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Optimistic And Apologetic Electric Vehicles Sales

Electric vehicle sales predictions are most often based on nothing concrete. Think twice before listening to unrealistic proclamations.

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Does anyone else get the feeling no one knows how to predict anything much these days? This is not only true of the housing bubble burst but also in the alternative energy automobile world. How many times did we hear electric vehicles would save the economy? The problem is that there is no right formula. Worse yet, how can you predict in a wobbly economy?

Car Manufacturers Optimistic, Then Apologetic. After a few years of unbridled enthusiasm, certain carmakers are now blaming anything but their predictions for the current state of their electric vehicle sales. When looking at the sales numbers when hybrids were introduced 12 years ago, electric vehicles, EV and now their plug-in hybrid, PHEV cousins are not doing bad considering the current state of the economy. The only bad thing are the original predictions were based on nothing else but hopeful wishing of past figures and numbers.

Renault Blames Poor Marketing. If you don’t want to blame so-called experts or taxes, you can blame marketing. That’s what Renault is doing, blaming themselves. According to Stephen Norman, Renault marketing head honcho in the UK on “We need to communicate the autonomy of the vehicles [ . . . ] and let people know more about what they can do. I think people invent constraints the cars don’t have. Our next task is to get up off our backsides and sell them, not talk about what we’re going to be doing in 2030. There are so many messages to transmit on the electric car, we need to make the push." Welcome Stephen to what we’ve been talking about here for a long time. EVs have a market and are perfect for a certain type of clientele. Now go out there and reach out to them.

To be fair, Renault has some enticing EVs, so far 4 of them. A European style commercial van, a sedan, a mid-size sedan and an intriguing one-seater, the Twizy. Think here a direct competitor to the Smart, BMW C1, Toyota iQ and Gordon Murray T25 that packs about 140 miles using a 6.1kWh lithium-ion battery pack with an on-board charger rated at up to 43kW. This charger let’s you charge anywhere from 30mn to nine hours depending on what you feed it.

The CODA Marketing. CODA makes no apologies and Greg Adams, VP of Marketing & Sales gets it right. He told me not too long ago that he wanted to see an electric vehicle in every garage. Then he smiled and said: “Not just a CODA, any EVs!” It was refreshing and made me ask more questions. What surprised me about Greg was that he had done his homework well. Greg knows who the CODA will be sold to and dressed up a profile of his ideal CODA owner. It was well targeted and didn’t try to be the all-in-one solution, good-for-everyone EV.

Pike Research, A Serious Take On EVs. If predictions have been less than stellar in the past, one institution that regularly gets it pretty close is Pike Research. Senior Analyst Dave Hurst at Pike Research said it well: “Sales of EVs have not lived up to automakers' expectations and politicians' proclamations but the market is expanding steadily as fuel prices remain high and consumers increasingly seek alternatives to internal combustion engines.” Putting it into context, AAA released a statement shortly after that gasoline prices were the highest on average for U.S. consumers in 2012.

The latest report talks about electric vehicles of all sorts reaching 3.8 million by 2020. It’s not great, but it’s not bad and it is probably close to the truth. The psychological reactions to that number are both good and bad. It might not enflame passion in the hearts of many and might even lead to detractors saying it won’t work, but on the flip side, it won’t raise speculation on Wall Street, the same ones that have plunged us into financial chaos in the past.

So next time you hear unchecked, over-optimistic proclamations from carmakers or politicians, take it with a grain of salt. Only a few predicted the housing bubble burst in 2004, 98% of the rest was saying otherwise. EVs projected future sales are no different and only a few seem to hit it right. Electric vehicle sales are doing great in light of this economy.

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Three Deuce (not verified)    January 5, 2013 - 6:25PM

The only thing holding back the wide scale adoption of EV's is cheap fuel and up front costs. New highly efficient fueled motors are also having their impact, and that factor will increasingly be felt in the EV industry.

Early adopters of EV's do it because of environmental issues and because it is a smart move, if it fits, they can also afford the choice.

Plenty of people predicted and acted accordingly on the recent housing bubble, and just like the 1980 bubble, there was plenty of evidence for all to see.

EV's save the economy? Who ever said that? Save the world, eventually, with some help, just depends on their source of kilowatts and a whole lot of contributing holistic factors coming into play. But it is probably already too late to sustain a population of 7 billion, mostly ungrateful, so called humans.

Nicolas Zart    January 5, 2013 - 7:02PM

In reply to by Three Deuce (not verified)

It's true the new efficient ICE systems have gotten a jolt form EVs. Having traveled to the South, I was again reminded that artificially keeping gasoline prices low makes EVs obsolete, but it won't last. People talk about fraking as if it was the answer but they can't answer how.

Early adopters come in two versions, tech savvy and eco-conscious. We're just seeing the eco-conscious early adopters hit the market. They usually don't have as much money, at least traditionally. I like your take on the housing bubble and it was well reflect on the colle tor car industry, sending some muscles cars in the million dollar stratosphere, only to land back very quickly. The same thing almost happened to the housing industry but it's still holding on stubbornly to high prices, at least here in California.

You might laugh but EVs were portrayed as almost everything, including saving the planet, i.e. the bad petroleum cartels, pollution, etc. By 2010, carmakers sobered up. As far as how electricity is generated, I see less and less petroleum use, more CNG and a growing alternative energy input. It's getting there, slowly but getting there.

Three Deuce (not verified)    January 5, 2013 - 11:44PM

In reply to by Nicolas Zart

Hi! Nicolas,

Reg; "eco-conscious" adopters.

