Car Dealers See EVs As A Threat To Their Immense Power And They're Getting Angry

The fear and loathing was thick among some of the most wealthy Americans at the 2023 National Automobile Dealers Association Show.

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Auto dealers are not handling the rise of the electric vehicle well. Resistance to the change was starkly evident at this year’s National Automobile Dealers Association. A new report from Slate finds the conservative political king-makers gearing up for a fight against direct-sales, federal emissions guidelines and growing unionization.

Slate sent reporter Alexander Sammon on a costly full-priced ticket to the 2023 National Automobile Dealers Association. Sammon took the pulse of some of the wealthiest and most politically powerful middlemen around. Between booze-fueled gatherings, a carnival-like atmosphere and talks from conservative darlings like former South Carolina governor and presidential hopeful Nikki Haley and so-called comedian Greg Gutfeld, Sammon found widespread angst over a changing world:

Afterward, another man in a suit in the audience strode over to me and began his own impromptu presentation.

“This stuff is crazy, what they’re saying. It’s crazy. Claiming 10 percent of the fleet will be electric by 2030? Never gonna happen. Do you sell EVs?” I looked sheepishly over at Koblenz, well within earshot.

“No,” I said.

“They’re toys; they’re not cars. And there’s nothing clean about clean energy—we know that,” he said.

I told him I was writing about the convention and about the electric vehicle transition.

“Ask any Tesla owner if they have a second car, and if it’s a Tesla,” he directed me. “Ask what they take on road trips.” He told me tales—grim tales—of Ford dealers who, rather than sell EVs and meet the company’s requirements for doing so, had instead decided to give up selling Fords of all types altogether. “I can get you in touch with plenty of dealers who feel that way,” he said.

So there it was: Dealers stand between many electric cars and most American car buyers, but they aren’t just going to lay down and let some zero-emissions playthings roll them over. Some, I heard over and over, would rather not deal than deal with someone else’s dictates.


Between the rise of profit-gouging for EVs, Tesla’s direct sales model and changes coming under the infrastructure bill, dealers had plenty of reasons to hit the day drinking, hard.

If you’ve ever wondered why states have laws that require car dealers to sit between you and the manufacturer, read this story. The entire piece illustrates how the rich and powerful make moves to keep the world the way they like it—and what happens when the future starts to butt up against the status quo. You can find it here.