[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.