Editorial: Did anyone ask car buyers what they want?


The Lima News



Automakers around the world are committed to investing at least $90 billion — (that’s billion, with a “B”) — into electric vehicles the next few years.

The irony is local car dealers carry very few all-electric cars on their lots and only a handful of hybrids because few customers are buying them.

What gives?

It sounds like Motown and its cohorts are making a $90 billion wager that they know what the consumer is going to want in the future more so than the actual consumer does.

Or, could it be we have a game of follow-the-leader going on: What Volkswagen does is imitated by General Motors and lurking in GM’s shadow is Ford followed by … well, you get the idea: monkey see, monkey do – and we haven’t even talked yet about the automakers’ investments in self-driving vehicles.

Before you say this may be an over-simplistic way of looking at things, remember, we’re dealing with an industry that’s a poor student of history. We’ve seen automakers take it on the chin before for producing vehicles that no one wanted to buy. Can you say Pinto, Corvair, Gremlin, Aztek, Echo, Flex and Reatta? Or should we just talk about the automotive bailout?

Electric cars have never fully captured the imagination of Americans like the internal combustion engine has. A father and son tinkering with their car’s engine is a Norman Rockwell moment for many.

Yet, what’s not to like about the possibility of getting 70 or more miles per gallon or cutting emissions into the atmosphere all the way down to zero? Who doesn’t like the idea of making the country more energy independent?

That’s the allure of electric cars, or at least hybrids — a combination of electric motors and internal combustion engines. That’s what the automakers believe will bring the buyers into the showroom.

It also why automakers see this as a time to enact changes or go the route of a Studebaker.

The big hurdle we see for electric cars is affordability. Can the automakers – or will the automakers – produce an electric car that good ol’ Joe Sixpack can afford? And when we say “afford,” we’re not talking a low car payment with a 10-year loan. Remember, the next generation of buyers are debt-saddled millennials, many of whom work at jobs that pay a fast-food wage.

This is where some people feel the idea of ride-sharing has legs: Instead of owning a car, Mrs. Sixpack and Ms. Millennial will just text their friendly Uber, Ford, GM or Google dealer, who will then send out a self-driving convertible to take them to their hair appointment – on time!

Sound a little crazy?

Maybe so.

But then who would have ever thought we would pay $1.50 for a bottle of water or have telephones that we use for everything but talking.

Crazy?

Maybe not.

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