Anecdotal, but my observations, find, interestingly, that even in tech savvy Seattle, it is the early baby boomer women in their 60's who seem to be buying most of the Leafs and Volts. I have also seen a fair number of quite senior women driving EV's. Tech types are still hanging on to their BMW's with a few picking up a Fiat 500's.

Reg; "You might laugh but EVs were portrayed as almost everything"

I only consider comment/claims made by by serious thinkers whose unbiased critical thinking puts a solid foundation under their views. Yes, there was/is a lot pie in sky claims/hopes for EV's.

There is nothing about petrochemical extraction or use that isn't costly to the environment. Escalating fuel cost, won't be the only impetus to the growth of the EV industry, the environment could eventually play a heavy hand in the situation. Not something I really like to think about, but it can't be ignored.

Regards ... Tre

Nicolas Zart    January 6, 2013 - 10:57AM

In reply to by Three Deuce (not verified)

Hey Tre, yes, I think we are seeing the eco-conscious group are starting to buy them. On another funny note, I found out generations buying the 500 Abarth go from their 20s to 60s! It would be interesting to see if more women buy EVs than men. My guess is that so far it's even but it wouldn't surprise to see more women buying them at some point.

I agree about only listening to serious people when it comes to EVs, unfortunately, as you've noticed there was a lot of over-enthusiastic sales pitch around them a few years ago. I think it's more mature now.

Fraking is just another desperate attempt at getting to the harder to find deposits. I don't see how that could help lower price. If they used water to push up petroleum, it wouldn't such a problem. I'm not that well versed with that technology.

Thanks, Nicolas

Three Deuce (not verified)    January 6, 2013 - 2:07PM

In reply to by Nicolas Zart

Hi! Nicolas,

I can't recall, ever, seeing a man driving a Leaf or Volt. It has always been an older woman. I see plenty of men driving hybrids.

I did a year long project in Seattle's Ballard area last year, and the number of EV's there, was unlike any area I work in, Portland, Seattle, and San Fran, despite Chevy dealers marking up the Volt by as much as $10,000. The Nissan dealer there, couldn't keep a Leaf in stock, and was back ordered around six months at the time. It was quite encouraging.

Now, admittedly, the Ballard area has a very sophisticated, well educated, reasonably well off to wealthy populace, so is a bit out of the norm.

We at least, retained some of the federal incentives for EV's in the bogus 'Fiscal Cliff' debacle.

Regards ... Tre

Nicolas Zart    January 6, 2013 - 5:25PM

In reply to by Three Deuce (not verified)

I think according to where you live, people would be more or less open to an alternative energy car. It makes sense in Seattle people would be attracted to EVs and PHEVs. What's interesting would be to see the percentage of women versus men.

I've seen a lot of 30-40 year old families being Leafs and Volts here in Los Angeles, but I also know we're not very representative, as well as you guys up north. Yes, it was a very bogus fiscal debate but those inapt politicians have to put on a dramatic show to look like they are doing something and justify their lofty lifestyles on our tax paying money.

Three Deuce (not verified)    January 6, 2013 - 7:10PM

In reply to by Nicolas Zart

Yes, it does depend on the area and its demographic profile.

I base/live in Southern Oregon near Grants Pass. Around here its pick-up trucks, Camaro's, Mustangs, Challengers, Chrysler 300's and Chargers, and SUV's, very little of the appliance transports, unless you want to type a 3-series BMW 4-door as an appliance.

There is also a great year round Hot Rod scene. But, EV's...? There were a few in town(for a day) when the Governor came down to dedicate a new state sponsored charging station at the nearby rest-stop on I-5, but I haven't seen one in regular use around town.

The only Veyron I have ever seen on the street, lives in Grant Pass, so we do have some of the 'Fantastic' cars about, but nothing like Mercer Island, and Redmond, Washington, or Danville to Pleasanton, or the Silicon Valley area of California.

Just got back after several weeks in deep East rural Texas, where the demographic leans to Ford and Dodge pick-ups and not much else, surprisingly, there seems to be some acceptance of Toyota's Tundra. Skip on down to St. Pete/Tampa, and it's Cadillac's, Buick's, and Jags.

So it's hard to judge, anecdotally, what is really happening around the country, in totality, by your local exposure.

When the politicians have reduced us all to the functionality of drones, with our permission, they won't have too deal with us pesky voters, who somewhat inhibit their rapacious greed and lust for power, will they will be satisfied(?). And so it goes Nicolas.

Regards ......... Tre

Nicolas Zart    January 7, 2013 - 12:17PM

In reply to by Three Deuce (not verified)

All valid points. In the LA area, you would think everyone in the country drives a Prius and Bemmer. Volts are somewhat common along with Leafs and I really see either men or women at the wheel. I sometime go to Savannah, GA and always impressed with the amount of SUVs and pickup trucks. But with gasoline 50 cents cheaper than in LA, it makes sense. This time around I saw some Prii driving around and a Fiat dealership. I was stunned to see a couple in their 60s driving out with an Abarth! According to the dealership, the 500 does well with all age bracket. That's interesting because you're right, parts of the country are stuck on a brand image, regardless of actual quality.

"When the politicians have reduced us all to the functionality of drones, with our permission, they won't have too deal with us pesky voters, who somewhat inhibit their rapacious greed and lust for power, will they will be satisfied" I couldn't have said it better! It's sad to see they haven't fixed anything in 6 decades where our purchasing power has steadily dropped below inflation since 1959. Makes you wonder about these people... Nicolas