But Why Aren’t People Buying Electric Cars?

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Trump is ascendant not because he’s a freedom jouster but because the people are exasperated with a clueless (and contemptuous of them) party apparat that for years has been trotting out one inbred Bush after the next, with Bush-like things in between such as Mittens and Ted.electric cars sitting

This is not a cheer for Trump. It’s a jeer at the elites.

The auto industry is just as clueless – and contemptuous – of the people who are its customers.

Witness the hilarious article in Automotive News last week (see here) bemoaning the fact that electric vehicles are a hard sell.

The article was headlined: Automakers’ Anxiety: Why Can’t We Sell EVs? The story went on to quote various auto industry crack pipe smokers such as Britta Gross, a speaker at the recent Electric Vehicle Symposium and Exhibition in Montreal. Gross is director of Advanced Vehicle Commercialization Policy at General Motors.

“Consumers (an awful word, isn’t it?) adore these vehicles,” she says. “People love the quietness, the smoothness, the seamless drive.”

They’re just reluctant – for reasons apparently inscrutable to Gross – to part with cash.

Despite huge subsidies and other forms of jump-starting, sales of electric cars are not just flat, they’re down by about 5 percent. Total sales amount to a literal fraction of the market – a few thousand of them (combined, every make and model) out of 1.4 million sales of IC-engined cars per month.Britta Gross

“Why don’t consumers flock to these vehicles,” Gross wonders? “What do we have to do?”

How about lowering the price?

The problem with electric cars isn’t that they’re not “quiet and smooth.” They are. So is a Mercedes S-Class.

The problem is that electric cars cost too much.

$30,000 to start for the “affordable”  ones like the VW eGolf. Most (like the egregious economic make-work project Tesla) cost much more. Even the Chevy Volt (which I think is ok, see here) costs about as much as an entry-level Lexus or BMW.

Axiom: The more an electric car costs to buy, the less it makes economic sense – regardless of its quietness and smoothness.

A Mercedes S-Class is of course also expensive.

But the difference is it’s supposed to be. Economic sense doesn’t enter into it. The Benz is a high-end luxury car. People buy them as an indulgence and to a great extent because they are expensive. Which makes them exclusive. You have something most people don’t and (if you can afford it) are willing to pay extra for the privilege.

But electric cars?crack pipe

It’s exactly the reverse. The more they cost, the less they appeal.

Gross and Elon Musk and the other denizens of the automotive opium den have been designing electric cars that for the most part only affluent people can afford and then they wonder why people who can barely afford a six-year loan for a Camry or Civic steer clear.

I “adore” the Mercedes S-Class. It is a magnificent car.

But I can’t afford one, so I don’t own one.

The same applies to electric cars – only much more so. Because unlike an S-Class, an electric car’s primary draw is not that it is “smooth” and “quiet” but that it – hopefully – gets you where you need to go for less than an IC-engined car. This includes the cost to buy the thing – which can’t be too high or it negates any savings achieved by not having to fuel the thing.

If it doesn’t make economic sense – if the electric drive’s primary virtues are that it’s “smooth” and “quiet” and (as in the case of the Tesla) quick, then prospective buyers are not going to buy it on account of its fuel-saving virtues. They are going to compare the car to price-comparable IC-engined cars, using a different set of criteria, among them range and convenience. And while strides have been made in both areas, electric cars still can’t go nearly as far as an IC car and take forever (or so it will feel) to recharge when the battery wilts.Tesla pic

These issues worsen in less-than-optimum environments such as the heat of summer and the cold of winter.

People who spend luxury car money tend to not be too willing to put up with Hassles of any kind. They are paying top dollar to avoid Hassles. You don’t find port-a-potty toilets at Trump Tower – or AC that gets automatically turned off for the sake of “saving energy” at certain times of the day – for just this reason.

And if you did find them, probably you’d change reservations.

So it is with electric cars.

People looking to save money – not just on fuel, but also on the car itself – would probably be willing to put up with some Hassles – including the need to arrange one’s travel to accommodate the recharge times – provided the car makes economic sense.

If it reduces their cost of getting around.

