Tesla gets stern snub from its new home state’s EV rebate program

Tesla may consider Texas as its new home after establishing a Gigafactory in the state, but the EV maker is still getting the cold shoulder from the local auto market. Just recently, for example, Texas released a list of electric and electrified vehicles that are eligible for its Light-Duty Motor Vehicle Purchase or Lease Program. No Teslas were included in the list. 

The program offers rebates of up to $2,500 for the purchase or lease of specific electric and electrified vehicles. The list of eligible cars is extensive, comprising 142 different models from practically every major automaker. These include 22 BMW models, 17 models from Porsche, 15 from Audi, 6 from Mercedes-Benz, and 14 cars from Ford. Even Bentley had two models that were included in the list.

What was absent in the eligible vehicles list was every Tesla offered today. Tesla, the Austin-based EV maker that’s poised to provide at least 20,000 direct jobs and 100,000 indirect jobs over time in the state thanks to Gigafactory Texas, was deemed ineligible for the state’s EV credit. The reason for this seems to be something that Tesla has been dealing with since its earliest days—auto dealerships. 

Laura Lopez, a media and community relations manager for the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, which runs the rebate program, explained Tesla’s absence in a statement. 

“The program currently requires that eligible vehicles must be purchased or leased from a licensed new vehicle dealer or leasing company in Texas. Under Texas law, vehicles purchased directly from the manufacturer or an out-of-state dealer not licensed to sell or lease new vehicles in Texas are not eligible for a rebate,” she said, according to The Center Square

Texas law currently prevents Tesla and other automakers from selling vehicles directly to consumers. Despite notable support from car buyers, dealers in states like Texas insist that the use of franchised dealers is still the optimal way to purchase vehicles. The Texas Automobile Dealers Association has also maintained that the state’s law preventing direct sales is a way to protect competition. 

“Texas franchised dealer laws protect competition and provide the most efficient and effective delivery model for new and used car sales in Texas. The current system works well for Texas and Texans,” Jennifer Stevens, a spokesperson for the Texas Automobile Dealers Association, said.

If Texas does not change its laws, Tesla would have to ship its Made-in-Texas vehicles out of state first before delivering them to Texas buyers. This setup is ridiculous, and it is one that is being challenged even by numerous entities, including politicians in the state. State Rep. Cody Harris, a Republican representing District 8, introduced a bill in 2021 that aimed to acquire exceptions to Texas’ dealer franchise law, but his efforts were unsuccessful. 

Nevertheless, Harris noted that he believes Tesla would thrive regardless of what happens. “As markets and technologies change, we want to be the go-to state for businesses who are being crushed by burdensome regulation in other parts of the country, which is why Tesla chose to move here from California,” he noted.

Carla Bailo, the president and CEO of the Center for Automotive Research in Michigan, is on the same page. “It certainly hasn’t slowed down Tesla’s sales – they are still selling in all these places they don’t have dealerships – and a lot more companies are starting to go that way because the consumer really likes it. (Dealership laws) are protecting something that might be going by the wayside in any case. The dealer, unfortunately, hasn’t always been a pleasant experience for a lot of people,” she said. 

Below are the vehciles that qualify for Texas’ Light-Duty Motor Vehicle Purchase or Lease Program.

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