Maybe some cracks are beginning to show.
Toyota’s president, Akio Toyoda, says there is a “silent majority” within the car industry that “is wondering whether EVs are really ok to have as a single option. But they think it’s the trend so they can’t speak loudly.”
First, a point of order.
Mr. Toyoda is being polite. EVs are not being presented as “optional” anything. Or rather, the notion of a “single option” is a contradiction in terms. You either have a choice or you do not. When there is only one “option” then you have no choice. And that is precisely what is being engineered.
And it is fundamentally why many object.
It would be ridiculous – and wrong – to object to EVs being offered and available. People have a right to . . . options. To choose from among various alternatives. If EVs meet your needs and you’d like to own one then what business is it of mine whether you choose to buy one?
But the flip side of that show of respect is to extend exactly the same grace to those who do not want an EV, because it does not meet their needs – and even if it’s just because they dislike them. Do any of us really want to live in a world in which that which we don’t like is forced on us by those who do like whatever it is? Orwell wrote of a boot stomping on a human face, forever. How about a forkful of creamed spinach pointed at your mouth, forever?
That is, essentially, what Mr. Toyoda is referring to when he speaks of a “single option” as regards EVs.
They are being forced on everyone, like them or not. Able to afford them or not, too.
And that’s a bad option for Toyota, too. For every car manufacturer – other than Tesla, of course, as Tesla already sells the “single option.” In fact, it’s not even a good option for Tesla, either, when you stop to think about it a minute. As things still are, people who do not want an electric car can still buy other cars. That may not be ideal for a company like Tesla that only sells electric cars. But what happens to Tesla when everyone else is also selling only electric cars?
Just as Elon Musk came around to the importance of free speech, he may also come to see the importance of freedom of choice – if only insofar as it affects the profitability of his electric car business.
Toyoda – the man – may also have done the math and come to the realization that a “single option” is bad for Toyota’s bottom line, too. The world’s largest single automaker is that because it sells more cars than other companies and volume selling more cars becomes more difficult when fewer people can afford to buy them.
Or simply do not want them.
What they do want are the kinds of cars that Toyota sells a lot of. Models like Corolla and Camry and also – notably – hybrid models like the Prius, the car most synonymous with the type. The reason why is not inscrutable. Corollas and Camrys are affordable and practical. The Prius even more so. The latter has a range of nearly 700 miles in city driving and nearly 600 on the highway. It can travel that distance on 11 gallons of gas, which can be pumped into the car’s tank in less than five minutes.
The very longest-range EVs currently available tout a best-case range of half as far and take many times as long as five minutes to recover even a partial charge. The Prius’ range is not appreciably affected by cold or heat or use of accessories in the cold or hot. It requires no special modifications to one’s home. It does not even require a garage in that parking it outside does not affect its range. Parking an EV outside – in the cold and unplugged – does affect its range.
The Prius also stickers for about half the price of most EVs currently available – about $25,000 to start vs. around $50,000 to start.
The Wall Street Journal article quoted Illinois car dealer Ryan Glenmore about market demand (as opposed to government mandate) for electric vehicles: “Is there interest in electric vehicles? Yes. Is it more than 10-15 percent of our customer base? No way.”
Mr. Toyoda is a wise man to keep his options open.
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