This obviousness was ignored by the author of the article and an entire roster of car industry PR and marketing short bus occupants whose grasp of the situation is truly Forrest Gumpian.Forrest Gump

But the truth is, they’ve had to sex up the electric car. Because the technology is still too expensive and too functionally impaired to be a threat to the dominance of the practicality and economic sanity of the IC-engined car. It is probably not possible – without doubling-down on the subsidies that prop up the existence of electric cars as other than curiosities at car shows – to offer one for sale at a price that’s price-competitive (cost to buy and cost to drive) with Camrys and Civics and other A to B commuter car/family car appliances.

So, they’ve given up on that – and shifted over to trying to sell them at a price that puts them in the same segment as luxury-performance cars. Only they don’t (and can’t, absent a technological breakthrough that – like Peak Oil – never seems to arrive) perform as well as expensive luxury cars.

Which is why most people refrain from buying them.

This eludes Gross and the editorial staff of Automotive News.

And they ask me why I drink… .

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39 COMMENTS

  1. We are going into regime change. With Trump and the Republicans, the electric subsidies will go down. I do know that Nikolai has presold thousands of fuel cell semis for the 2018 year. 1200 miles on a fillup, and they claim, even more power than a diesel. Could be lies, I don’t know. Unlike EVs, these are real vehicles. But the cost??

  2. Let’s see: The money I save by driving $2K-$5K vehicles that get c.13MPG would take how long to equal if I were to buy a $30K new electric car which couldn’t carry/tow the crap I often haul? Or I could just buy $2K-$5K vehicles that get 25MPG if I wanted to [I don’t!] and how many decades would it then take me realize a savings by buying a $30K electric?

    And oh, yeah, some locales are now starting to up the price of electricity, especially if you use it at “peak times”, like in the middle of the day, such as when someone might want to charge their electric skateboard while they’re at work….

    And could it be that other people actually think like me, and question just how durable the technology of these electric skateboards will be? What will the range of these cars be after 4 or 5 years? How soon will the batteries need replacing? How obsolete will they be 2 years from now? (Especially given the fact that over the course of the last 30 years, pretty much every EV ever built that was touted as the latest-and-greatest cutting-edge this or that, was a worthless laughingstock before it could even wear out a set of windshield wipres? (Not that you’d want to use those windshield wipers, as that might reduce your range from 20 miles to 7 blocks).

    And you gotta love the new execs, who are the products of schools which employ as professors burnt-out ex-hippies who never truly earned a cent on the free market in their entire life. Instead of figuring out what the public wants and what they’re willing to pay for that whioch meets their needs, they instead build things which satisfy their own philosophical fantasies, for whatever it may cost; subsidize it at our expense, and then marvel why no one will buy it…..

    Insanity!

  3. They’re an expensive and impractical toys that store and use energy produced by the burning of coal and gas. I have no problem with buyers who are deluded enough to think that their purchase is environmentally friendly, I just don’t want to be forced to subsidize their transaction.

  4. It’s the number one rule in business – any business – “know thy customer”. Know what they want, their needs, wishes, and desires. From there sell them something they WANT at an affordable / reasonable price. Not all businesses are good at that, some are better than others – look at Dollar General and Walmart – and some even fail. Even the most liberal of libtards draw the line and say “buying this product will employ someone, BUT it will just cost me too damn much!” (thus, they push their legislators for tax incentives).

  5. The automotive industry wondering why EV’s don’t sell is like a restaurant owner wondering why the Dog Poop Hoagie isn’t selling well.

    • Sorta’ – maybe more like why the $75 hot dog doesn’t sell. Not anything inherently wrong w/EVs, just nowhere near practical.

    • I’ve read Musk was bullied as a kid. As an adult, he bullies others.

      I don’t know the guy, but my guess is he’s not a guy who knows much about driving and so regards people who can drive much like people who dislike (and want to ban) guns regard gun owners:

      They are “risky” and need to be “controlled”… for their “safety,” of course.

      • My guess, he really doesn’t know much about AUTOMOBILES period. A big irony since he is trying to “make” them. It’s not like he is Tom Edison (who was also a jerk and had his hands in other peoples money, but at least he invented a few useful items), he is no inventor, just a high rent scam artist with his hands deep in tax dollars.

