Despite the government tax breaks and obvious low fuel costs, capitalism is taking its toll on the electric car industry. According to a new report in The New York Times, dismal sales figures are leading some auto manufacturers to pull back on the new Earth-saving, plug-and-go automobile technology in favor of the less efficient hybrid engine. As the Paris Motor Show ramps up, a number of automotive executives opened up about the reality of the burgeoning electric car industry. In short, it's going to be burgeoning for quite some time.
"We had a realistic view of the technology all along," Volkswagon CEO Martin Winterkorn said. "There will be, for a long time to come, no alternative to the internal combustion engine." Volkswagon, the largest automaker in Europe, has put its electric car ambitions on hold as it pursues the better-selling plug in hybrid models. Renault already has an electric car on the market, t the Fluence ZE but one of its executives said that despite Renault being the market leader in electric vehicles, he's "not happy about the size of the market." Despite rave reviews for the Fluence when it first came out last year, the company has only sold 15,000 of them so far.
Things are no different for the trailblazers in the business, Nissan. News emerged last week that Nissan was coming up well short of its sales goals for its own electric car, the Leaf. Nissan chief executive Carlos Ghosn set a goal for the company to double sales of the Leaf this fiscal year, but halfway through, they're only up by 9 percent. Meanwhile, dealers are whipping out every discount they can think of to try and move Nissan Leafs off their lots. But even that doesn't work too well all the time. Nissan ended up buying back a pair of Leafs in Arizona after the owners were unhappy with the battery life.
Nobody would dispute the fact that electric cars make great sense in the long term. And over time the technology will get better, the batteries will last longer and the cars themselves probably won't look as silly. Until then, enjoy paying $4.50 a gallon for gas.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.
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