Tesla may be officially having the worst day ever. One day after announcing its worst quarter in history, in which it burned a record $1.4 billion in cash (which is about $15.5 million every single day, btw)...
...a couple of GOP Representatives had to come along and propose a tax bill that would eliminate a key component on Tesla's business plan: taxpayer subsidies. As SF Gate notes, each electric vehicle purchased in the U.S. is currently eligible for a $7,500 tax credit...a credit that has long served to artificially prop up a business that would likely not exist but for the generosity of taxpayers.
Tesla Inc., General Motors Co. and other major carmakers pushing to boost U.S. electric car sales were dealt a blow by House Republicans who on Thursday proposed eliminating a $7,500 per vehicle tax credit that has helped stoke early demand for the still small segment of the U.S. auto market.
If adopted, the repeal would take effect after the 2017 tax year, according to a summary of the bill released Thursday by the House Ways and Means Committee as part of a sweeping overhaul of the U.S. tax code that would eliminate some deductions and cut the corporate tax rate to 20 percent. The Senate is crafting its own version.
Automakers from Detroit to Yokohama are betting big on an electric future with plans to spend billions of dollars on new pure-electric models to be rolled out in the coming years despite limited sales to date. Availability of the credit has been capped at the first 200,000 qualifying vehicles sold by each manufacturer. No automaker has reached that cap yet.
Of course, it's not just Tesla that would be impacted by such a move as lower-end electric vehicles, like the Chevy Bolt and Nissan Leaf, target a consumer base that is even more dependent on tax subsidies to purchase vehicles that are not economically viable on a standalone basis and, quite ironically we might add, actually create more pollution than combustion-engine vehicles.
“That will stop any electric vehicle market in the U.S., apart from sales of the highly expensive Tesla Model S,” said Xavier Mosquet, senior partner at consultant Boston Consulting Group, who authored a study on the growth of battery powered vehicles. “There’s no Tesla 3, no Bolt, no Leaf in a market without incentives.”
Eliminating the credit will also impact other carmakers offering electric vehicles such as GM and Nissan Motor Co. Ltd., which according to the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers collectively offer more than 30 electric vehicle models in the U.S. market. Carmakers are under pressure to sell vehicles in higher volumes each year under an electric car sales mandate administered by regulators in California. Ten other states also follow that policy.
That puts the auto industry "in the middle between contradictory government policies," Alliance spokeswoman Gloria Bergquist said in a statement.
"There is no question that the elimination of the federal electric vehicle tax credit will impact the choices of prospective buyers and make the electric vehicle mandate in 10 states -- about a third of the market -- even more difficult to meet,"said Bergquist, whose trade association represents a dozen automakers including GM, Ford Motor Co. and Volkswagen AG.
All that said, we're quite certain that Tesla will be able to call on the state of California to ramp up their so-called "Zero-Emission Vehicle (ZEV)" scam credits even more to help them offset this additional cash burn.
I'm referring to zero-emission vehicle, or ZEV, credits. California and several other states require that a certain proportion of the vehicles sold by an automaker emit no greenhouse gases. These cars earn the automaker credits, and if they don't have enough to meet their quota, they can buy extra ones from someone who does. As Tesla only makes vehicles that run on batteries and emit nothing, it usually has a surplus for sale.
The profit margin on these is very high, perhaps 95 percent. The implied $95 million of profit equates to about 58 cents a share. Tesla reported a loss of $1.33 per share this week -- beating the consensus forecast by 55 cents.
This isn't the only time ZEV credits have played a big role for Tesla. Looking back to early 2013, selling credits has given Tesla's earnings extra oomph in many quarters, likely taking them above consensus forecasts in some (on an implied basis, assuming that 95 percent margin):
But, until then...Tesla shareholders are not happy...