Like Henry Ford, Minnesota must lead | Opinion

June 21, 2021 7:00 am

The F-150 Lightning electric pickup truck is unveiled in Michigan in May 2021. Photo by Michigan Advance.

Gov. Tim Walz’s decision to adopt the vehicle emissions standards originally set by California and now adopted by 14 other states is right for Minnesota’s economy, citizens and future. Our economy is dependent upon respecting our past successes and challenges, but more so embracing our present and building a future that protects our environment and builds our economy. 

Like Henry Ford did in the early 1900s by first adopting a livable wage for his employees, Minnesota needs to commit to the Clean Cars Minnesota position of supporting electric vehicles (EVs) and the opportunities it will create for citizens, dealers and the economy. Like Ford Motor Company did in 2008-09 — when the company stood alone amongst the three domestic automotive manufacturers not needing a federal bailout, yet supported it for other automotive companies — we need to support the Clean Cars initiative and be leaders into the future. Like Ford did last year by being the only domestic automotive manufacturer supporting California’s position and opposing the short-lived federal rollback of stronger emissions standards, now is the time for our state to support the Clean Cars initiative. Minnesota is a state that leads. 

As a rural automotive dealer on the Canadian border, I recognize the challenges with EVs. But one argument that I strongly disagree with is that dealers will be swamped with unwanted EVs. I don’t believe it. We have over 50 reservations for the F-150 Lightning and I have more demand for the all-electric Mustang Mach-E than I can supply. Consumers want to buy EVs. I want to sell them.

Challenges aside, EVs have many advantages for consumers and dealers. While it’s true that upfront EV costs are more, charging costs are lower than using gasoline or diesel, and with significantly fewer moving parts they require less maintenance. The sticker price is more than offset by all these savings. 

The Clean Car standards will not substitute or ban any vehicles. Rather, it will complement internal combustion sales, along with providing more options. EVs are fun to drive, with incredible torque. Even my 90-year-old stepfather can’t wait to get his own F-150 Lightning. 

The longer we wait, the less choice consumers have, and the less opportunities Minnesota auto dealers will have. It is highly unlikely that EVs will be in stock at Minnesota dealerships until we are a Clean Cars state. Those vehicles will instead go to states that have adopted clean cars programs. Waiting to adopt Clean Cars will put us at a disadvantage for receiving the highly anticipated F-150 Lightning, as well as all EVs.

It would be shortsighted not to acknowledge that vehicle electrification is one of the best ways to reduce planet-warming greenhouse gas emissions. The younger generation is demanding this transition.

I realize change is hard. I grew up and continue to live in a farming community of 900 people. My best friends and neighbors are farmers. They face change more than most — farming is significantly different today than it was even five years ago. Without adapting to change, my friends would not be farming today.

The automotive world is adapting to survive, too. Manufacturers are heavily invested and committed to EVs. General Motors will be all electric by 2035. Within five years, Ford expects to sell over 1 million EVs. Government is changing with the new federal leadership and inclined to adopt policies that were previously in effect prior to 2017. Fourteen states have adopted low emission vehicle standards and zero emission standards aligned with California’s tougher rules. Most importantly, public opinion is changing. Consumers overwhelmingly support the option to purchase EVs. 

There is an argument that Minnesota should pump the brakes on this, but I would argue, like Henry Ford did in the 1900s and Ford did a century later, we should hit the accelerator and be leading instead of following. The economy supports the future of EVs. I am fully supportive of Minnesota’s efforts to increase EV sales. We must move forward smartly and effectively to set up Minnesota for success. 

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Paul Blomquist
Paul Blomquist

Paul Blomquist a second-generation owner of C & M Ford, Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep, and Ram of Hallock and a first-generation owner of Roseau County Ford in Roseau.