, in stark contrast to the peak lobby group, which is pushing to water down the rules.

“Our company’s position is its own – not that of any lobby group or membership organisation,” a spokesperson said in an email.

VW, which remains in the lobby group, was concerned about the exit of Tesla and Polestar and was discussing the situation, the spokesperson added, without giving specifics.

To get more electric vehicles on the road and cut emissions, Australia has proposed vehicle efficiency standards that will penalise car makers who import emissions intensive models and reward those who bring in cleaner vehicles.

Polestar Australia, part-owned by China’s Geely Automobile quit the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries on Friday, a day after Tesla did the same, and said the lobby group’s commentary against the proposed regulations had “irrevocably damaged” public trust in the policy.

In a letter to the FCAI, Polestar said delaying or making the standards less stringent would keep Australia a dumping ground for old technology vehicles and force the emissions burden elsewhere in the economy.

“The brand cannot in good faith continue to allow its membership fees to fund a campaign designed to deliberately slow the car industry’s contribution to Australia’s emissions reduction potential,” head of Polestar Australia, Samantha Johnson, said in the letter.

Tesla quit the FCAI on Thursday and resigned from its board, accusing it of making false claims about the proposed standards and their effect on car prices.

In response to questions about the exits, the FCAI said on Friday it could not support a standard that met the needs of the owners of premium vehicles while leaving others with fewer choices and higher prices.

The FCAI said its members represent more than 50 brands. Its chair and two deputy chairs are from Mazda, Toyota and Mitsubishi Motors, respectively.

Australia’s centre-left Labor government opened consultation on the standards in February, and also released a “preferred model” for the new standards.

It aims to introduce the new standard in 2025, which will become more stringent each year, with the aim to hit an average vehicle emissions intensity similar to the U.S. by around 2028.

Russia and Australia are among the only developed countries without fuel efficiency standards.

(This story has been refiled to correct a spelling in paragraph 9)

The FCAI said earlier this week the government’s preferred option would raise prices and limit options, especially for the pick-up trucks popular in the country.

(Reporting by Lewis Jackson; Editing by Himani Sarkar and Kim Coghill)

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