The public’s lack of appetite for battery-powered cars persuaded the Obama administration last week to back away from its aggressive goal to put 1 million electric cars on U.S. roads by 2015.
The tepid response to EVs also pushed Nissan’s high-profile chief executive, Carlos Ghosn, perhaps the industry’s most outspoken proponent of battery cars, to announce in December a major strategic shift toward more mainstream gasoline-electric hybrids, which overcome many of the shortcomings of pure EVs.
The move was widely seen as a tacit acknowledgement by Ghosn that his all-or-nothing, multibillion-dollar bet on EVs is falling far short of his ambition to sell hundreds of thousands of battery-powered Nissan Leafs.
Instead, Nissan plans to follow rival Toyota Motor Co, the world’s largest purveyor of hybrids, which now is poised to leapfrog pure EVs altogether to pursue what might be the next big green-tech breakthrough: pollution- and petroleum-free fuel-cell cars that convert hydrogen to electricity.
Vice Chairman Takeshi Uchiyamada, the “father of the Prius” who helped put hybrids on the map, said he believes fuel-cell vehicles hold far more promise than battery electric cars.
“Because of its shortcomings — driving range, cost and recharging time — the electric vehicle is not a viable replacement for most conventional cars,” said Uchiyamada. “We need something entirely new.”
Sadly for American manufacturing, GM cannot react to the marketplace and eliminate the Chevy Volt even though its sales are awful.
The numbers are in, and GM can proudly say that they are the market leader in an insignificant field with a paltry 1,140 Volts sold in January. The best selling passenger car on the road, the Toyota Camry, sold 31,897 during the month, giving an indication of how illogical GM’s misguided focus has been. GM’s lame reasoning for the post-election lows (actually, the lowest since February of 2012) for Volt sales is that consumers pulled sales from January by purchasing in December of 2012 when GM sold a whopping 2,633 Volts.
How long before GM needs another bail-out because of all the dollars wasted on the Volt and electric technology no one wants.
GM’s plug-in EV focus sees the company now planning for a plug-in version of the Chevy Cruze (the same platform as the Volt), a Cadillac version of the Volt, and the recently unveiled plug-in Chevy Spark. The insane money-losing strategy of building cars that consumers do not seem to want is costing both shareholders and the taxpayers who are funding the technology with billions of dollars. A recent Congressional Budget Office report revealed that the money is not well spent and that taxpayers will pay about $7.5 billion on EV subsidies over the next few years for little benefit.
Critics of the Volt would not really care about the dismal sales if taxpayers were not paying for the folly. If a private sector company foolishly follows a money-losing strategy for ideological reasons, that’s their choice. But the Volt was and is funded with taxpayer money. Further, most financing comes from taxpayer-owned Ally Financial, which the Obama Administration has refused to exit while GM is reliant upon the funding. This refusal has been criticized by a government watchdog in a recent report.
Folks, this is what happens when Government gets involved in picking winners and losers in the market place. The electric car is a loser and those manufacturers who can are cutting their losses and moving on. GM, controlled by the US government cannot react to the marketplace, more than anything the Volt is a politically motivated automobile—paid for by our hard-earned money!