Namo’s Volt outside the Tesla dealership, Zurich - Just a little taste of a new article coming soon
One of my favourite UK journos, Chris Harris, waxes lyrical on what the arrival of electric cars will mean to his profession. See his Tesla video on Driver’s Republic for some surprisingly very progressive thinking from one of the foremost petrol heads in the UK.
Interesting news from Ford regarding their roll out strategy for the new Focus EV.
Articles published by Bloomberg and Energy Digital recently revealed their strategy to be a cautious one. Looking to ‘de-risk’ in the face of uncertain demand, the first prong is a build-to-order production set up where customers will have to wait 4-6 weeks for their car to be delivered. Ford says they are taking a different approach to other EV manufacturers by building the Focus EV on the production line along side its ICE and Hybrid siblings. Mike Tinskey told BusinessGreen that, “there are simply too many variables impacting the market that we have no control over, so this gives us real flexibility. If the price of crude rises and demand for EVs climbs we can produce more EVs and fewer gas vehicles”. Prudent stuff, but don’t expect prices to come down through this kind of strategy.
Interestingly Ford are also working on improving other areas of EV purchasing by working with partners SunPower to offer a solar array system with car that apparently could provide enough electricity to drive 15,000 miles annually for the price of less than $10,000 with a 25-year warranty. A similar tactic to Tesla however who do it better, offering energy storage too. On top of this and par the course these days, Ford has developed a mobile app. to relay battery and charging infrastructure information to the driver.
Now it is Ford’s marketing strategy that cause my eyebrow to raise. Apparently they are going to do most of it through Yahoo!. According to John Felice, General Manager of Ford-Lincon sales, they stand to save around $90 million, as digital media campaigns are typically 1/10th the cost of a traditional one. The center piece of the plan is a reality television show on Yahoo! Screen called “Plugged In”, in which people will compete to win the car. Of course there will be a standard healthy smattering of celebrities required to draw the traffic these days.
Felice says this strategy was chosen “because of the lack of awareness out there, people aren’t sure what kind of car they want. Electric is going to grow, but we’re not sure what the consumer is going to want, so we have to be flexible”.
Well I am not entirely convinced a web only ad campaign is going solve this awareness problem.
Ford actually plans to triple their out put of EVs and Hybrids to 100,000 units by 2013. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find what % of this will be purely EV, a bit criticial to this piece I know.
Certainly Fords approach will be an interesting experiment of the power of digital media to promote niche products. The marketing of EVs is largely untested water so a variety of different approaches should help to ensure that EVs get the exposure they need. Its clear what Ford are doing here though, letting more dedicated companies like Nissan Renault bare the cost of breaking the ice ahead whilst positioning themselves to sail behind picking up the profits.
Ford says the Focus EV returns 100 miles on a single charge. Whilst it is currently only available in the U.S. at $39,200 before the $7,500 federal tax credit, Ford plans to introduce it to Europe in 2013. Time will tell if that actually happens or not.
Bob Lutz’s prediction that March would be a record month for the Volt indeed came true. Chevrolet delivered 2,289 Volts last month in the U.S, the most it’s sold in a month since the vehicle became available a little over a year ago.
Also Carlos Ghosn came out swinging at the NY auto show saying that he remains bullish on EVs and that the 27,000 Leafs sold world wide are just the very beginning. He’s standing behind his ambitious predictions that EVs will make up 10% of the market by 2020. Way to stick to your guns Ghosn! (in fact he has practically glued those guns to his hands).
Here is a handy table from the guys over at AutoBlogGreen for Hybrid and Electric sales in the U.S. (I am also interested in the European data, if I find it i’ll post it up). Over all sales of EVs and Hybrids are up 40% on the previous month. The data also throws up other interesting suprises such as the fact that GM actually sold more Hybrids than Ford if you could the mild hybrid eAssist cars.
That is the conclusion of a recent article in MIT published Technology Review. Fisker just revealed their new smaller $50,000 saloon, the Atlantic (previously code named the Nina) and I think we all can agree it looks great. Unfortunately the company has hit some major speed bumps and has been grasping for private investment to replace a lost $300 million DoE loan.
I disagree with Tech Review that if Fisker collapsed it will not be a loss to the industry. It is true that despite Fisker creating a lot of noise and attracting attention, their foot print on the EV industry is a relatively small one but any loss to a fledging industry such as this is bound to hurt.