One of the great things about working in the automotive industry is witnessing the incredible passion car enthusiasts exhibit for specific models, even those that ultimately failed, from the long-defunct DeLorean brand to the still-classic Studebakers.
That’s why I appreciate the intense eagerness Colorado Sun contributor Sean Mitchell (Opinion: Three myths about owning an electric vehicle in Colorado. Let’s set the record straight. June 2, 2019) shows for all-electric Teslas.
I was so taken with his excitement I recently got together with Mr. Mitchell to talk cars over breakfast.
Mr. Mitchell, who heads the Denver Tesla Club, seems to really, really, really like his all-electric Tesla Model S.
Despite Tesla’s growing struggles, you’ve probably seen some of its cars tooling around town, at least if you live in an urban area like Denver where drivers don’t have to worry about their batteries running out and stranding them on the side of a rural highway.
But if you’d like to buy your own Tesla Model S, be prepared to dig deep: Pricing for the Model S runs $75,000-$96,000 before potential governmental incentives.
Those incentives highlight a problem with the government handouts designed to subsidize electric vehicles. One recent study showed that more than half of electric-vehicle subsidies went to households making more than $200,000 a year.
As John Adams said, “facts are stubborn things” — and they don’t necessarily align with Mr. Mitchell’s enthusiastic electric vehicle storyline.
When lack of reliable transportation stands between too many Americans and stable employment, it is sadly ironic that government would reserve these generous new vehicle handouts to those who need it least.
But it gets worse.
The Colorado Air Quality Control Commission is considering the adoption of California Zero-Emission Vehicle (ZEV) rules that would actually place a financial penalty of several thousand dollars or more on those who, for whatever reason, find that an electric vehicle doesn’t fit their needs.
So if you need a vehicle that can haul a large family, or equipment to a worksite or farm, you’re going to pay a huge surcharge under these proposed California ZEV rules.
Colorado’s new car dealers are in the business of selling cars, no matter what technology they use. That includes zero-emission (i.e., electric) vehicles, now offered by an increasing number of manufacturers in Colorado showrooms today.
So far, the response from Colorado consumers to electric cars has been muted; they first hit showrooms in 2011 but new vehicle buyers still choose them less than 3% of the time.
Mr. Mitchell is a Tesla true believer, but auto dealers know the old adage that customers rule. Mr. Mitchell doesn’t need to convince me that concerns about charging times, charging infrastructure and range anxiety are unwarranted.
He needs to convince the vast majority of Colorado consumers who are not buying his arguments — or the Teslas he promotes.
So far electric-vehicle proponents have been unable to sway skeptical consumers and even dangling taxpayer-funded carrots that reduce the end price of electric vehicles hasn’t done the trick.
The California ZEV mandates would go much further, supplementing these carrots with sticks that punish consumers who don’t want electric vehicles.
The Colorado Sun recently reported that automakers had offered to make all of their California electric-vehicle models available in Colorado starting in January as a positive alternative to the burdensome California regulations. That proposal was all about increasing consumer choice, which we support. But those talks, as the Sun noted, broke down.
When government sets arbitrary quotas for electric vehicles, as the California mandates require, government is limiting consumer choice by penalizing those who conclude that an electric vehicle is not right for them.
Colorado consumers know that our state’s uniquely challenging driving conditions are fundamentally different from the reality of California.
That explains why three-quarters of Colorado opt for light-duty trucks, which include SUVs and pickups. In this category, electric vehicles still come up short.
Mr. Mitchell is correct that there are electric trucks and SUVs “on the horizon.” And when they reach showrooms, Colorado consumers will be able to size them up!
In the meantime, Colorado auto dealers are working energetically to clear the state’s air through our Clear the Air Foundation.
Newer gasoline cars run much cleaner today with passenger vehicles that “are 98 to 99% cleaner for most tailpipe pollutants compared to the 1960s,” according to the EPA. The dealers organization focuses on its Clear the Air Foundation, which has taken 4,000 older vehicles off the roads since its 2011 launch.
The California ZEV standards could take us in the wrong direction. By significantly increasing the cost of new non-electric vehicles, they would keep Colorado drivers in older, dirtier, higher-emitting vehicles longer.
It’s not surprising that 77% of Coloradans said in a May survey released by the American Energy Alliance that California should not be able to determine what kinds of cars can be sold in other states. In addition, 70% of Coloradans agreed that electric cars might be a good choice for some, but those purchases should not be paid for by other consumers.
In the near term, Colorado consumers may be deterred by much higher prices for electric vehicles. For example, a Nissan Leaf electric vehicle costs $13,410 more than a comparable gas-powered Nissan Sentra, based on my sampling of current prices. A Chevrolet Bolt electric vehicle costs almost twice as much as the larger Chevy Cruze.
And at the same time the Colorado Air Quality Control Commission is looking at mandating more electric vehicle sales by adopting California ZEV requirements, the financial incentives Colorado offers electric-vehicle buyers are quickly shrinking, from $5,000 this year to $2,500 next year to $1,500 in 2022 and beyond.
Over time, electric vehicles, like any new technology, will get less expensive and better and they won’t just be limited to hobbyists or early adopters like Mr. Mitchell. Until then, let’s not punish Coloradans who determine that a Tesla doesn’t fit their family budget or needs at home or work.
Tim Jackson (@timwjackson) is CEO and president of the Colorado Automobile Dealers Association. An avid cyclist, he doesn’t think government should dictate what bicycle he rides or car he drives.
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