The future is electric, according to nearly every major automaker. From General Motors to Volkswagen, automakers are gearing up for a transformation away from the internal-combustion engine and to electric motors and battery packs.
But, not all is quiet on the western front.
According to a Thursday report from Design News, automakers and suppliers have quietly shared concerns over electric car adoption rates in the United States. Despite the grandstanding, investments and major announcements, the fact is electric cars make up a sliver of U.S. auto sales. And analysts don’t expect that to suddenly shift, even with more electric cars on sale.
“Often, it was quietly said afterward [at a CAR seminary]: ‘Now, we have to figure out who’s going to buy these cars,’” Brett Smith, a program director at the Center for Automotive Research (CAR), said.
One of the major fear factors is production volume. Automakers run major risks tooling a plant for a 200,000-unit capacity, when in reality, a particular electric car may sell just 50,000 units.
“No one wants to spend on a capacity of 200,000 if they’re only going to sell 50,000. That gets very expensive, very fast,” Sam Abuelsamid, senior analyst for Navigant Research, said.
At GM, the automaker plans to introduce 20 new electric cars by 2023, though it’s becoming more clear that not all 20 cars will reach North America. Instead, the grand plan will appease upcoming Chinese regulations. In fact, Buick’s electric-car plans may be on hold as GM reassesses the market in North America; the brand was rumored to introduce a more luxurious Bolt EV-based model before 2020.
Automakers hope that by giving consumers what they want will inevitably sell electric cars, with a focus on packaging the fundamentals into a car that just so happens to house a charging port. But, only when electric cars reach cost parity with gasoline-powered vehicles will we likely see a major shift.