As a time when Europe has risen its EV market share among its overall auto market to about 8%, at a time when Tesla sales are blowing up in the US auto market, at a time when China is solidly maturing the EV market in its borders, Japan is playing hide & seek while hoping a fuel cell magic trick somehow produces real magic. Data from EV Volumes shows that Japan’s EV market share is still sitting below 1% — at 0.7% in the first 5 months of the year.
There’s one way to describe this performance: lame.
When you consider that people don’t generally have to take very long road trips, the lack of EV adoption is even more bewildering and disappointing. Maybe “bewildering” isn’t the right word, though. The explanation seems to be clear — major Japanese automakers have been slow to grasp the electric transition that is now well underway.
The only automotive leader in the Japanese auto market serious about batteries and electrification was Carlos Ghosn, who apparently got set up, jailed, and pushed out (as — we — suspected — all — along … sadly). Now you’ve got a large auto industry from one of the leading auto nations in the world suffering from denial, delay, and dirty tricks. Disappointing.
Also, as we can see from the EV sales chart, there are almost no options on the Japanese EV market. Hard to sell cars when you don’t offer them.
The Nissan LEAF looks set to dominate this niche market for a long time. But imagine if Nissan had 5 fully electric vehicles with the latest battery tech and competitive pricing by now. Imagine if Toyota had even one or two fully electric models! Imagine if Honda had … something.
For a long time, it has been a wonder — do Japanese automotive and political leaders really think hydrogen fuel cell vehicles are going to save them? Do they really not see the battery electric trends? Do they see the trends but think they’re going to jump on the wave at just the right time, while everyone else is standing up and riding it smoothly? I don’t know, but I know the Japanese auto market has been a huge disappointment, and the horrible takedown of Carlos Ghosn, which had come in and saved Nissan and was simply trying to ensure it had a bright future, was beyond the pale for me — far beyond the pale.
I would not be surprised to see the Japanese auto giants collapse under their own weight. If they don’t change course soon, there are few other forecasts that seem possible.
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