New survey: a majority of auto execs still think EVs will fail

[Editor’s note: We reported that this was a new survey, but later realized, on more closely reading the original source, that the survey was published in January 2017. This was a journalistic error on our part, and we apologize.]

Really? With everything that’s going on in the EV space these days, most executives at major automakers still think electrification is doomed? According to research firm KPMG’s annual Global Automotive Executive Survey, “more than half (54%) of global auto executives say they believe [EVs] will fail commercially due to infrastructure challenges, while 60% say excessive recharging times will do them in.”

But wait, it gets crazier. Over 75% of the nearly 1,000 executives polled (including 90 in the US), said they think that hydrogen fuel cell vehicles will be the future.

Unsurprisingly, this news has caused some major head-shaking in the EV press. Electrek’s Fred Lambert called the survey results “even more depressing than we could have imagined,” saying that he thought we were already past fuel cells, which “simply don’t make sense for passenger cars.”

Is it possible that a group of such well-informed industry insiders can be so oblivious to scientific evidence, and so at odds with their own companies’ stated goals? Or is it, as Lambert speculates, that “those short-sighted executives are not the real decision makers?”

Before throwing up our hands in despair, let’s remember that the results of any survey should be taken with a judicious dose of salt. The answers people give to pollsters sometimes reflect less what they really believe than what they would like to be true, and it’s no secret that most (non-Tesla) auto execs are not exactly EV enthusiasts.

The advent of EVs doesn’t look like good news for the (non-Tesla) auto industry. In the short term, automakers are going to have to invest huge sums to tool up for the new technology. In the longer term, they are likely to see lower profits, as EVs will need fewer repairs, and will need to be replaced less often. Autonomy and new ownership models may lead to automobiles becoming a commodity product, a catastrophe from the car guys’ standpoint.

Despite the talk of greenery and grandkids they serve up to the media, the legacy automakers are fighting hard to delay electrification as long as they can. Gary Silberg, Automotive Sector Leader at KPMG, acknowledges this, suggesting that legacy automakers are investing in EVs solely to comply with government-mandated efficiency standards.

So, whatever an individual exec may believe on the logical side of the brain, when a pollster with a clipboard comes around, it’s perhaps not surprising that he or she insists that EVs are just a fad that will pass away any year now.


Source: Electrek

  • Ed

    One of the bad things about an industry at an inflection point is that incumbent companies are often led by senior executives who are near the end of their careers. Consciously or unconsciously, they are likely to resist the needed changes. Smart boards – meaning boards truly representing the shareholders and not just beholding to corporate executives – will recognize this and take the needed steps to bring in younger, more technically savvy and progressive management. It does not happen often enough.

    Because the change to EVs is being driven by the Chinese, the pace will likely be faster than incumbent car makers can survive; for China, it is a top-down decision in a command economy. What is needed in the US is a top level “command” to accelerate the change….forcing US companies to “get moving.”

    The Chinese strategy is very simple. This is not an exact quote, it is exactly what China is doing.

  • allandnn

    The big problem is the current status of infrastructure. If most roads would be solar electric and charge wirelessly by having a automatic charge controller we could both make ev more prominent and use the leftover energy to pay for the states debt. Phase one would be to make short stretches of road on the highway redone phase two would be to make downtown areas of the cities redone. As Tesla and Thor 18 wheelers are about to become road on road vehicles. It would seem to benefit the trucking companies the most as diesel costs a lot in most states

    • Benjamin Nead

      You have seemed to come up with solutions to problems that largely don’t exist.
      So-called solar roadways are a scam. Put the solar above ground level and in clear view of the Sun, where it work best. Induction charging of vehicles on the move is also a highly inefficient way to utilize that technology. All of the above is also hideously expensive.

      Roads made from asphalt are cheap (well, certainly cheaper than “clear cement” with PV underneath) and are easily reparable. Getting renewables (solar and wind) onto the grid with battery storage and there will be plenty of clean electricity for our EVs. People drive for a couple hundred miles and they are likely wanting to spend a few minutes outside their cars to stretch, get a bite to eat and use the bathroom. Quick charging is fine for such road breaks and it’s only getting better.

  • Harold T

    You have to think that some of these “executives” might lose their jobs as a function of EVs success. Less complex, easier manufacturing, significantly smaller supply chain, very little maintenance, and so in the same way truck mechanics react to the Tesla Semi needing no real work for 1,000,000 miles, these exec are on the way out.

