Pity the poor car dealers. After making record profits in the wake of the pandemic and the collapse of just-in-time inventory chains, they’re now complaining that selling electric vehicles is too hard. Almost 4,000 dealers from around the United States have sent an open letter to President Joe Biden calling for the government to slow down its plan to increase EV adoption between now and 2032.
Despite our robust economy, the US trails both Europe and China in terms of EV adoption. More and more car buyers are opting to go fully electric each year, although even a record 2023 will fail to see EV uptake reach double-digit percentages.
Mindful of the fact that transportation accounts for the largest segment of US carbon emissions and that our car-centric society encourages driving, the US Department of Energy published a proposed rule in April that would alter the way the government calculates each automaker’s corporate average fuel efficiency. If adopted, the new rule would require OEMs to sell many more EVs to avoid large fines. This is in addition to an earlier goal from the White House that calls for one in two new cars sold in 2030 to be EVs.
And that’s too ambitious, says the collection of car dealers, who say that new EVs are piling up on their forecourts and can’t be sold:
Last year, there was a lot of hope and hype about EVs. Early adopters formed an initial line and were ready to buy these vehicles as soon as we had them to sell. But that enthusiasm has stalled. Today, the supply of unsold BEVs is surging, as they are not selling nearly as fast as they are arriving at our dealerships—even with deep price cuts, manufacturer incentives, and generous government incentives.
While the goals of the regulations are admirable, they require consumer acceptance to become a reality. With each passing day, it becomes more apparent that this attempted electric vehicle mandate is unrealistic based on current and forecasted customer demand. Already, electric vehicles are stacking up on our lots, which is our best indicator of customer demand in the marketplace.
The inability of car dealers to sell EVs has not gone unnoticed. Over the summer, industry analysts at Cox Auto made plenty of headlines with data showing that new EV inventory was growing.
“EVs are selling three times as slow as [internal combustion engine] cars. And so dealers that were forced to make investments on the electrification space, forced to have floorplan financing against these cars, are suddenly running against 90–93 days of inventory turn vis-a-vis 31–32 days for the internal combustion cars. And that obviously is a real issue for them,” said Jantoon Reigersman, COO at TrueCar.
“And then not only are EVs more expensive, but their own salespeople are untrained. They don’t even know how to answer most of the questions they get. A lot of them have 100–200 percent turnover of their sales staff in a given year,” Reigersman told me.
Hefty dealership markups certainly haven’t helped the perception of EVs being overpriced, either.
The complaints listed by the dealerships show familiar EV bugbears—poor charging infrastructure, the fact that batteries take longer to recharge than a gas tank takes to refill, and a loss of towing range.
Helpfully, the dealers published a complete list of the 3,882 signatories, making it very easy for people to see which businesses are opposing action on climate change. And I really have to ask: Why are four Polestar dealers included on this list?