The automotive advertising in Australia is skewed to bigger motor vehicles, encouraging high fuel consumption, according to analysis by climate advocacy group Comms Declare.
Advertising of SUVs and light commercial vehicles has risen 200% in the last decade, coinciding with an 80% increase in sales (42% of the market in 2011 compared to 77% in 2021).
Over the same period, passenger car advertising halved (55%), with sales also falling 63% (52% to 19% of the market).
Belinda Noble, Comms Declare founder, said carmakers are taking Australians for a ride.
They are pushing sales of the largest, most profitable vehicles while ignoring the health, safety and climate impacts.
“Restricting advertising of these supersized gas guzzlers would help to reverse this dangerous trend,” she says.
“What the advertising data shows is that the popularity of SUVs and Utes in Australia is not a mistake – it’s been deliberately created with tens of millions of dollars of advertising and sponsorships over 10 years.”
The research, Rammed The advertising that’s killing our climate goals, says Australians are increasingly choosing to supersize their cars, and emissions are on the up.
The biggest spender, according to the research, is Toyota:
Kate Wylie, executive director, Doctors for the Environment, says larger cars mean worse air pollution, but they are also far more dangerous to other road users, cyclists and pedestrians, and especially to small children.
“Because they are a health hazard, they should carry a health warning,” says Wylie. “Instead, they are promoted as a lifestyle.
“Vehicle-related pollution contributes to premature deaths-up to 11,000 a year are attributed to air pollution from transport- and illnesses ranging from heart disease and asthma.
“Global-heating carbon dioxide emissions from large SUVs are more than double those of many small sedans.
“High emitting vehicles add more to climate change and are dumped on Australia because, unlike most of the world, we have no fuel efficiency standard which would compel manufacturers to advertise vehicles with lower emissions. We can all help by walking, cycling and using public transport.”
Robin Smit, founder and director at Transport Energy/Emission Research (TER) and an adjunct associate professor at University of Technology Sydney, says total road transport emissions would have been about 15% lower if Australians had driven only small cars in 2019 for personal use.
“The reduction in emissions from simply shifting to smaller cars is similar to emissions from domestic aviation and domestic shipping combined. Importantly, lightweighting cuts emissions for all kinds of vehicles,” says Smit.
Dr Chris Jones, president of the Australian Electric Vehicle Association (AEVA), says Australia's penchant for large SUVs and dual-cabs is making our decarbonisation goals harder, and relentless advertising of such vehicles has been, unfortunately, very successful.
"Not only must we ensure the supply of zero-emission vehicles is improved through an emissions standard on new vehicles, we really need to cost roads and traffic appropriately.
“The AEVA advocates for a universal, mass-multiplied road user charge which doesn't discriminate on energy source. Lighter vehicles would cost less to operate than heavier vehicles, and hopefully drive a shift back towards more appropriately sized vehicles."
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