Tesla delivers its 200,000th car, triggering the EV tax credit phase-out period

Tesla has delivered its 200,000th vehicle this month, triggering the phase-out period of the $7,500 federal tax credit for electric vehicles offered in the United States.

As seen on Tesla’s official Electric Vehicle Incentives page, the phase-out period for the $7,500 federal tax credit is in effect for all Model S, Model X and Model 3 vehicles delivered on or before December 31, 2018, while buyers taking delivery in 2019 will only be eligible for a subset of that original $7,500 credit. Customers taking delivery between January 1 to June 30, 2019 will be eligible for a $3,750 federal tax credit, or half of the full amount before phase-out. Those taking delivery in the second half of 2019, between July 1 to December 31, 2019 will be eligible for a $1,875 federal tax credit.

The federal credit applied to new electric vehicles, dubbed by the IRS as the Plug-In Electric Drive Vehicle Credit (IRC 30D), affects all EVs that were acquired after December 31, 2009. The credit, which took effect during the previous administration as a means to encourage drivers to adopt zero-emissions vehicles, featured a tiered credit, starting at $2,500 and going all the way up to $7,500 depending on the battery capacity of an electric car. The IRS’ official website describes how the sale of a manufacturer’s 200,000th electric car triggers the tax credit phase-out period.

“The qualified plug-in electric drive motor vehicle credit phases out for a manufacturer’s vehicles over the one-year period beginning with the second calendar quarter after the calendar quarter in which at least 200,000 qualifying vehicles manufactured by that manufacturer have been sold for use in the United States (determined on a cumulative basis for sales after December 31, 2009) (‘phase-out period’).”

Tesla actually played its cards cleverly with regards to the $7,500 tax credit phase-out. Being a car company that exclusively manufactures electric cars, it was inevitable that the company would be the first automaker to hit the 200,000 mark. By reaching this milestone shortly after the second quarter, Tesla actually gave itself, as well as its customers, an additional 18 months to obtain any sort of credit. the $7,500 credit remains in effect for the whole quarter in which the 200,000th vehicle was delivered, as well as the quarter after.

After this point, the credit gets reduced by 50% to $3,750 for two quarters. In Tesla’s case, this corresponds to Q1 and Q2 2019. From Q3 and Q4 2019, Tesla’s vehicles will still be eligible for a tax credit, though it would be reduced to $1,875 by this time. Tesla’s electric cars produced from January 2020 moving forward will not be eligible for tax credits anymore.

In a way, Tesla’s timing for hitting the 200,000 mark appears to be strategic. The company, after all, just recently managed to attain its goal of producing 5,000 Model 3 per week by the end of Q2 2018. Signs from the company, such as test drives for the Model 3, massive batches of new VINs filed one after another, and a new 5-minute Sign & Drive delivery system, all seem designed to deliver as many of the electric cars to customers as fast as possible.

If there is a group of reservation holders that would feel the effect of the credit phase-out, however, it would be those holding out for the Standard Range RWD Model 3, which starts at $35,000. In a Twitter update, Elon Musk stated that Tesla would likely start the production of the base Model 3’s smaller battery pack by the end of 2018. From there, Musk noted that volume production for the vehicle would probably begin in Q1 2019.  

In a meeting with investors and analysts this past Tuesday, Tesla’s Senior Director of Investor Relations Aaron Chew reportedly stated that the company is aiming to sustain its 5,000 per week pace for Q3 2018, increasing output to 7,000 cars per week for Q4 2018. By mid-2019, Tesla expects to produce 10,000 Model 3 per week, which corresponds to an output of 500,000 vehicles per year.

If Tesla manages to sustain its 5,000 Model 3 per week rate from August to September 2018, and achieve a steady rate of 7,000 vehicles per week from October 2018 to June 2019 (assuming no production ramps happen within these months), the company would be able to produce 292,000 Model 3. With a 10,000 per week rate from July to December 2019, Tesla would be able to deliver an additional 240,000 more. Thus, if Tesla plays its cards right and ramps the Model 3 in a manner that is careful and precise, it could deliver as many as 532,000 cars that are still eligible for federal credit (albeit the $3,750 and $1,875 credit). Considering that the backlog of 420,000 remaining Model 3 orders are from customers across the globe, there is a good chance that all present reservation holders in the United States would be able to get a credit for their vehicle.

Tesla delivers its 200,000th car, triggering the EV tax credit phase-out period
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