        I hate that many people admire this a**hole. There is nothing to admire about him.

        • I don’t think he does, either. He’s a computer guy and a finance guy. He has Big Ideas. Which is ok… provided he doesn’t use the state to force people to support them (or accept them). But of course, he does. That’s my issue with him and all those like him, including the first one of his “type” to really come to prominence in America, Alexander Hamilton. Another very bright, ambitious busybody. Who just had to impose his ideas on everyone else. His notions of “progress” and such.

          This type is the root cause of every free society’s ruin.

          • In discussions with my father about the current state of affairs in the U.S. I made the comment that if the Founders were to somehow be brought back to life today the only person that would be happy about what the country has become is Hamilton. I am almost driven to put my tinfoil hat on when I see that not only is Hamilton saved from being dropped from the $10 note ( though funny enough the man that made it his life goal to destroy the central bank was erased…) but he is even being promoted in trendy pop culture with that ridiculous play. Hamilton, that siren for big government, is seeing his apotheosis at the hands of his bureaucratic decedents.

  6. This will sound incredibly shallow, but do super fuel efficient cars have to be so damn ugly? I am thinking of the Prius, for example. A rolling brick. I have a 2006 Mustang convertible, white with red interior and she’s purty!! About ready to start thinking about a trade in and I was considering something more economical, but I just can’t get serious about it when I look at the choices. I’d prefer my old Mustang to anything on the market today, except for a new Mustang, which I can’t afford.

      • Ugh. No kidding.

        Amy, please, please keep the Mustang. Gas is a really minor cost of car ownership. Hell, think about how many gallons of gas you can buy for just the cost of sales tax on a new car.

        Just do some cool mods to the Mustang if it’s getting boring for you.

        The men of America thank you!

    • In 2012 a couple my old college buds got the idea they needed to clean up their image(school teacher wives)although they’d never have admitted it. One bought a new Prius so the other went looking. Looked all over the high plains of Tx. and I can guarantee you he went about it like “Yes, we’re looking to buy a Prius” insead of the way someone who knows how to buy a car would. He kept getting really high prices even though they didn’t sell well in Tx. and esp on the high plains where anywhere you need to go is beyond their electric range.

      So the “science teacher” ends up getting taken for a ride, got a 2011 model as a 2012 for a high price. Another buddy tells me this since he’s one of those guys who’ll know everything there is about a car, well more than a dealer or anyone else selling cars and he’ll get it for the lowest price although he doesn’t buy “new” cars.

      Last spring there’s a huge hailstorm in the metroplex and it beat cars into the ground including that Prius. But since it was only a year or so old(don’t know if he had ever found out it wasn’t the newest model)the insurance company fixed it. I saw he pics and it didn’t have a single panel on it that didn’t have to be replaced nor much of anything else on the body including the glass.

      Since I won’t have a car that’s had hail damage repaired, esp. like that one(it comes out a few years later, welds, seams etc, all look like crap as does the repaint)I told him “Hey now you can get a diesel VW that are long-legged and get great mileage, just the ticket for living where towns are 100 mile apart and the one you want to visit is 200 miles away.”. He says he wants to keep it. I don’t bother to explain why he shouldn’t but the other guy goes on a jihad against me for even suggesting getting a diesel. He doesn’t like it because of the mess at the pump, something evidently only he experiences.

      Then the dolt called me, a 65 year old man, a high school wannabe with my diesel pickup. Oh yeah, sure that’s me. I seek out the high school diesel hotrod crowd every day after 6-700 miles of driving a big rig. There are some people who just aren’t very smart and he’s one of them but he likes to cut people for views not of his liking, no matter what the subject.

      Well, coming from a high school wannabe diesel pickup driver, put a diesel in that Mustang….naw, just kidding. I’d keep that “Stang and just keep it up……forever. I don’t think you’re going to find a better looking car for maybe any price except millions. A new top would cost you maybe half a dozen new car payments. The driveline is not going to cost you anything for a long time. Interiors stay looking nice nearly forever when you take care of them and so do paintjobs and chrome.

