Connecticut Auto Dealers Celebrate Earth Day With PR & Greenwashing

The Connecticut Automotive Retailers Association’s public relations firm shared a sweet, heartwarming tweet about Earth Day and their commitment to sustainability and protecting the planet. It’s a beautiful tweet, but, in my opinion, highly misleading. If they really cared about our planet, the dealership association wouldn’t lobby so hard to prevent automotive manufacturers such as Tesla and Rivian from selling directly to customers in the state.

According to the firm, the Connecticut Automotive Retailers Association was being celebrated on Earth Day for their “commitment to sustainability and protecting our planet.”

Although the PR firm is simply doing their job by highlighting their partners — as any business would do — I think that using Earth Day to promote organizations that advocate against sustainability is a really bad take.

Let’s look at how the auto dealerships in Connecticut fought so hard to prevent electric vehicle sales in the state. In June 2021, I wrote this article about their big win at the expense of Tesla, Rivian, and clean air.

The EV Freedom bill was a beacon of hope, yet auto dealerships lobbied hard to fight the bill. One dealership even sued Tesla and the town of East Hartford to prevent Tesla from opening a service center in their town. They also won that, and now, Tesla is unable to service its customers in the area. Even Plug In America changed its stance from supportive of the bill to neutral after the dealerships applied pressure.

Last summer, I was invited to chat with Connecticut State Senator Will Haskell, who is in favor of EVs being sold directly to consumers in his state, about EVs, Tesla, dealerships, and his hopes for the state and EV freedom. This is what he had to say about direct sales:

“It’s about more than just saying the right things when it comes to environmental policy. We’ve got to talk the talk and walk the walk. We passed this state goal that we would have 150,000 EVs on the road by 2025 Well, as of July [2021], we only had 17,217 EVs registered in Connecticut.

“So we’re only 11.5% of the way towards our 2025 goal and that’s around the corner. So unless we enable direct sales, and expand participation, unless we wholeheartedly embrace EVs, I can’t imagine how we’re going to meet the ambitious goals that we’ve been setting for ourselves.”

Senator Haskell added that it isn’t enough to say you’re going to put 150,000 EVs on the road by 2025, but you have to take concrete steps to make it happen. I pointed out that from an outsider’s point of view, it looked as if Connecticut was setting itself up to fail. They make these EV goals and then cater to the lobbying of dealer associations, which leads to the end result of the goals not being met. How can you push EVs but make it against the law to buy one in your state? Louisiana has similar dealer laws and so do many other states — so it’s not just Connecticut.

Senator Haskell also shared his thoughts about how he felt about the dealership experience and the importance of a free market.

“My feeling about the dealers is they claim again and again that they have the superior business model; the customers love going to dealerships. I personally don’t think that that’s true. I think that people are not necessarily in love with the car dealership experience but maybe they’re right and the point of living in a free market is allowing the customer to decide.

“If dealerships truly believe that they’re serving customers in a superior way, that they’re the preferable option, well, then customers will likely continue to choose to buy their cars at dealerships even if direct sale is an option.

“But by restricting the free market, I find so sort of confusing. It’s like the world is turned upside down. I’m a progressive Democrat in Connecticut begging to allow businesses to come to Connecticut and to enable free market dynamics to do what they do best which is empower the consumer to make a choice that’s best for them.

“And one thing that struck me there was a poll as to whether or not enabling direct sales specifically of electric vehicles was a popular idea in Connecticut. And the poll was conducted in probably early 2021. High 80% support rate.”

You can watch the full interview here.

Final Thoughts

I think that we as a nation of states collectively have a long road ahead of us in terms of electric vehicles and innovation. There always seems to be some sort of power at play that isn’t in favor of innovation. This may sound a bit insane, but when you look at the results of the continuous lobbying in favor of greed and profits while sacrificing clean energy and the goals set for the climate, it seems just as ludicrous.

Let’s be honest here: the PR firm was using Earth Day as a marketing tactic to promote its client. And many companies do this. However, we need to be truthful and own up to the fact that Earth Day shouldn’t be celebrated only on one day. Companies such as Tesla and Rivian are celebrating by making vehicles that don’t pollute. They are celebrating daily by advocating for sustainability and clean energy.

One cute tweet isn’t going to undo all the damage that has been done. As Senator Haskell said, there is a need for concrete steps to be taken. Walk the walk.


 


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