China, the biggest market for electric cars, is considering a reduction in rebates given to buyers and limits on the models that qualify even as it commits to extending the costly subsidy program for another two years.
The country’s state council said Tuesday it would extend rebates on electric vehicles until 2022 to support the industry as the coronavirus pandemic hobbles demand. But various government bodies are in discussions over reducing the incentives by 10% later in 2020, according to people familiar with the matter. They’re also in talks to narrow the universe of cars that qualify for the discounts, the people said, asking not to be identified because the deliberations are private.
A reduction in subsidies could temper benefits for the likes of Tesla Inc. and Volkswagen AG, which are counting on the world’s biggest auto market to buoy sales. Electric-car manufacturers are already facing a host of challenges, from the global pandemic to the plunge in oil prices, which makes internal-combustion vehicles cheaper to drive.
The subsidy plans show the balancing act China’s government is facing as it works to bring the economy back from the debilitating blow the coronavirus delivered early this year. With manufacturing sliding the most on record in February, industries are clamoring for state support.
In its bid to become a leader in new-energy vehicles, China has maintained a significant subsidy program for over a decade and was in the process of rolling some of the support back to allow the industry to become more independent when the virus hit.