(The Center Square) – Nearly 4,500 dealerships representing all major auto manufacturing brands from every state recently signed a letter to President Joe Biden asking him to “tap the brakes” on his proposed electric vehicle mandate based on a lack of consumer demand.
Since the letter was sent in November 2023, dealerships continue to add their names to the list – including 85 from Pennsylvania.
The Biden administration set a target for battery electric vehicles, also known as BEVs or EVs, to account for half of all new vehicle sales by 2030 – some states have taken steps to ban internal combustion engine vehicles altogether by 2035.
The letter says while admirable, the goal becoming a reality requires consumer acceptance. In addition to what customers are telling them, dealers say the best indicator of demand are the EVs “stacking up on our lots.”
Enthusiasm for EVs has stalled, the dealers say, “even with deep price cuts, manufacturer incentives, and generous government incentives.”
The letter goes on to say they are thrilled to sell them. However, the majority of their customers are not ready to make the change, citing concerns over affordability, charging access and range.
“Many of these challenges can and will be addressed by our manufacturers, but many…are outside of their control,” the dealers said in the letter.
They add that reliable charging networks, electric grid stability, sourcing of materials and other issues need time to resolve – and finally, many people simply want to choose which vehicle is right for them.
Mickey Anderson is president and CEO of Baxter Auto Group, which owns 21 dealerships in Omaha and Lincoln, Nebraska, the greater Kansas City area, Colorado Springs, and Madison, Wisconsin.
Anderson told The Center Square although he spearheaded the letter, it was a collaborative effort, and after sharing it with a few other dealers, thousands more wanted to cosign. To date, the only communication he has received from the administration is confirmation of the receipt of the letter.
Dealers are not required to take them, but the mandate requires manufacturers to build them. Anderson said he buys from the manufacturers to honor their partnership, but dealers have limits, and their lots are only so big.
Last summer, for the first time since the pandemic, supply chains were reestablished, and they saw EV production outpace demand in a significant way. During meetings with peers nationwide, he discovered they were all experiencing the same thing.
Through dealers’ visits to Washington, D.C. – both individually and collectively – they realized elected officials misunderstood the low demand for EVs, Anderson said.
“If you can imagine the government mandating Chick-fil-A to make two-thirds of their sandwiches some vegetarian substitute,” said Anderson.
They can make all those sandwiches, but you will still have most people in the drive-thru ordering chicken. He added, “You can make them, but they’re gonna just sit.”
The path to get on the trajectory to meet the administration’s deadlines, Anderson said, is already departing in a significant way from natural consumer demand.
He said demand for ICE vehicles remains high, but it has significantly increased for plug-in hybrids. While he is sitting on a 200-day supply of EV’s, he has an almost year-long waitlist for those wanting to purchase a Toyota Prius.
Anderson, a Nebraskan, understands climate concerns, but says, “Of all the ways we can look to reduce carbon, this one hits the American taxpayer squarely in the chest.”
He says it’s a great injustice to pay taxes, which are then used to force an agenda that would deprive Americans of affordable and useful cars and require them to buy unaffordable and less useful.
He added, “Every time I think about that, I feel like it’s asking someone to go dig their own grave.”
The disconnect, he said, is taxpayers could be investing in a myriad of other technologies that could dramatically reduce the carbon footprint, would be in high demand and sell naturally, without the need for subsidies.
Anderson said he can speak for the entire industry when he says they are excited to sell electric vehicles.
“We just don’t need this many of them this quickly – and that’s the point of the letter,” he said.