Why the DrudgeReport is wrong about the Volt and plug-ins
Time to take a little hype out of the plug-in movement — good and bad
Did plug-ins fail in 2011? Is 2012 a make or break year for plug-ins? Should automakers pull the plug on plug-ins if they don’t sell in 2012? Is a Volt failure synonymous with an Obama failure?
No. No. No. And No.
Yesterday, the Financial Times noted Electric car sales fail to spark into life, pointing out that both GM and Nissan fell short of their 2011 plug-in sale’s goals. Likewise, even EV analyst bulls have cited 2011 as reason to lower their overall plug-in sale’s forecasts. For instance, Adam Jonas, a Morgan Stanley analyst, lowered his 2025 EV forecast to 4.5 percent from 8.6 percent based on disappointing 2011 plug-in sales.
Likewise, the Bottom Line is claiming that 2011′s plug-ins sale’s disappointment makes 2012 a critical year for assessing plug-in vehicle success.
I say, chill, everybody.
Yes, there will be more plug-ins available in 2012 and that should help push overall sales higher in 2012. Likewise, recent worries about battery safety in the Chevy Volt and the Fisker Karma appear to be over-sensationalized. Still, I don’t think safety is limiting plug-in sales. Most consumers are worried about EV costs, and 2012 is going to provide little relief for those concerns.
2012 is not the year of the plug-in vehicle. And that’s OK.
It’s going to take time for plug-in vehicles to move into the mainstream, something even hybrid cars have not achieved as a segment even after more than a decade on the market, and numerous forecasts claiming that hybrid mainstreaming is inevitable. Sure the Toyota Prius has achieved mainstream-like sales, but that’s just one car. Unfortunately, it will probably be several more years before any plug-in achieves Prius-like sales.
Despite the DrudgeReport’s many fans whom tie plug-ins like the Volt to Obama’s success or failure, there is no connection. Yes, Obama is a plug-in supporter, but the Volt and its tax credits were conceived before Obama took office. Consequently, whether Mitt Romney’s auto restructuring plan was enacted or Obama’s, I’m pretty sure the Volt would have become reality. Maybe it would have taken a bit longer for the Volt to hit the streets under Romney’s plan, but the Volt was inevitable. It had to be.
Ultimately, GM needs the Volt, just as every automaker needs a plug-in. Sure, today, the Volt is mostly about PR, but the Volt isn’t just a marketing gimmick. It’s a real world laboratory that GM needs to stay in contact with the future of the auto industry. Still, the Volt is much more about the future than it is today, as are all plug-in vehicles. Therefore, 2011 and 2012 Volt or plug-in sales are an interesting benchmark, but effectively irrelevant in terms of long term success or failure.
Hopefully, 2012 will be a great year for plug-in sales, at least relatively. Even if every automaker sells every plug-in planned for production next year, however, the numbers are still largely meaningless in terms of overall vehicle sales. Thus, even the very best 2012 still doesn’t mean that much.
Likewise, even the worst 2012, in terms of plug-ins sales, doesn’t mean that much.
Electrification is an inevitable trend, whether that electrification is powered by batteries, fuel cells or some combination of both. Inevitable. Sadly, however, the preponderance of evidence — the bulk of the science — available demonstrates quite clearly that plug-ins probably won’t be made or broke in the next decade, regardless of what the President or any other politician does.
Thus, maybe instead of talking about plug-in successes and failures for the next several years, more attention should be focused on what is going to be done in the interim to an electrified future. That means hybrid cars and natural gas fracking instead of just a focus on the plug-ins, especially through the next decade. Instead of dissing the Volt and plug-ins, therefore, maybe Drudge should focus on that issue if he and his fans really care.
Regardless, while DrudgeReport fans might revel in plug-in and hybrid failures, instead favoring “drill, baby, drill”, it’s obvious that even if the US embarked upon such a drilling policy, energy costs would increase. The resources are more difficult and costly to access, making new technologies more cost-competitive. More important, it isn’t just finding cheap fossil fuels that will again make America great, but innovation. Ultimately, fossil fuels will be inadequate to power the technological revolution currently taking over EVERY element of human life. In the very near future, we’ll need more energy than we can hardly imagine today.
Thus, seeking the failure the of the Volt and plug-ins is akin to seeking the failure of human kind. Neither are ready to yet change the world, but both are headed in a direction that is inevitable.