Auto dealers call on U.S. to let up on EV push

An electric vehicle is charged at a dealership in Detroit. MUST CREDIT: Bloomberg photo by Matthew Hatcher
An electric vehicle is charged at a dealership in Detroit. MUST CREDIT: Bloomberg photo by Matthew Hatcher

A group of U.S. auto dealers is calling on the Biden administration to pull back on federal regulations that will mandate that two out of every three vehicles sold in the U.S. in 2032 will be battery electric.

The car dealer group, calling itself EV Voice of the Customer, wrote in a letter to President Joe Biden released last week that most U.S. car buyers are not now interested in buying battery electric vehicles -- even with government incentives -- and the U.S. should not force them to do so.

"The reality," the letter said, "is that electric vehicle demand today is not keeping up with the large influx of BEVs arriving at our dealerships prompted by the current regulations. BEVs are stacking up on our lots."

The dealers said customers cited the high cost of EVs, no garages equipped for home charging, the time it takes to charge and loss of driving range in cold or hot weather. Truck owners also pointed to a dramatic loss of range when towing.

Mickey Anderson, president and chief executive officer of Baxter Auto Group, which owns and operates dealerships in Nebraska, Kansas and Colorado, said the letter has been signed by 3,700 dealers.

"As many as half of all Americans don't even have a garage," Anderson said, making EVs an unrealistic option for most of them. A U.S. Census Bureau survey found that two-thirds of U.S. housing units had a garage or carport in 2021, though this did not include cooperatives or condominiums.

"Dealers will sell whatever is manufactured," he said. "But we've never seen a situation where government has intervened in such a draconian way."

The EV Voice of the Customer group is not affiliated with the 16,000-member National Automobile Dealers Association. NADA says that it supports "enhanced data-driven fuel economy and emissions regulations that embrace marketplace realities and amplify fleet turnover."

In July, the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration proposed a fleetwide average mandate of about 58 miles per gallon by 2032. According to the most recent data from the Environmental Protection Agency, carmakers achieved a record 25.4 mpg in model year 2021. Automakers have said the stricter fuel economy standards "exceeds maximum feasibility" and will cost manufacturers $14 billion in fines.

At the same time, the EPA has proposed caps on carbon dioxide emissions at 82 grams per mile in model year 2032.

Both proposals are part of the Biden administration's effort to cut emissions and accelerate the country's transition to EVs. As part of its environmental goals, the Biden administration aims to decarbonize transportation as part of its target of reaching net-zero emissions by 2050.

The car dealers say that battery technology and charging infrastructure will continue to improve, which is why the government should not be racing ahead to force EV purchases.

"Allow time for the American consumer to get comfortable with the technology and make the choice to buy an electric vehicle," the letter said.

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