It's one thing not to qualify for a product rebate, bonus, or credit. It's another to qualify, then have to pay it back.
That's what Germany said Wednesday, alleging that 1,050 Tesla buyers weren't eligible for an incentive aimed at spurring electric car sales.
The 1,050 people who bought or ordered a Tesla Model S and received the Federal Office for Economic Affairs and Export Control's "environmental bonus" (Umweltbonus) could be on the hook to repay the government 2,000 euros (about $2,200) according to Reuters.
The incentive was meant to apply only to cars costing less than 60,000 euros (about $70,000).
Tesla says buyers in Germany have always been able to order a sub-60,000 euro Model S, but it was only able to demonstrate to the government that it had sold a Model S for that price after Mar. 6, according to Bloomberg.
The government ruled that 1,050 buyers who bought cars for higher prices before Mar. 6, do not qualify for the bonus.
Those buyers, about 800 of whom have their cars and about 250 of whom have placed orders, still claimed the government deal.
Tesla is appealing the decision and said that it will pay the bonuses to owners if the case is not successful, Reuters reports. The government deal is worth 4,000 euros, with half of that paid to consumers by the automaker.
The sub-60,000 Model S sold after March 6 was a lower-specification model that lacked some features such as navigation and memory seats that were listed as standard equipment before.
Other countries, as well as some U.S. states, have introduced price limits for electric-car rebates and tax credits, but the issue has been controversial. Those who support the credits say they help support the development of new technology and offset higher prices for consumers who want to do right by the environment, even if the most successful products are expensive.
Opponents say that applying the credits to expensive luxury cars amounts to a subsidy for those who could afford to pay the higher prices without government help.
In the U.S., Tesla has just reached the trip wire that begins to phase out credits for its cars, just as it begins to produce large numbers of its more affordable Model 3, which is attracts more price-sensitive buyers.