Tesla receives a lot of criticism for not meeting deadlines and cutting promises. But guess what! Traditional automakers have always done the same, at least when it comes to their electric vehicle efforts. The buzz in the media these days is that Big Auto is finally taking electrification seriously and will reduce Tesla’s market share … any day now.
Above: What happened, for example, to BMW’s “electrifying” plans that she touted a few years ago? (Source: BMW)
GM has rightly had good press for announcing an expansion of its battery development efforts. But how does the company manage to sell electric vehicles? In October 2017, GM announced that it would launch “at least 20 new electric vehicles by 2023.” More recently, we heard that “GM is on the road to a fully electric future, with a commitment to 30 new global electric vehicles by 2025”.
How many electric vehicles does GM have for sale in the United States (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 put a new electric vehicle on sale very soon, the GMC Hummer, the least efficient electric vehicle ever built. Two or three more electric vehicles are in the works. The company didn’t bring any plug-in models to the recent LA auto show.
It’s not exactly a stellar display for the company that President Biden recently said “to electrify the entire auto industry.”
How is the electric vehicle revolution going in Dearborn? Ford has a powerful new electric vehicle on the road in the Mustang Mach-E, and a few potential blockbusters (the F-150 Lightning pickup and the E-Transit commercial van) on the way. Ford is also judiciously expanding its battery production and recycling facilities.
Today, the company has increased its planned electric vehicle production capacity to 600,000 vehicles per year by 2023. That sounds impressive (that would represent a tenfold increase in Ford’s electric vehicle production in two years, a tall order even for an established automaker), but as Electrek Fred Lambert notes that this is only 60% of Tesla’s current capacity, and Tesla is unlikely to stand still for the next two years. Ford had previously said it plans to produce just 55,000 F-150 Lightning electric pickup trucks in 2023 – likely that number will be revised upwards as well.
What about the Volkswagen group? It is the busiest automaker in eastern California and the only one that currently poses a credible threat to Tesla’s electric vehicle market share. The Financial Times, citing forecasts from Bernstein, IHS and EV-Volumes.com, reports that “forecasts for six major auto groups through 2024 indicate that Volkswagen is the only historic automaker on track to overtake Tesla for the production of electric vehicles. While the rest are expected to quickly increase the number of EVs they sell, none will compete with Tesla. “
Bernstein predicts that the Volkswagen Group (including Audi, Porsche, SEAT and Skoda) will sell 450,000 electric vehicles in 2021, far more than any member of the Detroit team, but not yet in Tesla territory (the Californian manufacturer hopes to sell around one million units for the year, and the Gigafactories of Texas and Berlin should soon begin to deliver the product).
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 EV sales by early 2024. Of course, that assumes that Diess’s pro-EV vision prevails, which is not guaranteed. Diess has faced challenges within the company and his union, after some cavalier comments about the threat of job losses (if the company move too slowly electrify) and a controversial decision to invite Elon Musk to lecture VW executives.
Over the past decade, traditional brands have been making a big splash about their electrification plans, throwing up terms like “engagement”, “all-in” and “market leadership”. So far, their words have turned out to be hype. Are things going to be different this time around? We’ll see.
Tesla has certainly started an electric fire under the chassis of fossil car makers, but we get the impression that they are less concerned with Tesla’s production (which is still low in terms of global industry) than with the stock market valuation. of Tesla (which is not small at all). The theory is that more investors to notice As Big Auto ramps up its electric vehicle efforts, the more Big Auto’s stock prices will rise, regardless of how many EVs companies actually sell.
Jalopnik recently expressed this dichotomy quite eloquently, saying that “building electric cars is only a small part of running a successful electric vehicle business these days. Bring people to to believe that you will soon be building a lot more electric vehicles is essential.
Written by: Charles Morris