Abid Raja, a Member of Parliament for the Liberal Party, was quick to blast a proposal by the Labour Party to eliminate some of the tax incentives that currently apply to the popular and luxurious electric Tesla cars. He drives a Tesla himself, and ties the higher tax proposal to sheer envy.
“As long as folks with an alternative lifestyle drove around in those little Think (electric) cars, everything was fine,” Raja told newspaper Dagens Næringsliv (DN), after DN broke the news earlier this week that the Labour Party wants to reduce incentives to buy electric cars on those with high pricetags, like Teslas.
“But when you have an ironed shirt, polished shoes and drive a Tesla electric car, that breeds envy,” Raja continued, as he lashed out at what he calls “Tesla hate” in Norway. Tesla sales continue to boom in Norway, not least because they’re relatively reasonable compared to other luxury fossil-fuel cars that get hit with the full brunt of Norway’s punitive taxes on conventional vehicles. Teslas are also frankly cool, though and have become a status symbol in a society that can still be troubled by such. Questions about electric cars’ tax- and other advantages started rising soon after Teslas hit the market a few years ago.
It wasn’t until Teslas started popping up in the lanes reserved for public transport, taxis and electric cars that complaints also rose about “too many elbiler” delaying bus lines. Raja argues that the incentives to buy electric cars also drove technological advances and development of more powerful batteries, while the power and popularity of the Tesla prompted other carmakers to create similar models. “Now Jaguar, Audi, Toyota and everyone else are following,” Raja said.
If electric car drivers had stuck to the smaller and lower-priced brands like Think, Buddy and Nissan Leaf, “you wouldn’t have been able to replace diesel-devils like those over there,” he told DN, pointing towards some parked SUVs. “For someone who needs a vehicle to drive longer distances, like to a hytta, you can’t just have the Leaf.”
Asked why people who can afford to buy a Tesla (which still cost the equivalent of around USD 100,000 in Norway) should enjoy tax breaks, Raja claimed that not only Norwegians with high incomes drive Teslas. “There are lots of normal folks who have discovered that it pays to drive a Tesla with lower fuel costs, lower tolls, and folks are environmentally oriented,” he told DN. “Folks who can afford an Audi A6 or a BMW5 can also afford a Tesla,” he said, and then it’s the Tesla that can replace the gas-guzzlers with higher emissions.
He though it was “sad” that Labour would propose putting a cap on tax advantages for electric cars costing more than around NOK 500,000, fearing that will stop the development that’s creating better climate effects in the transport sector. The entire electric car market is driven by incentives, he claimed, and Labour “is leaning on that Tesla-hate in society, and that’s sad, coming from such a big party.”
Marianne Marthinsen, Labour’s finance policy spokesperson who proposed reduced incentives for high-price electric cars, was quick to point out that they would apply to all brands costing more than around half-a-million kroner. She noted that Tesla’s new Model 3, which is supposed to have a starting price of around NOK 300,000, would still enjoy full tax exemptions. She also rejected Raja’s argument that capping electric car incentives will reverse technological strides.
It should be noted that after former Labour Party leader Jens Stoltenberg lost his re-election bid as prime minister and reverted to driving his own car, he was among those who opted for a Tesla Model S. Now, however, as secretary general of NATO, he’s mostly driven around in chauffeured cars again.