Tesla CEO Elon Musk had an idea during an interview last evening with the Wall Street Journal: Get rid of government incentives for everyone, including electric vehicles, gas, and oil subsidies. The idea, while it would eliminate potentially $12,500 from an EV’s price tag (if it’s built in a Union facility in the United States with a U.S.-produced battery, and it’s a Chevrolet Bolt), might be the best way for consumers to choose what vehicle would be best for them, and it might be the most ideal way for political interests to subside from the bigger picture: transitioning away from combustion engine vehicles.
It is no secret that Tesla fans have felt slighted by President Joe Biden and other members of his administration. Despite dominating the U.S. EV market share and, without much evidence to suggest otherwise, being the reason so many car companies are deciding to dive into electrification, Tesla is not a word that has been uttered from the President’s mouth. However, other companies, like Ford, General Motors, and others, who are working to transition to EVs, are getting the attention.
In the big picture of the mission, it is great that car companies are continuing to work toward complete electrification, but is it fair for the EV leader and the real reason these legacy companies have to transition or else be left behind cannot get any positive support from the U.S. Presidential Administration?
All of these points bring up perhaps the biggest and most bold statement Musk has made regarding the EV incentives: Get rid of them.
Despite the attractive EV rebate that could put thousands in a consumer’s pocket, especially with the potential for a “refundable” credit based on language in the Build Back Better plan, Musk says that the incentives should not even exist. “Tesla’s made roughly two-thirds of all the electric cars made in the United States. I’m not sure if most people are aware of that. So Tesla’s made roughly twice as many electric vehicles as everyone else has made. Honestly, I would just can this whole bill. Don’t pass it. That’s my recommendation.”
Perhaps this is the right move, simply because it would take politics out of the entire EV sector. At a point where environmental sustainability needs to be one of the focuses of consumerism moving forward, there is no reason for politics or inside interests to disrupt the outright potential of the sector or any of its participants. Not to mention, the obvious ousting of Tesla, Rivian, and other EV makers by the Biden Administration does not necessarily put some consumer minds in the right space. If Biden and others truly cared about transitioning the automotive industry to EVs, would they ignore the largest contributor to the transition? Likely not.
Eliminating incentives from the EV sector would cancel any political influence a consumer may have to digest before purchasing a car. Instead, let the consumer buy what they want, for the price they can afford, at a time when they can afford it. Incentives would likely push the Bolt to sell more units than ever before, especially considering it offers the largest rebate and the vehicle is available for under $30,000 before incentives anyway. It would be a great move to increase the number of EVs on the road, but it would also be unfair to other carmakers, especially the ones who have put more focus on EVs and are pot-committed to transitioning to EVs.
Musk’s idea to rid the system of incentives may be one of the best yet. If people want an electric vehicle, they are going to buy one. Lack of incentives have never stopped consumers from buying $70,000 pickup trucks, a $100,000 Mercedes-Benz, or a $129,000 Model S Plaid. Many people are going to buy the car they want, regardless of what the government might give back in a tax credit. If one thing is for certain, EV tax credits have been proven to be more of a political interest than a consumer advantage.
Musk’s full interview with the Wall Street Journal is available below:
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