2014 Electric Cars That Could Move the EV Market, Or Not

By · September 09, 2013

Volkswagen e-Golf

Will 2014 EVs from BMW and Volkswagen, like the electric version of the mainstream Golf, move the market? (Photo: Brad Berman)

August 2013 was an impressive month for electric car sales, with the Chevy Volt and Nissan LEAF racking up new records. As has been the case since those first two plug-in models hit the market in late 2010, the Volt and LEAF continue to own the lion’s share of sales. In August, their combined sales were 5,771, more than half the total 11,363 purchases. The plug-in Prius and Model S each contributed about 1,700 sales. Are we locked into this pattern for the next couple of years, or could 2014 electric cars bring entirely new buyers to the market?

The best hope for expanding EV sales could rest with German automakers. BMW will introduce the small i3 next year, and VW will begin selling an electric version of the Golf.

BMW will make innovation its selling point—and of course, its reputation for high-end Germany engineering. In addition to the use of lightweight carbon fiber construction, the i3 will be the first plug-in car on the market to offer customers the choice of pure EV and plug-in hybrid options. The challenge that BMW faces is the novelty of its powertrain, and a hefty pre-incentive price tag of $42,200 for a small commuter car.

BMW i3

Will the BMW i3 be too pricey, small and quirky to make a real impact on EV sales?

Meanwhile, Volkswagen brings massive scale--and its aspirations to be the biggest car company in the world. VW officials are planning to make electric cars and plug-in hybrids an integral part of the modular manufacturing process. VW apparently wants to compete. Rudolf Krebs, VW’s head of electric-powertrain technology, told Bloomberg last week: “We deliberately positioned the electric Up! against the i3.” The diminutive E-Up! will not be sold in the United States, but, in addition to the E-Golf, VW is planning a handful of Audi and Volkswagen plug-in hybrids in the next couple of years. No word yet on the crucial question of pricing.

In a press release issued today, Dr. Martin Winterkorn, CEO of Volkswagen, said, " "We are starting at exactly the right time. We are electrifying all vehicle classes, and therefore have everything we need to make the Volkswagen Group the top automaker in all respects, including electric mobility, by 2018." The statement indicated that a total of 14 models from several VW brands will be available with electric or hybrid drive technology by 2014. If there is sufficient demand, up to 40 new models could be fitted with alternative drivetrains.

Let’s not forget that the Model X is also due. That could be a decent seller, especially out of the gate. But the Cadillac ELR and Porsche Panamera plug-in hybrid are expected to be niche.

Where Will They Fall?

German automakers have not been major players in the market for conventional gas-electric hybrids. Diesel has been their primary fuel efficiency play. Yet, they apparently see plug-in vehicles as a legitimate path forward.

The current roster of plug-in cars in the United States consists of 14 cars, but it’s only the Volt, LEAF, Plug-in Prius and Model S that sell more than one thousand units per month. Most of the EVs and PHEVs are so-called compliance cars with non-existent marketing, poor dealership support and limited geographical distribution.

A year from now we should have a better sense of where BMW and Volkswagen line up in the sales rankings—potentially above the line with Volt and LEAF, as serious contenders in the electrification of the vehicle. Or will they be also-ran B players, willing to talk about the potential for electric cars, but not willing to seriously help move the plug-in market to a new benchmark?


· · 4 years ago

' The Volkswagen Group is aiming for global market leadership in electric mobility. “We are electrifying all vehicle classes, and therefore have everything we need to make the Volkswagen Group the top automaker in all respects, including electric mobility, by 2018”, said Prof. Dr. Martin Winterkorn, CEO of Volkswagen AG on the eve of the 65th International Motor Show in Frankfurt am Main.

Initially, a total of 14 models from several Volkswagen Group brands will be available with electric or hybrid drive technology by 2014. If there is sufficient demand, up to 40 new models could be fitted with alternative drivetrains.

The Group is showcasing plug-in models including the Volkswagen all-electric e-up! and e-Golf; the Audi A3 e-tron plug-in hybrid and the Porsche Panamera S E-Hybrid plug-in hybrid at the Frankfurt show.

Winterkorn said that Volkswagen had placed electric mobility “at the center of the Group”:

We have developed the know-how for electric motors and battery systems at our own components plants, we have recruited 400 top experts for electric traction and qualified almost 70,000 development, production and service employees in this new technology – the biggest electrification training program in our industry.

The Volkswagen Group invests more than €7 billion (US$9.2 billion) in research and development each year. A significant share is spent on developing technologies and components for electric mobility—more than in any other field. '


They are not fooling.
The very poor sales of EVs in Europe will handicap them though.