  • Stuart51

    “a majority of auto execs still think EVs will fail”

    What planet was this?

    • nordlyst

      Welcome to Earth! We have internet, but only globally so far. :p

      A majority of auto execs say in a survey that they think EVs will fail. But if you realize the majority of auto execs would love EVs to fail and want to delay the EV transition as much as they can, you perhaps should not equate what they say with what they actually think.

  • Bill Davis

    Keep in mind that some of these executives might be seeing the issues on the supply infrastructure side:

    Rapid change in a massive industry is bound to be challenging.

  • brenno

    Then these Auto companies are destined to miss one of the greatest shifts in Automative technology and cost their shareholders millions of dollars trying to play catch up as the market passes them by.

  • My Vizn

    Of course Auto Executives don’t want to embrace Electrification, they use their golden parachutes to protect their failures to change. The Dealer business model is based on parts & labor. Take away I.C.E. car parts and service with reliable EV’s will destroy profits for traditional dealers until they change their business strategy. Its a major shift, but contrary to propaganda put out by influencers and lobbyists who are against EV change, buyers want EV’s. No more gas stations, no more costly repairs, quiet driving and high performance. Anyone who drives an EV knows these advantages, change is for the better, and like Ed says below, China will Lead the EV revolution (Tesla and Germany will second the lead too).

  • nordlyst

    When you are asking executives, of the companies in any industry, about what they believe is going to happen, you have to be incredibly naive to assume they are telling it as they see it. Especially when they know this is a survey that will be read by all the other executives.

    Car makers don’t want EVs to happen. But they *especially* don’t want EVs to happen and be completely unprepared. And that’s really all you need to know to make sense of their behavior.

  • mrrumbles

    The characterization of the survey demonstrating that “such well-informed industry insiders can be so oblivious to scientific evidence” is a stretch. EVs are more efficient, absolutely, but the fate of technologies is intertwined with policy. I doubt that many of the executives would doubt the science of the issue, but are thinking of policy direction. This isn’t to say that I agree with their assessment, but this article editorializes too much.

    I also think that any discussion that includes statements such as FCVs making “no sense for passenger vehicles” needs to be counterbalanced, especially in light of what the auto industry is saying. FCVs and EVs are complementary, not competing technologies. Ask a prospective buyer who doesn’t have access to home charging and/or who needs to drive long distances frequently if an EV or FCV would work better. If the goal is widespread ZEVs, FCVs have a very good chance of providing part of the solution.

  • Roger J. Zamofing

    The problem is a) a political one, because Industry do not want to change the good for the better (e.g. Microsoft vs. Apple earlier in time) and b) a technical one. Actual batteries cannot be any solution to the problem and even with the Hype around TESLA et al is this NOT the future.

    But don’t misunderstand; EV’s are far more potent and easier to maintain, request lesser parts (who is really interested in that?) and if we would change the way we think about transportation (450 kg MICROLINO – similar to the BMW Isetta out of the 50ties – Microcar from Swiss Micro Company good for 2 Persons and 120 or 250 km vs. 2.5 Ton TESLA good for 500 km and able to transport up to 7 Persons, while the average is 1.2 Persons per car and the daily distance is less than 30 kms).

    Here we ALL have to learn that just setting up Battery Charger Station are a stupid idea based on the consequencies for our future! EV’s are good for homeowners and businesses charging their vehicles with wind, water, geothermic or solar systems and where they also charge fork lift trucks etc. for more than 70 years.

    The idea of outdated gas station concepts are a waste of space and time again and so industry in political power is not really interested. But there IS a FACT that we ALL spent huge ressources for existing infrastructures and we want and should also KEEP them to a certain point (more and bigger vehicles, e.g. SUV-Trend are STUPID and make NO SENSE at all). Why this contradiction?

    Because on b) the technical level there are far better ideas and working concepts around which makes that possible. Ever heard of Swiss nanoFlowcell-Group [] and their bi-ION electrolyte liquid and the QUANT electric vehicles with low-voltage technology going more than 1’000 kms with one charge at normal highway speeds and in town circulation? Ever tried that with other EV’s on the market? But the best, the non-toxic and not polluting bi-ION liquids can be stored and distributed with slightly modified existing equipment (two fluids instead of Diesel, Gas etc.).