And here we see the consequences of the auto industry’s actions.
With the government’s unabashed support, many automakers are trying to shepherd consumers into electric vehicle ownership rapidly. However, as Axios and its sister company Cox Automotive have recently pointed out, that push is starting to boomerang. Such a claim might sound preposterous if you’re used to consuming wildly pro-EV media, which is to say almost every automotive site and most mainstream media outlets, so buckle in and let’s analyze what they said.
Jonathan Gregory, senior manager of economic and industry insights at Cox Automotive, has likened the situation to the movie Field of Dreams, only the “if you build it, they will come” isn’t quite working. Automakers are trying to crank out an increasing number of EVs consumers simply don’t want and they’re starting to pile up at dealerships.
Cox found that in late June of this year, dealers on average had over 100 days’ supply of electric cars. That’s far more than the industry-wide inventory average of about 53 days. Things are even worse for individual models. For example, the Ford Mach-E has a 117-day supply. The Genesis Electrified G80 has a 350-day supply – ouch!
Then there’s the Toyota BZ4X with only a 101-day supply, which is better but still not great. Cox says Toyota stock moves quickly lately, with the Prius and RAV4 Hybrid averaging under 30-days supply each. Even the mighty Toyota can’t move EVs anywhere near as fast as its hybrid models.
A recent report from Cox says EVs are “likely heading into (the) Trough of Disillusionment” which is a reference to the Gartner Hype Cycle. Just how deep and prolonged that trough might be remains unkown.
This doesn’t mean Cox Automotive or Axios is saying EVs are dead or done for. Instead, they believe we’ll keep seeing sales records in the future as electric vehicle growth continues to surpass the overall auto industry. One could debate if that will be true, especially with potential mitigating geopolitical factors on the horizon, but that’s the conclusion they’ve drawn.
The driving point of Cox’s report is that no longer will automakers be able to slap together some EVs and consumers will snatch them up eagerly. It views what’s ahead are “hard-growth days.” In other words, automakers will have to win over consumers instead of just waiting to take their electric car orders. And that might be harder to achieve than many in the industry currently realize.
While some believe the core objections to EVs is an unwillingness to adopt change, what automakers and others in this industry are missing is the trust they’ve violated. Working with the EPA and other government agencies to twist the arms of consumers so they’re forced to buy EVs, the vicious effort to cast anyone with concerns about the headlong plunge into electrification as “anti-progress” or “technophobes” if not even worse, and the overall attitude that automotive executives know better than the people who have had to deal with their sometimes shoddy designs their entire lives has pushed many consumers over the edge. In other words, it’s the final straw, especially with automakers which have been at the forefront of this push.
That’s right: automakers, marketing firms, automotive media outlets, and even government bureaucrats, you have all pushed the populace too far. While some people will eagerly do as you direct, others feel manipulated, unvalued, and worse. Earning their trust back will be a slow process, one that will require a willingness to listen to feedback that might be difficult to hear, even offensive, yet it will be necessary. Those willing to show some genuine humility might have a chance of regaining some trust in the future. Just remember the hard-learned lesson: despite what the actions of far too many in the automotive industry have communicated loud and clear, your average American isn’t some dumb sheep to be lead blindly wherever you wish.
One final point to really drive home the current state of EV sales in the United States: Cox says EVs make up about 6.5% of the market so far in 2023. That’s lower than what we saw at the close of 2022 but it’s about on par with years past. Considering how much coverage EVs receive in the media and how we’re all told either explicitly or implicitly that “everyone” is buying them, the manipulation is plain since that’s honestly a small sliver of the industry. EVs are still a niche product, period. They’re not mainstream, they never have been. If that angers you, sorry the truth hurts but it’s just that, the truth.
Images via Ford, Genesis, Kia, BMW, GM