Ford and Mercedes-Benz reportedly dismiss JobKeeper repayments, leaving Toyota as the only profitable carmaker to return taxpayer funds

  • Toyota remains the only profitable carmaker to pledge the repayment of JobKeeper subsidies, after Mercedes-Benz and Ford said they have no plans to do so.
  • Both automakers turned profits in 2020 but told the ABC those taxpayer subsidies were necessary to keep their local workforce on the books.
  • In January, Toyota said it would repay some $18 million in JobKeeper payments, after stronger-than-expected sales towards the end of a chaotic 2020.
  • Visit Business Insider Australia’s homepage for more stories.

Toyota remains the only profitable carmaker to pledge the repayment of excess JobKeeper payments, after Mercedes-Benz and Ford confirmed they have no plans to rescind taxpayer funds accrued over the past year.

ABC reports the parent company of Mercedes-Benz’ Australian operations recorded a profit of $62.7 million over 2020, despite the unprecedented industry shutdowns caused by the coronavirus crisis.

Economic uncertainty and plummeting consumer confidence in early 2020 led Mercedes-Benz to demostrate or project a significant downturn in revenue, allowing the luxury carmaker to qualify for the JobKeeper wage subsidy.

The company would go on to accrue $4.9 million in JobKeeper payments before the scheme wrapped up in late March, the ABC reports.

Like many automakers, sales rebounded in late 2020, but the company told the national broadcaster it has no intentions of returning those JobKeeper payments to the Australian Taxation Office.

“This support, as intended, meant we could retain our local workforce and continue serving our customers and supporting our local retail network,” the brand said.

A similar story is playing out at Ford, who reportedly posted a $59 million 2020 profit.

In its Q420 report, Ford said Australia was a star market for its International Motors Group (IMG).

“Excluding the impact of India, IMG was profitable in the quarter, led by Australia and Vietnam,” the brand said.

And Ford’s Ranger ute was the nation’s best-selling 4×4 light commercial vehicle, the brand said.

But Ford reportedly accrued $38 million in JobKeeper payments over the year.

The carmaker told the ABC those subsidies were essential to keep its workforce on the books during 2020’s market downturn, meaning the brand has no active plans to kick those funds back into government coffers.

Both Mercedes-Benz and Ford had previously downplayed the likelihood of them repaying any accrued JobKeeper payments, telling CarAdvice in January there were no active plans to do so.

Competitors Volkswagen and Nissan also told the outlet the JobKeeper payments they received were necessary to support their businesses.

At the time, Nissan clarified that it did not re-apply for JobKeeper once the company’s underlying revenue had improved beyond the updated eligibility threshold.

Those statements stand in contrast to Toyota, which in January pledged to refund some $18 million in accrued JobKeeper payments after a surprisingly successful year.

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg has repeatedly said he will not ask profitable firms to repay the subsidies they qualified for, even if those firms subsequently turned massive profits.

But the administration of the Federal Government’s $90 billion scheme remains a hot topic — and with car sales continuing to smash records, the focus will remain on firms which flourished after a much-needed leg up from the Australian taxpayer.

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