In 1983, Margaret Thatcher said, "We know that there is no such thing as public money. There is only taxpayers' money." That is why any tax credit or government incentive does not come for free: someone is paying. Regardless of that, individuals that use them get their tax money back, which is equivalent to not spending it. What if you could turn that into free electric mobility? A German dealer found a smart way to do that with Renault ZOEs.
Autohaus-Koenig is a prominent German dealership network that works with multiple brands. What it did was to "engineer" the €6,100 incentive from BAFA (Bundesamt für Wirtschaft und Ausfuhrkontrolle, or Federal Office of Economics and Export Control) for it to fit a leasing plan for the Renault ZOE Life Z.E. 50.
Wolfgang Huber – head of electric car sales for the German dealer – explains to InsideEVs:
“The calculation is mainly based on the special feature that the subsidy is paid out tax neutral. For companies and tradesmen, this tax is a transitory item when the car is used for commercial purposes. In addition, Renault's leasing conditions for companies are slightly better. If one part of the subsidy is used as a downpayment to keep the leasing rates low, the other part of the subsidy is sufficient to compensate for the complete installments in time.”
As you can see, the idea is restricted to companies and tradespeople due to commercial conditions. To have a better idea of what that means, it is worth checking the Autohaus-Koenig offer page. Don't be fooled by what is informed there: these are just the detail of the clever idea:
“The €125 monthly payment is the free part. You pay 24 installments of €125, which account for €3,000. The downpayment is €3,100. That’s a total of €6,100, equivalent to the subsidy (which includes €100 for AVAS). The difference is zero! In the headline of our offer is the German word ‘kostenlos,’ which means free.”
Although the customers do have to spend money at the very beginning of the operation, they eventually get it back.
“The subsidy works in a simple way. After you buy or lease the car, you send the documents of the car and the contact online to the authority named BAFA. After the processing, the customers get the full money deposit in their accounts. The time between the application and the payment depends on how many people are doing this. A waiting period of several months can be expected.”
Huber tells us more about how the offer was conceived:
“The idea for this campaign was born in October 2019 when Renault started a ZOE campaign called "electro-shock." We then realized – in the combination of different commercial possibilities – that commercial customers and companies could drive a ZOE for two years for free.”
The offer worked so well it demanded Autohaus-Koenig take measures.
“In the first two weeks, there were almost 3,000 inquiries from all over Germany via our website and countless calls to our shops. In the electric vehicle center in Berlin, all phones were ringing permanently at the same time and they had to be muted for us to be able to work. We then wrote ‘sold out’ on our website so that we would have a chance to process the previous inquiries. Now there are about 50 to 100 email requests per day and the call frequency is manageable.”
What does Renault think of all that? Check Huber's hunch about that:
“I think Renault is pleased with its success and is also very well positioned in the production of electric cars. The delivery time is currently around 4 months, but we also have readily available cars in stock.”
What do you think about the idea? Would you apply for two years of "free" use of a Renault ZOE 50? Share your thoughts with us below.