Politicians have forced automakers to make electric cars, but they can’t get people to buy them
today | Peter Miller
Photo: Škoda Auto
Taste grows with food, unfortunately this also applies in politics. And when the people in charge got away with the first, fifth and tenth market bends, they started to think that they could get away with everything. With electric cars, they find that everything has its limits.
It is a natural and, in essence, perhaps even a good human quality to try to go on and on in certain procedures. If it weren’t for that, we’ll be content with eating bison in a warm cave, and maybe not even that – we could also live on wild berries. Maybe it would be better for us that way, but it simply isn’t like that, so we try to constantly push the boundaries of what is possible. It started with lighting a fire and for now it has ended with us streaming a family holiday in Namibia via satellite to loved ones. What comes next? Populating Mars like in Total Recall? Who knows.
This human desire to constantly go to the limits of the possible also has its negative manifestations. A serial killer is not satisfied with killing 20 people, and a politician trying to impose his idea of a way of life on society is not satisfied with gouging our eyes with bizarre constructions holding the lids on the necks of PET bottles and pulling soggy paper straws out of Coke glasses. It will go on and on and on until the ear is torn off.
When and where will it happen? We don’t have a crystal ball, so we don’t know, but we’ve been warning for years that trying to force electric cars on everyone will be one of the touchstones. This is so for a number of reasons – on the one hand, a car is a relatively emotional thing, it is a kind of symbol of freedom, which loses its luster somewhat with limited action capability. But that is rather a marginal factor, the problem is mainly the need to pay more money for a clearly less usable product with an unclear lifespan and, above all, possible social and economic impacts on the whole society. Limited personal mobility in any sense of these words will affect the shape of our lives, it will affect the functioning of companies, either because of the limited ability of employees to act, or because of the more complicated transportation of anything to anywhere. Perhaps most of all, all this pressure will begin to break down the automotive industry as an extremely important part of the economy of many countries. The Czech Republic could tell about it.
In theory, it can turn out well, it can, but if we have to give it all a one-word name, it’s an experiment. It is a socio-economic experiment of unprecedented proportions and, in my opinion, this field is not something that a responsible politician should allow himself to experiment with and wait to see how it turns out. Simply no, it requires a much more responsible, thoughtful approach that avoids blind bets. There is nothing wrong with trying to force electric cars on everyone.
For a while it seemed that we would be subjected to this political roulette – a few people who do not have the slightest technical and economic education to be able to guess the possible consequences of their steps, simply throw chips on the roulette screen and wait for the ball to stop. Black, red… How about green? It looked like most of society would play this game, for better or for worse, but that assumption doesn’t pan out. Most of the company makes it clear that they are not going to take this gamble.
We see it in the Czech Republic today and with a view to the next 12 years, but they are also noticing it abroad. The American New York Times (NYT) basically states that politicians have succeeded in forcing car companies to produce electric cars, most of them have even proudly adopted this goal for some reason. But even countless manipulations with the market did not make customers join. And that’s a problem for politicians and car companies.
According to the Americans, although Biden’s new measures in particular forced manufacturers to invest in these cars, build new factories in America and offer dramatically more electric models, the NYT states that the same shift has not occurred on the part of customers. “The climate law has so far not dramatically affected trends in the sale of electric cars,” the paper says, adding that if the new measures have changed anything, it’s only what it didn’t want: “The most significant immediate effect of the law on the consumer market is unintended – it made many customers buying electric cars prefer to lease,” the NYT reports, noting that this method of acquisition allows avoiding the requirements for a certain share of American car production necessary for the allocation of the subsidy. Cars are not sold that way, American production is not preferred, only those who finance this circumvention, i.e. financial institutions, profit. It’s a few losses in a row, nothing more.
The tepid acceptance of electric cars is noticeable especially recently, Ford, GM, but also Tesla or Volkswagen are slowing down their expansion, because not nearly as many people are buying these cars as the car companies say they should have. The Times claims that “electric vehicle sales are expected to surge under the right conditions,” but what are the right conditions? We have been waiting in vain for something like this for more than a century, and the only thing that has changed in principle during that time is precisely the political pressures heading in this direction.
So the Times remains at least somewhat optimistic, analysts no longer. And some car companies still don’t. “The EV adventure has been a total disaster for traditional automakers so far,” said industry analyst Adam Jonas of Morgan Stanley during a recent presentation of Aptiv’s third-quarter financial results. And he’s far from alone – UBS has warned that car manufacturers must prepare for a slowdown in the electric car market, especially in 2024. “Electric cars are becoming difficult to sell in Western markets,” UBS analyst Patrick Hummel says to Matter for Change .
Car companies no longer take it lightly. The aforementioned GM has already canceled its goal of selling 100,000 electric cars in the second half of this year alone and 400,000 such cars by the first half of 2024, without coming up with new targets. GM and Honda canceled their plan to jointly develop affordable electric cars, and the VW concern is in a particularly complicated position due to the size of its bet on electric cars on the one hand and their limited competitiveness on the other: “We are currently facing a general reluctance of European customers to buy battery cars,” VW Group CFO Arno Antlitz said at the latest presentation of quarterly results. The company now has only 150,000 orders for such cars on the table, compared to twice as many at the same time last year.
But the situation is complicated everywhere, we also wrote about Great Britain, Norway, China, the situation is basically similar everywhere – on the one hand there is a political agenda that quite easily changed the behavior of companies, but on the other there are more cautious customers. Only a certain part of them were influenced by subsidies and other forms of redistribution, for the rest electric cars come across as a de facto inability to serve their needs, or to do so at long-term acceptable costs.
It is hard to say whether to consider this as good news, but the strong warning about the impossibility of this path for politicians and car companies comes even before the whole experiment could end in disaster. So there is still time to take a step back. But something tells us that they will continue to bet everything on green zero until one of the red or black numbers falls and deprives them of everything. They don’t realize that we will all suffer, or they don’t care at all.
The Czech Škoda has also bet everything on electric cars, it does not want to sell anything else in the future, even though it must feel enormous resistance from customers, especially in the Czech Republic. No one from the company will give you a meaningful explanation as to why he behaves like that, there is no reasonable argument anyway. Photo: Škoda Auto
Sources: New York Times, Autocar
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