Building Cars For Which There’s No Market

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Automakers with ambitious plans to roll out more than a hundred new battery-powered models in the next five years appear to be forgetting one little thing: Drivers aren’t yet buzzed about the new technology.

Electric cars – which today comprise only 1 percent of auto sales worldwide, and even less in the U.S. – will account for just 2.4 percent of U.S. demand and less than 10 percent globally by 2025, according to researcher LMC Automotive. But while consumer appetite slogs along, carmakers are still planning a tidal wave of battery-powered models that may find interested buyers few and far between.

“When you hear people talk about the tipping point, it’s really that they’re counting the number of product offerings,” Hau Thai-Tang, Ford Motor Co.’s global head of product development and purchasing, said of electric cars. “Nobody can cite what the actual demand will be.”

General Motors has announced plans to roll out 20 models by 2023, while Ford and Volkswagen AG are among those planning new electric lineups in China. Toyota Motor Corp. this week promised more than 10 electric models by early next decade.

In total, 127 battery-electric models will be introduced worldwide in the next five years, Thai-Tang said, with LMC predicting pure electric offerings will increase by more than five-fold to 75 models in the U.S. alone.

“There’s certainly more hype than real growth in sales volume,” Jeff Schuster, senior vice president of forecasting for LMC, said in an interview. “How long have we been talking about EVs? We’re now finally seeing them in numbers, but the sales numbers are not taking over the industry by any means.”

It’s a mix of panic and promise that’s driving automakers to set ambitious goals to catch up to perceived market leaders like Tesla Inc. and GM, which each are enjoying a run-up in their stock prices this year. GM CEO Mary Barra said her company will sell more than 1 million electric vehicles per year – profitably – by 2026. Tesla CEO Elon Musk had been planning to build half a million electric cars in 2018, although that timeline could be jeopardized by missed production targets for the $35,000 Model 3 sedan.

Wall Street continues to reward Tesla and values the Silicon Valley electric-car maker as worth more than Ford, even as the Detroit automaker dwarfs Musk’s company in nearly all metrics, from output to revenue. Tesla shares are up about 60 percent this year, while Ford has gained closer to 5 percent.

“Tesla has a cult following and that helps build the hype,” Schuster said. “Other companies say, ‘How do we capture some of this buzz Tesla has? Can we do it by electrifying our lineup, too?’”

Industry executives convinced drivers will abruptly exit their internal combustion engine vehicles in favor of electrics may find themselves too overzealous, with LMC forecasting gasoline-powered engines will still make up about 85 percent of U.S. new car sales in 2025. But that shift could accelerate as electrified vehicles reach price parity with gasoline-powered cars, which Bloomberg New Energy Finance predicts will happen by 2029 or sooner for most models.

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Author of "Automotive Atrocities" and "Road Hogs" (MBI). Currently living amongst the Edentulites in rural SW Virginia.


  1. Can’t all of us anti-leftists band together to form a buying group of our own? There’s at least a 100 million of us in America.

    If we tell manufacturers what we want, and are absolutely intransigent against accepting any alternatives. We can get our way.

    Our cars, machines, and so on won’t be legal in California, Massachusetts, and many of the largest cities. But they’ll be fine for nearly everywhere else.

    We’ll agree to pay a large fine, allow for property confiscation, whatever’s needed to make this happen.

    And then we’ll be free to live our own lives in the vast remnants of America, most of which aren’t all that bad.

    We could also have our own grocery and general stores where we control what kind of food and sundries we purchase and allow into our lives.

    Personally I don’t need different colors of things. Fancy product names. Made up attributes and fakeries of any sort.

    Instead of Windex and Splash Windshield Wiper Fluid. I’d like a got-dam bottle of Methanol. I don’t need all the cutesy fluff and faggotry. I’ll even pay the same inflated price for starters. Enough with the bullshit already.

    I don’t know how you weed out the Neo Cons, and other problem Repubs; but as a starting point, here’s the part of America that voted for Trump, where I think our kind of capitalism could flourish.

    Trump Voting Counties 2016

    Why can’t MAGA become a concrete manufacturing specification and philosophy? Instead of a bunch of hot air and promises. I see nothing that would stop it from happening if we’re willing to work hard enough to get what we want out of life.

    There Is No Alt-Right – Only A Vast Spectrum Of Anti-Left People Like Us

    • We need an outlet for regular incandescent light bulbs, ordinary gas containers that work, shower heads without water restrictions, clothes washers that use plenty of energy and water in order to actually clean, etc. We could also use some new nuclear power plants. I have heard tell that Indian reservations are supposed to be sovereign nations. So why don’t they start selling some of those fedgov restricted items? There is a market for more than just fireworks and gambling. They could lease the land for construction of a nuclear power plant, and reap enormous financial rewards, while producing clean energy.

      • The problem with indian reservations is that the indians don’t actually control their reservations. It’s held in “trust” by the federal government. They for example cannot sign leases with a pipeline company that wants to cross the reservation on their own. The feds have to agree to it as well, and they either don’t allow it, or it takes so long to green light it, it’s typically too late (another route is found). Forget about a oil lease.

        It’s also the reason housing on reservations look like public housing because it often is. You can’t get a mortgage to build houses (or businesses) because the property cannot be repossessed by someone out of the tribe. Also an individual person in the tribe doesn’t actually own their own real estate so their is no reason to build a nice place with cash, because some corrupt higher up in the tribe will just take it.

        Sovereign? Not even close. Not a lick of property rights at all. Also a preview of coming attractions for the rest of us.

  2. I had an interesting conversation at a Christmas party last weekend with a friend who’s in a position to know several Tesla owners. None of them own fewer than 3 vehicles. They all drive whatever car is in their fleet that suits their trip. Around town (especially when the town is Aspen), the Tesla is the perfect vehicle. But if they’re headed to Denver it is the SUV or the Merc. Road trip to Moab? Well, the Jeep obviously.

    Electrics are great second vehicles, and perfect for a commuter or grocery getter, especially if you can keep it in a garage and charge it at home. But for $70k there are still far better choices. And no way is it usable as a primary or only vehicle.