Government Charging Station Money Skips a Key Link in Retail Chain

Billions of federal dollars are flowing into transforming America’s travel network, but the money is skipping over part of the supply chain that needs the funds.

The U.S. government and automakers seem to be on the same page about transforming the country’s car culture from one based on an internal combustion engine to one based on battery-powered electric vehicles. 

Both sides seem to understand that such a large change will require tens of billions of dollars in investments before consumers migrate en-masse toward EVs. 

This week Ford  (F) – Get Ford Motor Company Report unveiled plans that ask its nearly 3,000 dealers to invest either $500,000 or $1.2 million to install upgrades needed to become “EV-certified.”

The money will go toward training, back-of-the-house charging infrastructure, e-commerce upgrades, remote delivery and pickup options, and upgrades towards the customers’ digital experience.

But 90% of the money will go toward charging infrastructure. 

Biden to the Rescue?

This week, President Joe Biden just happened to be in Ford’s backyard of Detroit, Michigan. 

The President stopped by the North American International Auto Show to tout his Inflation Reduction Act and the impact the $749 billion bill will have on the auto industry. 

The IRA gives tax credits for new EV purchases as well as used EV purchases for the first time. 

Meanwhile, the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law that was passed last November invests $7.5 billion into building electric vehicles charging stations “all across America.” At the event, Biden announced that the first $900 million will be approved to build 500,000 charging stations across the country

Billions of federal dollars are flowing into the EV space, and with the EV charging stations being the biggest expense for dealers looking to get certified, that money could be useful for dealers looking to stick with Ford. 

But individual car dealers are not eligible to apply for funding as direct recipients, according to the bill. The funding is allocated to states and one of the statutory requirements related to the funding is that the charging stations must be publicly accessible. 

Dealer Ultimatum

Biden mentioned auto workers numerous times to the pro-union crowd in the Motor City this week. But he did not mention the auto dealers who will be necessary to achieve the company’s vision of an EV future. 

Ford dealers will have until Oct. 31 to decide what they want to do and will have until the end of the year to start making investments.

Farley also said that he wants dealers to reduce selling and distribution costs by $2,000 per vehicle in order to compete with the direct-to-consumer model that Tesla utilizes successfully. 

So dealers have until the end of the year to figure out whether they want to be in business with Ford going forward. 

If a dealer decides that electric vehicles won’t sell as much in their area over the next few years, they can skip the first window, but there will be a second window for Model e certification starting in 2027. 

Dealers who want into that certification program will need to commit by 2025. Ford is betting big on electric vehicles as the company looks to take on Tesla’s market lead. 

The company plans to invest $11.4 billion to build two new EV production facilities in Stanton, Tenn., and Glendale, Ky., and another $525 million to train skilled technicians to service its new models. 

Ford’s plan is to get half of its sales from electric vehicles by 2030 and says that it will have the capacity to build more than 2 million electric vehicles per year by 2026. That would represent about a third of the company’s global output.

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