It’s not unusual for government officials to drive EVs. Elected officials in Norway, Switzerland, the US and several other countries proudly drive on electrons. Even the USA’s Climate Change Denier-in-Chief reportedly owns a Model S.
However, when the Environment Minister for the German state of North Rhine-Westphalia bought a Tesla Model S as his official car, it raised some hackles.
Minister Johannes Remmel’s choice of America’s flagship EV is controversial for two reasons. First, the German auto industry is a source of national pride, much more so than in the US, and government officials are expected to drive German cars.
In response to a question from the German newspaper Bild, a spokesperson said that the Model S was the only EV with enough range to allow the Minister to get around the large state of North Rhine-Westphalia. Left unstated was the fact that German automakers don’t currently offer any long-range EVs (although Volkswagen, Daimler and BMW all have plans to rectify that situation).
The second objection to Remmel’s Tesla is its high price tag – 110,340 euros ($115,000) worth of taxpayer funds. Germany’s recently announced plan to speed EV adoption with new incentives specifically excludes high-priced vehicles. A 4,000-euro purchase discount will be available only for vehicles with a starting price of less than 60,000 euros.
Is this policy designed to avoid subsidizing luxury cars for the rich, or to exclude Tesla in favor of domestic automakers? Either way, the resourceful Californians found a way to work around it, by unbundling certain features of the Model S and making them options, so that the starting price is under the 60,000-euro threshold.
Tesla clearly sees Germany as a key market – its recent acquisition of a German engineering firm to serve as the basis of Tesla Advanced Automation Germany should help the company magnify its already high profile in Germany.