GM refuses Tesla’s tax credit strategy, will adopt dealer-based ‘incentives’ instead

General Motors (GM) is now the second vehicle manufacturer to sell 200,000 electric cars, triggering a phaseout period for the $7,500 federal tax credit for electric vehicle buyers. To address the tax credit’s phaseout, GM has decided to favor new, non-specified “incentives” to keep its electric vehicles competitive.

“It is easier to react to the market by working with dealers and your marketing team than it is to change sticker prices,” GM spokesman Jim Cain commented on the issue, also noting that GM is “sensitive to affordability” in the electric car market.

GM’s reaction to the phaseout period of the $7,500 stands in stark contrast to that of Tesla. When the electric car maker reached the 200,000 threshold last July, the company quickly made its future buyers aware of the impact the federal tax credit phase out would have on their vehicle prices. The prices of its vehicles were promptly adjusted to buffer some of the increase brought about by the reduced federal tax credit, which was halved to $3,750. As could be seen in GM’s recent statement, it appears that the experienced American carmaker is not prepared to show this type of flexibility just yet. 

Under the existing tax credit system for electric vehicles, buyers must wait until their annual taxes are complete before receiving the incentive. A new federal bill, dubbed the Electric CARS Act of 2018, was proposed last year to both extend the full $7,500 credit until 2028 regardless of the number of vehicles sold.

Under the proposed bill, electric car buyers would receive an immediate discount off of the car’s sticker price at the time of purchase. The bill is currently still being considered by the Ways and Means Committee. In California, a $2,500 local subsidy has backing from lawmakers to increase its amount to $4,500, a move meant to buffer the impact of a reduced federal credit.

Tesla exhibits its electric cars and energy products at the 2018 LA Auto Show. [Credit: Christian Prenzler/Teslarati]

Tesla’s introduction of the $35,000 Model 3 Standard Range has ushered in a new consumer market for the California-based company focused on affordability, as intended. Absorption of external costs looked to be a move aimed at keeping customers happy while delivery delays and manufacturing setbacks hindered buyers’ ability to take advantage of the tax credit.

Prior to the Model 3 Standard Range release, large auto manufacturers like GM produced the only affordable electric vehicle options. Tesla’s competitive pricing angle makes GM’s “incentive” strategy interesting, especially now that the hybrid Chevy Volt has ceased production following a 23% reduction in sales last year. GM is also ramping up production and sales efforts for the Chevy Bolt and has vowed to launch another 20 electric car models by 2023.

GM refuses Tesla’s tax credit strategy, will adopt dealer-based ‘incentives’ instead
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