The Detroit Motor Show has been dominated by large petrol vehicles despite car manufacturers' pledges to sell more battery cars. The FT's Peter Campbell asks what can make American car buyers go electric
Presented by Peter Campbell. Edited by Paolo Pascual. Footage from Reuters.
Why aren't Americans buying electric cars? Tesla, probably the best known electric car maker, is American, as is General Motors, whose Chevrolet Bolt was the first long-range electric family car on the market. But despite America's homegrown models, sales of electric vehicles remain desperately sluggish. Of the 17 million cars sold in the US last year, fewer than 200,000 had a plug.
Come here to the Detroit Motor Show, and it's easy to see why. While battery cars such as the Mercedes EQ behind me are prominently displayed, the real crowd-pullers at the show are the gigantic pickup trucks and sport utility vehicles more commonly associated with the American market. These are the cars that consumers keep wanting to buy. And conveniently, they're the ones where the manufacturers make the most of their money.
And there's more bad news for electric car prospects coming down the road. Right now, the federal government pays consumers $7,500 to buy an electric car, but this money runs out after a manufacturer has sold 200,000 vehicles. For both Tesla and General Motors, that moment will probably come this year, meaning consumers will have to fork out more for their electric vehicles.
So for the long-awaited electric car revolution to take hold, more spending by the government's own incentives is needed. Until then, expect the gas guzzlers of today to carry on ruling the roads.
A wave of electric cars is about to flood the market, but it will take many, many years before the dinosaurs of the industry, such as this GMC Denali, are killed off. Peter Campbell, Financial Times, Detroit.