Going boldly where no Japanese auto company has gone before, Subaru announced this week it is planning on selling only electrified vehicles by 2035. How’s that for taking a strong stand? According to a report by Reuters, in addition to the mild hybrid and plug-in hybrid cars already available in its showrooms, Subaru will develop a “strong hybrid” that uses Toyota technology for introduction later this decade.
If you have any idea what a strong hybrid is, please share it with us, because nobody around CleanTechnica world headquarters has ever heard the term before or knows what it means. We might presume it means Subaru will offer something like the Prius Prime, but that is just a guess.
Subaru also says it is developing a battery electric car with Toyota for introduction at some future date, God willing and the creek don’t rise. “Although we’re using Toyota technology, we want to make hybrids that are distinctly Subaru,” Chief Technology Officer Tetsuo Onuki told the press in a recent briefing. “It’s not only about reducing CO2 emissions. We need to further improve vehicle safety and the performance of our all-wheel drive.”
Subaru & The US Market
Why is Subaru being so dilatory when it comes to electric cars? It starts with its CEO, Tomomi Nakamura, who told the press recently American consumers aren’t interested in buying an electric vehicle that isn’t a Tesla. As proof, he cited his company’s experience with the plug-in hybrid version of the Crosstrek, which only sold a few hundred copies a month in 2018. “We think the U.S. market is really difficult,” he said.
With attitudes like that in the boardroom, it is no wonder Subaru is lagging far behind the competition when it comes to electric cars. Subaru’s experience is opposite to that of BMW, which has been pleasantly surprised by the response to the plug-in hybrid MINI Countryman. A spokesman for the company told me at a press briefing in Miami on January 21, about 40% of all Countryman buyers are opting for the plug-in hybrid version of that car.
There is another factor in play here. According to the latest survey by AAA, the more people experience electric cars, the better they like them. More than 90% of the people who responded to the survey said they had doubts and fears about electric cars before they bought one, especially concerns about range and the availability of charging stations. But after the decision to buy was made, experience pushed those concerns into the background. In fact, 96% reported they would buy another electric car.
The majority of owners who were concerned about insufficient range became “less concerned” or “no longer concerned” after buying their cars, the survey showed. Electric car owners surveyed drive an average 39 miles per day, AAA said. All that worry about finding an EV charger soon evaporated after owners discovered the majority of their charging was done at home, a fact few people people considering an electric car are aware of. And why is that? Primarily because car companies have done a lousy job of educating consumers about the advantages of owning an EV.
Much of the good news about electric cars involves lower operating and maintenance costs. The amount of electricity required to drive a “compact electric car” 15,000 miles per year costs an average $546 AAA says, while the equivalent amount of gasoline costs $1,255. Annual maintenance costs are about $330 less, for total annual savings of nearly $1,600.
So we have a suggestion for Tomomi Nakamura. Go buy a Tesla Model 3 or Jaguar I-Pace or Kia Niro Electric. Make it your daily driver for 6 months, then share your thoughts with your senior managers. Chances are, you will see the whole EV thing in a whole different light. It is commonly believed when it comes to new technology, it takes as long to go from 1% acceptance to 100% acceptance among the buying public as it does to go from 0 to 1%. By that analysis, the tipping point in the EV revolution is already here and demand for electric cars is about to skyrocket.
And here’s another thought, Nakamura-san. You can’t sell from an empty wagon. If you don’t have the cars people want available for sale, your company is in danger of going the way of Plymouth, Pontiac, and so many other car companies who have faded from the scene. It’s not too late to change course, but the time to do so is getting dangerously short.
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