      For those people who treat a car interior like a dumpster, just stay with the old one since it won’t matter in a couple years and for those who take pride in their interior….and exterior, just keep that old Stang forever and give it TLC and someday, people will be walking up and saying how good it looks and give you their number if you decide to sell it. At least they have on all my non-farm vehicles.

  7. The current state of EV technology is like an IC vehicle with a 1-quart gas tank, and fill tube about the diameter of a syringe.

    • Hi Wind,

      Yup.

      While the range of some of these EVs has improved, it’s still insufficient to be practical for most people. But it’s the recharge times that present the bigger problem, in my view.

      We are a Fast Food society. Most people are busy and don’t have time to wait. Electric cars make you wait. A ridiculously long time.

      Even if you have access to a “fast charger,” it’ll be at least 30-45 minutes before you’ve recovered enough charge to proceed.

      Now, if the range were say 500 miles then perhaps it would not be such a problem. You could then drive all day (excepting the longest road trips) and not have to worry about it. Plug in at home/overnight and good to go the next day. But when the car can only go 100 miles or so (and maybe a lot less, conditions depending) before you have to stop and wait for at least 30-45 minutes (much longer, if a “fast charger” is not at hand) then, as they say in Jersey, forget about it!

  8. The story went on to quote various auto industry crack pipe smokers such as Britta Gross, a speaker at the recent Electric Vehicle Symposium and Exhibition in Montreal.

    Making a woman a spokescreature for anything automotive is ten of the dumbest ideas that the industry could come up with (as the sports journalism world is about to learn), to say nothing of the fact that it’s another form of contempt spat into the face of the auto-buying public.

    “Consumers (an awful word, isn’t it?) adore these vehicles,” she says.

    PLEASE tell me that the bimbette didn’t really say those bolded words on the record. If she did, she’s an even bigger idiot than I already imagined.

  9. Until an electric car can match a gas car on price, range, and refuel in 5 minutes, it will be a niche toy. It has to perform at least at the same level as IC. It’s as simple as that.

    If it could do that it will get some sales. Some people still won’t want them because they won’t be noticeably better. It won’t ever replace gas power.

    The only way electric can take more then a small part of the market. Be cheaper, perform better then gas. It doesn’t come close, and maybe never will.

    To be honest there should be many choices of fuel for vehicles. Electric should never replace other types.

  10. Off the top of my head, I know four people who own EVs. My sister and her husband each have a Leaf because proggie rightthink, combined with a healthy nerd-factor. My buddy has a Volt because his buddy owns a Chevy dealership and gave him a sweet lease deal (he couldn’t move the thing). Finally, one of my reps has a Tesla. He lives in SoCal, though, so the perks of EV ownership are significant (monster subsidies, special lanes during rush hour – hell, I think the governor will hand wash your EV for you).

    So, out of all the people I know personally, only four own these things. I suspect the percentage correlates closely to overall sales. For the vast majority of people, they just don’t make any sense, financially or technically.

    It will always be a boutique product, despite Uncle. Even if they outlaw IC engines, the sound of Rush’s Red Barchetta will echo across the land.

    You can buy a 700hp fire-breather off the show-floor, for Christ’s sake! We are in a Golden Age of automotive awesomeness – if you want an EV, knock yourself out.

    Just leave me out of it.

  11. Sell me an electric pickup I can pull 20,000 lbs of trailer 400 miles a day for $30K and i’ll go into debt for it. I looked up some electric bikes and motorcycles yesterday. $2K for a bicycle and twice that for a motorcycle. Who’s kidding who? Ever ridden through a storm on a bike of any sort? Ever been in a hailstorm on a motorcycle? You’ll find yourself wishing you were in any old car of any sort, even one you could find parked in the barditch……and the trunk will do just fine. At least a full face helmet protects your head.

  12. If you work at home, in the suburbs (like most automotive press writers, I imagine), live on the east coast (where everything is nearby), and have access to Uber to get you to the airport (because you travel any distance over a few hours’ drive by air), you’re all set. That will cover a somewhat large percentage of the population, but not a majority.

