Car dealers falsely claim to be ‘voice of customers’ in push for slower electric car adoption

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Almost 4,000 car dealerships in the US banded together in a new lobbying effort to ask the government to slow down the adoption of electric vehicles.

They even falsely claim to be “the voice of customers” in this Luddite effort.

A coalition representing 3,882 dealerships in the US has signed a letter sent to President Biden to lobby for a slower electric vehicle mandate.

The letter starts out like this:

“We are auto dealers from across the country who collectively sell every major brand in the U.S. We are small businesses employing thousands of Americans. We are deeply committed to the customers we serve and the communities where we operate, which is why we are asking you to slow down your proposed regulations mandating battery electric vehicle (BEV) production and distribution.”

It doesn’t start very well since there’s a lie in the very first sentence. These auto dealers don’t represent “every major brand in the U.S”.

Tesla is undoubtedly a “major” auto brand in the US, and it happens to sell more electric vehicles than all others combined.

Their argument is that BEV inventory is pilling up at their dealerships and they are having issues selling the vehicles:

“Last year, there was a lot of hope and hype about EVs. Early adopters formed an initial line and were ready to buy these vehicles as soon as we had them to sell. But that enthusiasm has stalled. Today, the supply of unsold BEVs is surging, as they are not selling nearly as fast as they are arriving at our dealerships — even with deep price cuts, manufacturer incentives, and generous government incentives.”

However, what those dealers are leaving out of their argument is that BEVs are not the only vehicles sitting unsold on their lots.

In fact, new-vehicle inventory is at a two-year high, according to Cox Automotive research.

As of the start of November, new-vehicle inventory volume in the US was sitting at a record 2.4 million units. It is safe to say that those are mostly gasoline-powered vehicles since the inventory level is currently higher than the number of EVs that the US will produce all year.

The truth is that the current interest rates have affected all automotive sales, EVs or otherwise.

It’s true some of those people who placed reservations for EVs last year are reconsidering their purchases now, as highlighted by the group of dealers, but that’s not because they are not interested in EVs anymore. It’s because they can’t afford the several hundred dollars more for the monthly payments now thanks to high interest rates.

It makes it so much more frustrating that these dealers are making this false argument while claiming that they are the “voice of customers”:

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.

The dealers are asking for President Biden to “tap the brakes on the unrealistic government electric vehicle mandate”.

Electrek’s Take

If anything, this should be a clear sign to legacy automakers who are committed to electric vehicles that their dealerships are going to be a problem in the EV transition.

Now, when trash-talking dealers, I always want to make it clear that even though I’m not a fan of the third-party car dealer model, I know there are plenty of good car dealerships.

For example, about 4,000 dealers signed this letter, but there are more than 18,000 car dealers in the US.

But yes, in general, dealers have caused more trouble than helped with EV adoption in the US.

When the demand is strong for EVs, they mark up the prices – taking advantage of demand generated by the manufacturers at launch, and when macroeconomics affects EV demand negatively, they misrepresent the situation to lobby against EVs.

Anyone taking the current demand situation with EVs as an excuse to slow down the transition is being completely short-sighted.

Norway is at almost 100% of new car sales being BEVs. Yet, these dealers believe we can’t catch up to even two-thirds of that by 2032? That’s basically admitting that the US is more than a decade behind the Scandinavian country. I thought the US was always number 1?

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