· · 4 years ago

And also:“We deliberately positioned the electric Up! against the i3.”

If that's how VW sees that market, then allow me to not be as enthusiastic as Davemart here.

Until VW really starts putting plug-ins on the roads, it's just PR and marketing, which I won't care much for.
VW has not done particularly well on the US market (2.7% market share YTD), so unless the e-Golf is priced pretty aggressively, I don't foresee it being very successful either unfortunately.
[Also, isn't naming an EV like this in the US a bit... e-diotic?]

If I had to pick today which German manufacturer was most serious about EVs, I'd bet on BMW.
Time will tell.

· · 4 years ago

Nice to see more cars but I don't think any of those will have a big effect on the US market.

ELR will be pretty small market.
Model X will get the Tesla hype but probably not as much as the Model S got.
The e-tron and Panamera will be tiny volumes.
I guess some BMW fans that want an electric will get the i3.
The e-Golf will be yet another econobox with an ~80 mile range.

The i3 will probably be one of the most interesting due to the unique BEVx architecture but the high price and . . . uh . . .unique design . . . will limit sales.

C'mon Toyota, Honda, and Mazda . . . create some plug-ins. (More than your token efforts).

· · 4 years ago


Can you imagine a Mazda CX-9 powered by the SkyActive Diesel with electric motor plugin that goes 40 miles in electric and then getting 38mpg or better on hwy crusing while seating at least 5? That would take some significant sales away from any other PHEV and own the SUV plugin market....

Toyota already said that they are NOT interested in EVs..

Honda is still on the fence and leaning toward the hybrid and fuel cell side....

· · 4 years ago

Sorry to say not much is going to happen in EV production ramp up until less-costly, high energy density batteries are available...until then all we will see is messing around the fringes by the car companies.

The only reason Tesla is selling well is because they understand you can give the people more or the same for their money but unlike Nissan, you can't give them less. The Leaf should be the best selling car on the market except they cannot provide a longer range battery and maintain an acceptable profit margin.

If a battery came into the market tomorrow that met the goals of the Argonne Labs project goals, i.e., 5 times the energy density at one fifth the cost, all the gates would open for EV production...immediately!

· · 4 years ago

@ModernMarvelFan - Excellent idea and concept. Id buy one in a heart beat. Even if they took the CX5 or Mazda3 and utilized the mild hybrid i-eloop technology in the "6" it and make it a plug-in....it would sell like hotcakes. I have always been a strong mazda fan and have been slightly pushed away as other car companies are giving exciting choices for new technology in cars. From a Mazda3 to a Forester to the EV world with Having a LEAF and now a VOLT.....If Mazda would of brought out an AWD 3 I would of stayed, if their efficiency improved with a hybrid like or plug in technology..again I would of stayed.

Lets hope more high volume stateside selling manufactures jump on this bandwagon.

When TESLA's high volume $40k car hits the streets...all hell will break loose and other companies may not be able to compete as well.... IMO

· · 4 years ago

The Tesla 40K car is a hug problem for many car manufacturers.

There is a good chance that Tesla will gain such a large market share in the affordable electrical car market that some car manufacturers must be thinking whether there is any point to try to compete with it at all. I can not see many people buying a leaf, I3 or Volt when for the same amount of money you can buy a 200 mile range Tesla.

· · 4 years ago

...except, Justin, dutchinchicago, that the 40k$ Tesla is nothing more than vaporware at this time.

It doesn't exist, and won't materialize for many years. By then, if past history is any indication, it might have morphed to "40k$ after incentives, fuel savings and whatnot", and the offering of other manufacturers will have evolved very significantly.
What makes you think that the 2018 Leaf SX will have the same range as today's model? What about the F155-ER Ford made after it acquired VIA in 2015? Etc.

Pitching products available today against something which may appear around 2017, is completely pointless. Look back 4 years ago, and tell me how many plug-ins you see (Th!nk City anyone?)

· · 4 years ago

Wait a minute - have I missed something? Did Mitsubishi cancel the Outlander PHEV for next year? Because if not, I'm having some trouble understanding why that wouldn't be included in this discussion.

New to EVs? Start here

  1. Seven Things To Know About Buying a Plug-In Car
    A few simple tips before you visit the dealership.
  2. Incentives for Plug-in Hybrids and Electric Cars
    Take advantage of credits and rebates to reduce EV costs.
  3. Buying Your First Home EV Charger
    You'll want a home charger. Here's how to buy the right one.