    • Eric_G,

      Apologies for my coffee not working, but what are you trying to say?

      Eric,

      Bottom line: Cost (what people can afford) factors into the decision of what people buy. It also depends on the available money people have to spend.

      With the currently available subsidies, one can make an economic case for buying a solar system for the home. The break even point is less than ten years. One would need to have available funds to buy the system. Without available cash, one would do without the solar system even though it has a reasonable break even point. (Without subsidies, the current breakeven is about 20-30 years depending on cost of system, tax bracket, energy usage, cost of electricity, etc.)

      At this time I can not say the same about an electric car.
      At $5/gal a Tesla S (70,000 & 97mpg) compared to a $25,000 IC car with 30mpg will need about 390,000 miles to break even. If one drives 20,000miles/year that is about 19years.

      (The break even time gets worse {longer}
      if
      • cost of fuel is less {like now} or
      • if the tesla is compared to more fuel efficient car. or
      • one drives fewer miles per year than 20,000
      )

      This is not even considering the charging time or range of a Tesla compared to an IC car.

      • Don’t forget, the batteries will need replacing after 5-10 years, sooner if you fast charge. So far I have never had a gas tank go bad on my 20+ year old vehicles.

        • Those batteries also cost between $10K and $13K to replace, something that apparently the dealers in electric or hybrid cars seldom, if ever bother to mention.

          • Maybe. Have not had any issues here but I think 10% alcohol is as high as we get here.

            Either way, seems a ~$250 gas tank and a few hundred for labour is still cheap in comparison. Especially if it is required 2-4X as infrequently.

            BTW where did the tank fail?

            • They fail where the water pools (absorbed in the ethanol), on the bottom, forming a network of pinholes from the inside out. And you’re right, a $100 ebay tank every 10 years is a wicked bargain compared to replacing a bank of toxin filled batteries.

      • The automotive and tech press is not a very good representation of the larger society. Electric cars always review well because the automotive press doesn’t live like the rest of us. Save one blogger who has a highly tuned bullshit detector, of course.

        • Hi Eric,

          Yeah, that’s a big part of it. A lot of car press guys are city boys; they live in apartments. Most don’t wrench, either. There are a lot of “gender” journos, too. That is, women (usually not good-looking) hired to write about cars because it’s PC. There was even a guy in DC who ran a race scam called (I swear it’s true) African Americans on Wheels.

          I thought, why not Jews in Jeeps?

          The stories I could tell….

          • Do tell the stories! Tell of the hypocrisy! Or write another book…….

            It’s not just the car press, its the media period. Most live in NYC, DC, or LA. Everywhere else is a stepping stone to those three places, even places like Chicago and Houston. If you don’t try for those three places or linger somewhere too long, your career is stunted. There is no reason you have to edit a magazine in NYC or make a movie in LA but that is how those businesses insist on being (in spite of the high cost of living but the low pay for most). The rest of the country is a backwater to be avoided at all costs to those folks. You may run into someone willing to call out your b*llsh*t.

            That’s probably why my career in graphic design was short. I was the only one wherever I worked, that didn’t want to live in the city, or had plans to move to NYC.

            • Hi Rich,

              I would love to (OJ voice)… and you’re absolutely right. I was an oddball in DC. I didn’t dress or look or write like the rest of them and eventually fled to the Woods by choice. There was a time in the late ’90s when, if I’d wanted it and (more important) been willing to do what was necessary to get it, I could have hit (as they say) the Big Time. Had a few heavyweight job offers, including an invite to join the editorial page staff of the Wall Street Journal in NY.

              But the idea of having to truckle to those neocons, to become a yankee (which is an attitude and set of values much more than a happenstance of birth) was just too much.

              Like Huck Finn, I “lit out for the territories”… or the closest thing to it.

              And here I am, middle-aged, separated, just barely scraping by financially.

              But I wouldn’t change anything (except the separated part).

              My teeth hurt, but I know in my heart I am not a part of the problem; can look at myself in the mirror and while I get depressed sometimes, it’s not because of the work I do to earn a living.

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