Almost every major carmaker now has at least one plug-in vehicle for sale. However, several of these vehicles were produced mainly to appease the California Air Resources Board, and their makers have shown little interest in actively marketing them.
Savvy car buyers are aware of this, and make their choices accordingly – no one wants to buy a model that may be cancelled next year. Thus can a company’s predictions of low sales become a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Our colleague Brad Berman of PluginCars.com has written an excellent overview of the current EV market, with details of each automaker’s level of commitment to plug-ins.
As he notes, there are several ways to gauge that commitment. Signs that a company is serious about electrification include: designing an EV “from the ground up,” rather than retrofitting an existing gas model (Nissan, Tesla and BMW clearly meet this criterion at the moment); making EVs available nationwide, not just on the Left Coast; and offering a range of plug-in models (as Ford and GM do). Of course, the tone of comments from a company’s leaders also counts for a lot. “Nothing undermines consumer confidence in an automaker’s electric efforts than strident anti-EV comments from a chief executive,” writes Berman (see Fiat/Chrysler).
So, which brands are truly charged, and which are full of dinosaur doodoo? Obviously, Tesla is the real deal, and so, at least for now, are Nissan and GM. Ford appears committed to its popular PHEVs, and BMW seems to have a strong long-term electrification strategy. The jury’s still out on Daimler/Mercedes, Volkswagen and Kia, all of which are introducing EVs in the US this year. Definitely in the “no thanks” column are Toyota and Honda, which have latched onto the idea that an automaker must choose either hydrogen or plug-ins, and Fiat/Chrysler, whose CEO has said that he “hopes you don’t” buy his company’s 500e, which nonetheless has made a hit with reviewers.