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Ichikawa mayor to scrap Tesla car contract over cost criticism

The mayor of Ichikawa's controversial official vehicle, a Tesla Model X SUV, is seen at the municipal government headquarters in Ichikawa, Chiba Prefecture, on July 2, 2019. (Mainichi/Tamiko Kobayashi)

ICHIKAWA, Chiba -- The mayor of this city has announced his intention on Sept. 5 to cancel the city's contract to use U.S.-based Tesla Inc.'s high-end Model X electric SUV as the official mayoral car.

The decision to introduce the Teslas in the first place was met with controversy. Initially the plan was for Mayor Hirotami Murakoshi and his deputies to use one each, but in July it was decided to delay the introduction of the second car. Nevertheless, criticism from the public and members of the city assembly did not die down, leading to the decision to scrap the plan.

The city government introduced one of the cars in July, for reasons including that it wanted to promote wider use of electric vehicles. But while the Japan-made cars used up till now cost around 60,000 yen per month per vehicle, the Tesla lease clocked in at some 145,000 yen.

Murakoshi took the criticism about the price discrepancy on board, and to calm the debate he proposed an ordinance amendment that would reduce his salary by 8%.

On Sept. 5, the mayor said, "It's not good that this issue is continually drawing a lot of attention. Therefore I've decided the wise thing to do is terminate the contract." He later said that despite ending the contract, "The policy (to use the vehicles) was correct."

(Japanese original by Tamiko Kobayashi, Funabashi Bureau)

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