Car Dealers Press Biden to Ease US Electric Vehicle Mandates

By Bloomberg

Nov 28, 2023

image is BloomburgMedia_S4SY6XT1UM0W01_29-11-2023_13-58-39_638368128000000000.jpg

An electric vehicle is charged at a dealership in Detroit. Photographer: Matthew Hatcher/Bloomberg

A group of US auto dealers is calling on the Biden administration to pull back on federal regulations that will mandate that two out of every three vehicles sold in the US in 2032 will be battery electric. 

Calling themselves EV Voice of the Customer, a group of almost 3,900 dealerships signed a letter to President Joe Biden released Tuesday that said most US car buyers are not now interested in buying battery electric vehicles — even with government incentives — and the US should not force them to do so. 

“The reality,” the letter said, “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.” 

The dealers said customers cited the high cost of EVs, no garages equipped for home charging, the time it takes to charge and loss of driving range in cold or hot weather. Truck owners also pointed to a dramatic loss of range when towing.

Mickey Anderson, president and chief executive officer of Baxter Auto Group, which owns and operates dealerships in Nebraska, Kansas, and Colorado, said the letter has been signed by 3,882 dealers. 

“As many as half of all Americans don’t even have a garage,” Anderson said, making EVs an unrealistic option for most of them. A US Census Bureau survey found that two-thirds of US housing units had a garage or carport in 2021, though this did not include cooperatives or condominiums.

“Dealers will sell whatever is manufactured,” he said. “But we’ve never seen a situation where government has intervened in such a draconian way.”

The EV Voice of the Customer group is not affiliated with the 16,000-member National Automobile Dealers Association. NADA says that it “enhanced data-driven fuel economy and emissions regulations that embrace marketplace realities and amplify fleet turnover.” 

In July, the US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration proposed a fleetwide average mandate of about 58 miles (93 kilometers) per gallon by 2032. According to the most recent data from the Environmental Protection Agency, carmakers achieved a record 25.4 mpg in model year 2021. Automakers have said the stricter fuel economy standards “exceeds maximum feasibility” and will cost manufacturers $14 billion dollars in fines. 

At the same time, the EPA has proposed caps on carbon dioxide emissions at 82 grams per mile in model year 2032. 

Both proposals are part of the Biden administration’s effort to cut emissions and accelerate the country’s transition to EVs. As part of its environmental goals, the Biden administration aims to decarbonize transportation as part of its target of reaching net-zero emissions by 2050. 

A White House spokesperson responded to the auto dealers’ letter by saying the EPA’s proposed standards are not a mandate since “they do not force anyone to manufacture, sell or buy EVs” and they do not ban gas-powered vehicles. Instead, the spokesperson said, manufacturers can meet the performance-based targets “in ways that make the most sense for them.”

“More Americans are buying EVs every day — with EV sales rising faster than traditional gas-powered cars — as the President’s Inflation Reduction Act makes EVs more affordable and helps Americans save money when driving,” the White House spokesperson said. 

The car dealers say that battery technology and charging infrastructure will continue to improve, which is why the government should not be racing ahead to force EV purchases. 

“Allow time for the American consumer to get comfortable with the technology and make the choice to buy an electric vehicle,” the letter said.

(Updates number of dealer signatories, adds White House comment starting from second paragraph.)

©2023 Bloomberg L.P.

By Keith Laing


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