Isn’t it great to hear auto executives talking about electric vehicles these days? It is so encouraging to hear how their companies are fully participating in the electric vehicle revolution and how much it will benefit our grandchildren.
Why, last week, here’s what Audi CEO Markus Duesmann had to say: “E-mobility is by far the most effective way to defossilize. This is why we are expanding our portfolio to over 20 models by 2026.”
Glad to hear it! But… wait a minute. We seem to remember an Audi CEO named Markus Duesmann who said, in July 2020, that ICE vehicles “will be alive for a very long time. This is why we continue to invest heavily in the development of combustion engines.
Is it the same Herr Duesmann? We are sure it is. Isn’t it unusual for a leader to make two seemingly contradictory statements in the span of two years?
Not at all. Here’s what Carlos Tavares, CEO of Stellantis had to say at a recent press conference“I’m very confident, I try not to be arrogant, just confident that we’re going to catch up with Tesla in the next couple of years and it’s going to be very healthy competition. Very good for the consumer, by the way .
Three months ago, in December, he was singing a much sadder song, telling Reuters this “external pressure” [from government regulators, or from Tesla?] on automakers to accelerate the switch to electric vehicles was a threat to jobs, and that the costs of transitioning to electric vehicles would be “beyond the limits” of what the auto industry can bear. “What has been decided is to impose electrification on the automotive industry which brings 50% more cost compared to a conventional vehicle,” he said. “There is no way to pass on 50% of the additional costs to the end consumer as most middle class segments will not be able to pay.”
Why do frames jump from one side of the argument to the other? Can’t they decide? The cynical explanation is that they deliver different messages for different audiences. When they speak to left-leaning media, they are full of praise for electric vehicles, renewable energy and grandchildren. When they speak to shareholders (who fear lower profit margins) or union representatives (who fear job losses), they assure their listeners that they will slow down the frightening transition to electric vehicles and will keep these profitable ICEs alive for as long as they can. . And the remarks about “jobs” and “the middle class” are clearly aimed at politicians – Mr Tavares’ complaint could be read as a call for government subsidies.
There is also a more optimistic possibility: these leaders change their minds in response to changing conditions. They read the news. Popular electric vehicle models are sold out for years to come, Tesla is deliver high-performance EVs at the heart of Europe’s automotive industry (and making significant profits), and the Western world’s oil dependence is finance a deadly war, also in the heart of Europe. The writing is all over the wall. If Duesmann, Tavares et al are sincere about their conversions, they deserve praise and support.
It’s not just automotive executives who put on their flip-flops when the weather changes. Ontario Premier Doug Ford, a longtime bogeyman for electric vehicle enthusiasts, now claims to have seen the electric light.
In 2018, the Ford government canceled Ontario’s electric vehicle rebate program and ended a cap-and-trade alliance with Quebec and California that brought in $2 billion each year for fund electric vehicle subsidies and charging infrastructure. In 2019, it had EV chargers removed from transit lots and canceled other green power projects.
In November 2021, he changed his tone“We are going to become the first manufacturer of battery-electric cars in North America. We will not only make the batteries here, but also make the cars.
Ford at it’s pretty clear that its polarity reversal has to do with an election approaching in June. “Before the election, I didn’t believe in giving millionaire discounts on… $100,000 Tesla cars. Nothing against Tesla, they’re great cars [but] I just didn’t believe it. Let’s see how the market dictates. We’re putting billions and billions of dollars into the electric vehicle market, into businesses.
That may sound encouraging, as far as it goes, but it’s important to remember that politicians operate in a different world than auto executives. Once re-elected, they can and often do forget the promises they made during the campaign. Ford, the leader of Ontario’s Progressive Conservative (aka Conservative) party, will face opponents from the more left-leaning New Democrats and Liberal parties, among others, who seem more likely to emerge as the champions of electrification.
Originally posted on EVANNEX. By Charles Morris
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