Earthquake, Electric Car Delays and What Really Matters
Note from Brad Berman, PluginCars.com Editor: The volume of exciting electric car news is accelerating. Some of the headlines are very encouraging, but other stories—getting just as much play—are not much more than EV buzz for buzz sake. So, I asked Chelsea to help us sort out the wheat from the chaff by pointing out a handful of stories that deserve some attention. Take it away, Chelsea...
It’s inevitable news and to no one's surprise: The recent earthquake and aftermath in Japan is reverberating throughout the auto industry, including various plug-in car programs. The full effects are still being assessed, but Nissan last week had to halt production of several production plants, including that which builds the Leaf. But then news came over the weekend that Nissan will restart production at five of six plants, including Oppama where LEAF is produced. Other reports said it was “partly operational.”
It is unclear whether or not the Chevrolet Volt will be affected, but it's possible that supply of the Japanese-built transmission may be stalled.
Other programs have yet to publicly specify if and how they're impacted, but it's safe to assume that most will be, to varying degrees. The Japanese built Mitsubishi i is the next likely candidate, but in a global industry, damage to smaller suppliers will still have an effect up the chain of American and European cars.
Of course, this both matters and doesn't in the grand scheme. I admit to having been horrified to see a few people's first reaction to the quake be "but what will this do to my LEAF delivery timing?" At the same time, there is no separating this industry from the overall economic recovery that must now happen.
Shouldn't be news: Lots of folks have been spun up this week over the fact that a marketing study "discovered" that consumers are confused by hybrid and plug-in technology, even after ten years of hybrids having been available. Broadly speaking, they don't know that hybrids use both electricity and gas, that they have batteries on board, or that plug-in hybrids can run on battery power alone (though it remains to be seen how much they do as a class.) After all the backhanded "you don't have to plug it in" advertising done by Honda and Toyota over the years, I'm not surprised people don't fully comprehend the role of electricity in a hybrid. But really, who cares that they don't? Sure, I've had my share of Prius drivers insist that they drive electric cars, but how many gas car owners do you know that could explain specifically how they operate either?
Yes, we need more consumer education, including in the different "flavors" of electrified vehicles. But we also need to have some perspective. This is not news. And when it comes to marketing, mainstream consumers care much more about what a car does than how it does it.
- Dubious news: BYD followed up last week's Wikileaks news with intentions to launch in the US in late 2011. I know Brad was reasonably impressed with his test drive, but I can't help but feel skeptical about this one for now.
- Just for fun: I'm curious to see how it moves from concept to production, but the Fido scooter looks rather promising.
- At long last: Revenge of the Electric Car has a premiere date!
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