The Next Generation Of EVs Is Being Marketed As All About Going Fast

Photo: Porsche
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Automakers may be shifting their electric car marketing strategy from environmentalism to performance, car buyers are getting older, and Daimler’s got to cut about a billion in costs. All this and more from The Morning Shift of Thursday, November 14, 2019.

1st Gear: Fast Cars More Fun Than Worrying About Planet

Saving the planet is apparently not a good enough reason to buy an electric vehicle—at least at their current prices and availability—so automakers are, to use a horrifically overused word, pivoting to selling them on performance instead, targeting enthusiasts and the like by advertising that EVs can go very fast.

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That, at least, is CNBC’s take:

Automakers from Ford to Tesla are building a new generation of electric vehicles that is faster and more powerful than almost anything else on the road. After spending billions on eco-friendly, all-electric cars that resulted in lackluster sales, automakers are shifting their target market from earthy environmentalists to gearheads and thrill seekers looking for speed.

For a decade, EVs have primarily been produced to meet government fuel economy standards with more eco-friendly alternatives to fossil fuels. But as automakers attempt to bring EVs into the mainstream and compete against industry-leader Tesla, they’re touting the performance of EVs more than their environmental benefits.

No one’s talking about the fact that the new, all-electric Porsche Taycan delivers the equivalent of 90 miles per gallon in the city. Car reviewers, instead, are raving about the 750 horsepower the Turbo S model can make.

This isn’t exactly new, nor are the two mutually exclusive. Tesla has long been touting its 0 to 60 times and superior performance as well as the environmental benefits. Hell, the whole reason Tesla exists is the founding principle that EVs can also be high performance cars.

But the thesis of the article, that Tesla and Porsche and Chevy tried to sell EVs with the pitch of “this doesn’t kill the planet” and that failed so now they’re switching to “the car, it is fast” is an oversimplification at best.

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Most egregiously, the article does not once mention or even allude to the fact that EVs are expensive. The dollar sign does not appear in the CNBC article, which is weird for any CNBC article, much less one about EVs underperforming, sales-wise. Neither does the word “cost” or “price.” New EVs with decent range are near impossible to buy for less than $30,000 and the average price of new EVs sold in the U.S. is $55,600. You’d think this might perhaps be a relevant data point for why EV sales are not as strong as people thought.

The cool thing about EVs, though, is even high performance EVs like the Taycan or Model S are still orders of magnitude better for the planet than their gasoline counterparts. So if car companies think they can get more people into EVs by talking about 0-60 speeds instead of emissions, fine by me. But that won’t be a magic bullet to meeting sales expectations. EVs must get cheaper.

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2nd Gear: OK, Boomer Car Buyer

Today’s edition of young people aren’t buying new cars anymore comes from Green Car Congress, which analyzed the age of new car and light truck buyers in 2007 and 2017, respectively. They found more than half of all new car buyers in 2017 were 54 or older:

In 2007, a majority of buyers (53%) were age 35 to 54, while in 2017 a majority (52%) were age 55 and older.

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The biggest change came in the 35-44 age bracket, which in 2007 accounted for 29 percent of all new car buyers, but in 2017 was only 14 percent, a 15 percent shift. The other huge change was in the 65 and older bracket, which accounted for only 13 percent of new car sales in 2007 but, a decade later, was 27 percent.

The upshot here, which is a trend we have noted before, is new car sales are shifting to older age groups. This has always been true to some extent—young people tend to have less money than older people—but the trend is becoming more pronounced for a variety of reasons, including young people getting saddled with more debt earlier in life as their wages stagnate and new cars are more expensive than they used to be. Again, the cars, they gotta be cheaper if you want more people to buy them.

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3rd Gear: Another Automotive Executive Rains On Musk’s Robotaxi Parade

OK, Musk has never conducted a robotaxi parade. You know he would if he could, though. But he can’t, because Teslas are not capable of driving themselves, which is Daimler Chief Executive Ola Kaellenius’s point when he said robotaxis are in for a “reality check.”

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From Reuters:

The task of developing cars which are capable of navigating traffic in urban areas without any driver input, has proven to be more challenging than Daimler’s engineers had expected, Kaellenius said.

“There has been a reality check setting in here,” Kaellenius told investors at the company’s investor day in London. The technology will more likely be applied in trucks, helping freight companies on long haul highway routes, he said.

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Waymo has true, honest-to-God robotaxis operating in a geofenced area in Tempe, Arizona, but that’s pretty much it. And Tempe is one of the easier places to run robotaxis because of the simple street grid, lack of pedestrians, highly structured and well-marked intersections, and dry climate.

The fact that Waymo has pulled this off, with its half-decade head start on nearly everyone else in the industry, in a very limited setting, is neither to knock Waymo’s accomplishment nor disprove Kaellenius’s statement. Things will simply move very slowly, much slower than folks expected five years ago or so. And that’s a great thing, because we know what happens when it doesn’t.

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4th Gear: Entire Country Of Germany Takes To Streets To Celebrate Arrival Of A Musk Factory

OK, that also didn’t happen. But you’d be forgiven for thinking it did based on the Detroit News article headlined “Germany Hails Tesla Plans To Build Its First Europe Factory:”

Germany on Wednesday hailed Tesla’s decision to build its first European factory in the country, days after the government said it would boost subsidies for buyers of electric cars.

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After I actually read the article, it’s clear they meant “A Few German Government Officials,” including the economy minister and a spokesperson for the German government.

Is the entire country of Germany so psyched about having a gigafactory next to the (boondoggle of an) airport that it’s willing to give Tesla some compensation for its decision to set up shop there? According to the entire nation of Germ...I Mean, the economy minister, “So far, subsidies haven’t been discussed.” That “so far” is doing an awful lot of work there.

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5th Gear: Daimler Needs To Save A Billion Bucks

Daimler was slow to catch on to EVs, and now its catching up to them. The company plans to tighten its belt, particularly around the Mercedes-Benz waistline. From Reuters:

Tougher emissions rules will hit Daimler’s profits in 2020 and 2021, prompting the German carmaker to seek more than 1 billion euros ($1.1 billion) in savings from cutting staff costs at its Mercedes-Benz business by the end of 2022, it said on Thursday.

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Management positions will be cut by around 10%, and company said it would also seek more than 300 million euros from cutting personnel costs - plus another 250 million euros in fixed costs - at its trucks business.

Daimler said it needed to sell more electric vehicles to meet tougher European Union rules which force carmakers to cut carbon dioxide emissions from cars by 37.5% by 2030 compared with 2021 levels, and following a 40% cut between 2007 and 2021.

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The story of the last 20 years or so is nearly every automaker got hooked on the unsustainable SUV and crossover boom (both from an environmental and pricing perspective) and the withdrawal period for everyone involved is going to be painful.

Reverse: Apollo 12 Lifts Off

Quick: name one astronaut on Apollo 12.

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Neutral: Will Car Companies Sell More EVs By Focusing On Their Performance?

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About the author

Aaron Gordon

Senior Reporter, Investigations & Technology, Jalopnik