Roughly 4,000 U.S. dealerships are asking President Joe Biden to reconsider proposed federal regulations they’ve alleged would mandate an unrealistic national shift toward battery-electric vehicles consumers simply aren’t buying.
Their letter was sent on Tuesday and requests the Biden administration rethink its current course of action. It also cites an EPA proposal from last spring that Automotive News reported could force battery-powered vehicles to become 60 percent of new-vehicle sales by the 2030 model year. The concern is that neither the market, nor the relevant technologies, seems ready for mass adoption.
“These vehicles are ideal for many people, and we believe their appeal will grow over time,” the letter reads. “The reality, however, is that electric vehicle demand today is not keeping up with the large influx of BEVs arriving at our dealerships prompted by the current regulations. BEVs are stacking up on our lots.”
From Automotive News:
The dealerships cover a broad swath of car brands sold in states including California, Michigan, Colorado and New York. They argue customers are not ready to switch to fully electric vehicles because of unresolved challenges such as access to reliable charging networks, vehicle affordability and range anxiety.
To be sure, legislation such as 2021’s Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act and 2022’s Inflation Reduction Act seeks to address those challenges, with billions in federal funding for building a national EV charging network, boosting domestic battery production and lowering EV purchase costs for consumers.
However, the dealerships want Biden to “allow time” for battery technology to improve, EVs to become more affordable and charging infrastructure to be built, among other actions that could help with consumer adoption.
As things currently stand, EVs are priced an average of $10,000 more than their nearest combustion-based counterpart. That’s a lot to ask for the average consumer, especially as discretionary incomes continue to shrink. Though dealers are primarily concerned with having to engage in costly dealer refurbishment schemes designed to help sell EVs while the vehicles themselves aren’t seeing strong demand.
“While the goals of the regulations are admirable, they require consumer acceptance to become a reality,” states the letter. “With each passing day, it becomes more apparent that this attempted electric vehicle mandate is unrealistic based on current and forecasted customer demand. Already, electric vehicles are stacking up on our lots which is our best indicator of customer demand in the marketplace.
Mr. President, no government agency, no think tank, and no polling firm knows more about the automobile customer than us. We talk to customers every day. As retail automotive dealerships, we are agnostic as to what we sell. Our business is to provide customers with vehicles that meet the needs of their budgets and lifestyles.”
While the letter attempts to be kind to EVs, it ends up listing just about every major concern consumers have with them and how that’s influencing their purchasing decisions.
“Some customers are in the market for electric vehicles, and we are thrilled to sell them,” state the dealers. “But the majority of customers are simply not ready to make the change. They are concerned about BEVs being unaffordable. Many do not have garages for home charging or easy access to public charging stations. Customers are also concerned about the loss of driving range in cold or hot weather. Some have long daily commutes and don’t have the extra time to charge the battery. Truck buyers are especially put off by the dramatic loss of range when towing. Today’s current technology is not adequate to support the needs of the majority of our consumers.”
The effort was headed by Mickey Anderson, CEO of Baxter Auto Group, which operates 20 dealerships selling an array of brands in Nebraska, Kansas and Colorado.
“What I and other dealers identified early on is that the voice of the customer was really absent from this entire conversation, and there’s no way that we’ll have a scalable solution if we don’t have consumer adoption,” he explained.
Anderson is also concerned that the matter has foolishly become a party issue. This was something we’ve likewise covered in the past. But the ultimate takeaway for us was that EVs appeared to be losing ground with everyone, despite still having a higher acceptance rate among urbanites and democrats. Inventories are piling up at most dealerships, with Tesla still being the only brand that seems to have made electrification work for its bottom line.
“This issue … is getting overly politicized,” Anderson told Automotive News. “This isn’t a red or blue state issue. It’s not about pro-BEV or pro-oil. This letter is 100 percent about the American consumer.”
If you’re interested in the full content of the letter or which dealer networks signed on, it is available here.
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