As DNREC mulls proposed electric vehicle regulations, Jeep dealers in Delaware may see the flow of new cars altered immediately.
Santosh Viswanathan, CEO of Lakeshore Motor Co. in Seaford, said dealers were told by Jeep about two weeks ago that soon they will no longer get regular orders of gas-powered Jeep Wranglers.
Instead, dealers will be sent Jeep Wranglers 4xe, the electric version of a Wrangler.
Viswanathan said dealers expect the same thing to happen with other Jeep models.
“They haven’t spoken too much about the rest of the models, but I’m sure others will follow,” Viswanathan said. “Our main concern was, and many of my fellow Jeep dealers’ concerns, was the Wranglers because they are the best selling lineup in the Jeep brand.”
The cheapest 2023 Jeep Wrangler Lakeshore Motor Co. has available costs $48,895, while the cheapest 4xe Wrangler costs $59,130.
The reason for the change, Viswanathan said, is because Delaware agreed to follow the lead of California on the Advanced Clean Car II rules, something he thinks should have gone through the legislature.
“Normally things of this magnitude are run through the legislature,” Viswanathan said. “But in this particular case, we’ve farmed found that job out to the Department of Natural Resources whereby an appointed secretary of DNREC is going to impose, unilaterally, DNRECs policies, rules and procedures on the Delaware public…People in the legislature are not going to have any say in this.”
Lakeshore Motor Co. now has five electric Jeep Wranglers and four plug-in hybrids available for sale out of 56 vehicles in its new inventory, and no electric vehicles in its used inventory of 46 vehicles.
While Jeep will stop sending bulk orders of gas Wranglers, Viswanathan said they will still send dealerships Wranglers if requested, but it could take up to 90 days to receive the vehicle.
Under the proposed regulations, which DNREC closed the public comment period for on May 26, car dealerships in Delaware would need to have 35% of new vehicles be electric by 2025, and then increase that by about 8% each year, until it gets to 100% by 2035.
Several other states, including Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington already have adopted similar regulations. Colorado is holding stakeholder meetings throughout 2023 while it considers the rules.
Asked how he’d feel about the rule if it had been voted on by the legislature, Viswanathan said he didn’t want to speculate but that the legislature is more deliberative.
“Some of the outcomes that come from deliberation tend to be more of what the public might desire and want,” he said.
Viswanathan is also the chairman of the legislative affairs committee for the Delaware Automobile and Truck Dealers’ Association and a managing partner at Willis Ford Smyrna.
Elton Caballero, a sales representative with the Preston Auto Group in Wilmington, said they have heard the same thing from Jeep, but also don’t know when the change will happen.
“It’s a pretty high bar we have to meet,” Caballero said. “So they’re moving Wranglers and Grand Cherokees, which have a hybrid option, to the forefront. You’ll see more of those in Delaware, Jersey and I want to say PA., than anywhere else…At the moment we have mostly 4xes as opposed to gas, and eventually I’m sure it’s going to be entirely 4xes.”
The Jeep portion of the Preston Auto Group has 11 hybrids and five electric vehicles available out of 104 vehicles in its new inventory.
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Viswanathan said the big issue is not having the choice of what cars to sell.
“Jeep Wranglers as a whole are good products,” Viswanathan said. “But I think what we are speaking of is the ability to have the choice.
“Right now, if you look at my site, I have some gas. I have some 4xes, but I don’t know that I want to be in a place where I only have 4xes…I think customers like choice.”
Efforts were unsuccessful to reach Jeep for a comment.
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