Why a German minister's new Tesla is raising eyebrows

Given Germany's considerable investment in its auto industry, using a German car seems almost obligatory for government officials. Yet one environment minister is causing a stir by challenging that tradition.

Geert Vanden Wijngaert/AP
Men look at the Tesla Model X during the media day of the 95th European Motor Show in Brussels on Friday, Jan. 13, 2017.

Government officials in Germany seeking to express national pride in their choice of vehicle have no shortage of options.

The established German luxury brands offer many models that frequently serve in the capacity of official vehicle for an elected official.

Indeed, given Germany's considerable investment in its auto industry, using a German car seems almost obligatory.

But one environment minister thinks otherwise.

Johannes Remmel—environment minister for the German state of North Rhine-Westphalia—recently took delivery of a Tesla Model S for use as his official car.

That decision is proving controversial, according to German newspaper Bild (via Charged EVs).

This is partly due to the expectation that government officials drive German cars, but Remmel indicated that no domestic manufacturers offered a car that met his needs.

Remmel wanted an electric car, and said the Model S was the only one with enough range to allow him to travel around the state of North Rhine-Westphalia easily.

His decision was also criticized because of the high purchase price of the Model S—reported at 110,430 euros ($115,000).

That price indicates Remmel purchased a higher-end model, as Tesla recently tweaked its German pricing to ensure at least some versions of the Model S started below 60,000 euros ($64,000).

That's because electric-car incentives introduced by Germany last year don't apply to cars costing more than that amount.

Buyers of lower-priced electric cars can qualify for a 4,000-euro ($4,280) rebate under the incentive program.

As electric-car sales increase, more consideration is being given toward how incentives are targeted.

California now has income caps for its electric-car incentives, instituted in the hope that more incentive money will be directed toward consumers for whom a purchase rebate could make or break their decision to buy an electric car.

Right now, Tesla is likely more affected by the California income cap and German price cap than other automakers.

But established German luxury brands Audi, BMW, Mercedes-Benz, and Porsche have all announced plans for high-end, long-range luxury electric cars over the next few years.

At least Minister Remmel will have more choices the next time he needs a new electric car.

To date, no top U.S. government officials are known to drive Teslas, although the new president is said to have owned one in the past.

This story originally appeared on GreenCarReports.

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