Almost every decent electric car — and even some indecent ones — has a long waitlist these days. How many people are simply in line waiting for an electric car and delaying a new car purchase? How much is the auto industry being affected by this and blaming it on other things? These were issues raised by Chris Harto, Senior Policy Analyst for Transportation and Energy at Consumer Reports, in a conversation we had a few months ago that then turned into a podcast interview. I encourage you to listen to the full podcast below, but I’ll also pull out a few extended quotes from the interview to enjoy in text or for those who have an affliction to audio podcasts.
One of the first things Chris mentioned to me when we met at the Electrify Expo in Austin, Texas — aside from noting that he enjoyed and appreciated our work (yoohoo!) — was that he saw the supply chain issues many automakers were complaining about as a little bit of an exaggerated excuse.
“The supply chain crisis has definitely been a common excuse over the past few years from the automakers. Certainly there are supply chain challenges, but it seems like, especially in the clean vehicle space, it’s just really hard to find a vehicle. You drive by dealers and they have plenty of gasoline pickup trucks to sell you, but if you want a hybrid, if you want a plugin hybrid, especially if you want a BEV, there’s none on the lot; you can’t get one; if they do have one on the lot, it’s often marked up really high — you know, $5,000, $10,000, $20,000 even hasn’t been uncommon in the past year or two for really popular BEVs. So it really seems like automakers just aren’t delivering enough of these vehicles. Consumer demand is strong, and it seems to be pulling away demand from their conventional ICE vehicles, vehicles they want to try to sell you so they can build up those profits to help transition to EVs.”
This situation has been something we’ve been discussing — or predicting — for years here on CleanTechnica. My favorite piece on it is probably Maarten Vinkhuyzen’s 2019 piece on the Osborne effect as it relates to the EV transition. I also wrote a short summary and posed the question for readers in 2021, “When Do Fossil Fuel Car Sales Collapse?” But let’s get back to the podcast interview.
We also discussed regulatory standards a bit and how those relate to automaker electrification (in the US and beyond). Regarding US standards, he said, “Those standards only require around 16–17% EV sales in 2026.” (That’s below the EV penetration rate in Europe and China today.) “So if automakers are targeting those numbers, we’re looking at a relatively slow ramp of their BEV production, and that’s likely to leave a lot of consumers who want these vehicles waiting longer than they would like to, ah, to get those vehicles — because, again, automakers have a tendency in the past at least to do what’s required by law but only what’s required by law.”
That’s about 7 minutes of the half-an-hour interview. To listen to the full discussion, click play on the Spotify embed above or listen wherever you listen to podcasts: Anchor, Apple Podcasts/iTunes, Breaker, Google Podcasts, Overcast, Pocket, Podbean, Radio Public, SoundCloud, Spotify, or Stitcher.
This podcast was recorded in late January and published in February. However, incidentally, Consumer Reports just published a report today on the topics Chris and I talked about. “Consumer demand for electric vehicles is surging, far outpacing supply, and automakers who fail to respond quickly to shifting preferences risk losing out on the market share, according to a new analysis from Consumer Reports (CR),” they write. “In fact, 30% of licensed drivers in the market to buy or lease a new (and not a used) vehicle were not even considering a conventional gasoline vehicle, according to a CR nationally representative survey from 2022.” Chris mentioned this stat in our podcast as well.
Notably, aside from reporting on the results and trends in consumer demand, Consumer Reports is pushing for stronger fuel economy standards for automakers so that the supply actually is matching the market demand. Chris told me, “So, a third of the market, a third of potential new car buyers aren’t looking at conventional new car buyers. That number doubled in the past two years — so went from 17% to 34% in the past two years. Who knows what it’s going to be two years from now?” Those survey results, by the way, are from the middle of 2022.
Drilling the point home, Chris asks, “Who is this population of people who are going to buy new gasoline SUVs that have poor fuel economy in 2030 when they can buy a BEV that has 300 miles of range or more, that has instant torque, that has better performance, has lower fuel costs, has lower maintenance costs, charges faster, and … yeah.”
I asked Chris to provide his take on how automakers should manage the difficulty of ramping up BEV sales while phasing out fossil fuel vehicles. In theory, going too fast or too slow could bankrupt a company. He responded, “I don’t see a path where an automaker, you know, massively outruns consumer demand in their EV push. Basically, as fast as you can, as fast as you can feasibly make that transition, do it and you won’t regret it. The automakers that are probably going to regret it are the ones that move the slowest.” Well, Chris definitely talks like a CleanTechnica reader and subscriber!
We also talked about different specific models, the electric car Chris is eager to get once production scales up and dealers stop adding markups, the deeper history of compliance cars, automakers being surprised about how much consumer demand there is for good electric vehicles they produce, more on EV waitlists and markups, dropping ICE vehicle demand, and more. Listen in for the full chat and chime in down below with your own comments!
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