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How are automakers doing with electric cars?

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Published on EVANNEX on December 5th, 2021, from Charles Morris

Tesla has received a lot of criticism for missing deadlines and reducing promises. But guess what! The old automakers have always done the same thing, at least when it comes to their EV efforts. These days, the media say Big Auto is finally taking electrification seriously and is about to cut Tesla’s market share … every day.

Above: For example, what happened to BMW’s “electrification plans” that were touted a few years ago? (Source: BMW)

GM has rightly received good press for announcing an expansion of its battery development efforts. But how is the company actually doing with sales of electric vehicles? In October 2017, GM announced that it would bring “at least 20 new electric vehicles” to market by 2023. We recently heard that “GM is on its way to an all-electric future with a commitment to build 30 new global electric vehicles by 2025.”

How many electric cars does GM have on offer in the US (two years from the first announced deadline)? Well, none at the moment, as the Bolt is temporarily out of production. The automaker is expected to launch a new electric vehicle very soon – the GMC Hummer, the least efficient electric vehicle ever built. Two or three more electric cars are being planned. The company didn’t bring a single plug-in model to the recent LA Auto Show.

It’s not exactly a feat for the company that President Biden recently said “electrifies the entire automotive industry.”

How’s the EV revolution going in Dearborn? Ford has a strong new electric vehicle on the road with the Mustang Mach-E and a couple of potential blockbusters (the F-150 Lightning Pickup and the E-Transit utility vehicle) are on the way. Ford is also carefully building its battery production and recycling facilities.

Now the company has increased its planned EV production capacity to 600,000 vehicles per year by 2023. That sounds impressive (it would mean a ten-fold increase in Ford’s EV production in two years, a large order even for an established automaker), but like Electrek Fred Lambert notes that it’s only 60% of Tesla’s and Tesla’s current capacity probably won’t stand still for the next two years. Ford had previously announced that it would produce only 55,000 electric F-150 Lightning pickup trucks in 2023 – this number will probably also be revised upwards.

What about the Volkswagen Group? It’s the most supercharged automaker east of California and the only one that currently poses a credible threat to Tesla’s market share in electric vehicles. The Financial Times reported, citing projections from Bernstein, IHS, and EV-Volumes.com, that “Projections for six major auto companies through 2024 show Volkswagen is the only legacy automaker on the way, Tesla at EV production to overtake. While the others are expected to quickly increase the number of electric vehicles sold, none will match Tesla. “

Bernstein predicts that the Volkswagen Group (including Audi, Porsche, SEAT, and Skoda) will sell 450,000 electric vehicles in 2021 – far more than the Detroit crew can muster, but not yet in Tesla territory (the California automaker hopes about one million units to sell for the year, and the Texas and Berlin Gigafactories are expected to begin shipping the products shortly).

FT notes that Volkswagen’s Herbert Diess is the only incumbent CEO who appears to take Tesla seriously as a rival. Bernstein predicts that the Volkswagen Group will catch up with Tesla’s electrical sales by early 2024. Of course, this assumes that Diess’ pro-EV vision prevails, which is not guaranteed. Diess faced challenges within the company and its union after a few insignificant comments about the threat of job losses (if the company moves too slowly with electrification) and a controversial decision to invite Elon Musk to speak to VW executives.

Over the past decade, the legacy brands have talked a lot about their plans for electrification, throwing around terms like “commitment”, “all-in” and “market leadership”. So far, her words have proven to be mere wind. Will it be different this time? We will see.

Tesla certainly started an electric fire under the chassis of fossil car manufacturers, but we get the impression that they are less concerned about Tesla’s manufacturing (which is still small in terms of global industry) than about Tesla’s stock market valuation (which is in in no way small). The theory is that the more investors perceive that Big Auto is expanding its EV efforts, the higher the price of Big Auto stocks will be, regardless of how many EVs the companies actually sell.

Jalopnik recently expressed this dichotomy quite eloquently, saying, “Building electric cars is only a small part of running a successful EV company these days. It is vitally important to make people believe that you will be building a lot more electric cars soon. “

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Written by: Charles Morris

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