The electric truck maker featured in a Super Bowl ad received $186 million in subsidies

More than 100 million people watch the Super Bowl each year, more than any other single broadcast. In-game commercials therefore come at a high price: During this week’s Super Bowl, a 30-second ad cost between $6 million and $7 million.

One 60-second spot titled “Premature Electrification” humorously addressed concerns about how far electric vehicles (EVs) can go between charges. In a parody of a pharmaceutical commercial, actor Jason Jones addressed viewers who are worried about being “dissatisfied” with an electric vehicle if it “can’t last as long as you want it to”. The solution: the Ram 1500 REV pickup, produced by Big Three automaker Stellantis (formerly Fiat Chrysler).

An all-electric version of the 40-year-old Ram won’t be available until late next year, but it boasts a range of 500 miles between charges, currently unheard of for a truck. Its closest competitors, Rivian’s R1T and Ford’s F-150 Lightning, can each travel only about 320 miles on a single charge.

It makes perfect sense for Stellantis, a company whose market capitalization is currently estimated at more than $50 billion, to shell out several million dollars to promote its upcoming entrant into the high-tech electric vehicle market. What doesn’t make sense is that some of those trucks will probably be built with significant taxpayer help.

In May 2022, the company announced a $2.5 billion joint development agreement with Samsung SDI that will see the companies build an electric vehicle battery manufacturing facility in Kokomo, Indiana. The plant, which is expected to begin production in early 2025, “will supply battery modules for a range of vehicles manufactured at Stellantis’ North American assembly plants.”

On the same day, the Indiana Economic Development Corporation (IEDC), the state’s development agency chaired by Governor Eric Holcomb, committed to state incentives totaling more than $186 million in grants, tax credits and site preparation. The city and county also offered a 100% tax abatement on property worth up to $1.175 billion over 20 years.

The incentives appear to have made Indiana a more attractive location than Michigan, which a Stellantis executive said was “in play” earlier that month.

While $186 million is a lot of money, it’s a small fraction of the $2.5 billion that Stellantis and Samsung have committed to the project, which could grow to more than $3 billion over time. It also pales in comparison to the €48.134 billion (US$51.584 billion) that Stellantis reported in cash in June 2022. By comparison, the state of Indiana’s total spending in fiscal year 2021 was $44.7 billion.

Unfortunately, offering taxpayer money to billion dollar automakers is all too common. In October, Governor Mike DeWine announced that Ohio would invest $150 million in Honda’s $4 billion investment in electric vehicle plants. Last year, the state of Georgia allocated as much as $1.5 billion in state incentives for the Rivian plant at a time when the company had $16 billion in cash.

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