Lower Prices Cause Electric-Car Shortages In CA: Shock, Surprise!

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2012 Honda Fit EV

2012 Honda Fit EV

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"Electric cars sold out!" isn't a phrase you'll have heard often over the past few years, but that's just what's happened in Southern California recently.

Recent lease deals putting electric vehicles within reach of many consumers have led to a rush of sales--and certain models have sold out quickly.

Among those, reports the Los Angeles Times, are the Fiat 500e and Honda Fit EV.

The latter has been a slow burner since its launch, but Honda's new $259-per-month lease deal--including unlimited mileage and a free charger--has apparently piqued buyers' interests.

No longer unloved

"It's incredible, especially since we haven't had any foot traffic or interest in the car in six months," Jeff Fletcher, sales manager at Honda of Santa Monica, told the Los Angeles Times.

His dealership had three Fit EVs sitting unloved and unsold before the new lease deal took effect.

"I'm not even sure we'll have enough cars for the people on the waiting list."

Waiting lists are underway at Fiat too, with its new 500e. The car hasn't even hit dealer lots yet, but demand is far beyond what Fiat--and its dealers--were expecting.

The LA Times also quoted Scott Brown, a Chrysler Group spokesman, as saying that he had been told by dealerships that "they've never seen interest like this" on any vehicle before.

Some dealers, he said, are no longer accepting orders for the Fiat 500e because they're not confident they'll be able to deliver the cars.

The 500e is available for $199 per month on lease. Another priced at the same point is the Chevy Spark EV, arriving at California and Oregon dealers this month. It isn't hard to imagine Chevy facing similar issues once the car arrives.

Honda's problem is bigger than Fiat's though, the Japanese automaker having only limited supply of its electric Fit. Just 1,100 cars are planned for this year and 2014, and the new lease deals have brought in more interested buyers than the meagre supply can satiate.

It could prove to be something of a problem for Honda, which now faces alienating buyers interested in the car but utterly unable to get hold of one.

2013 Fiat 500e electric car, Los Angeles drive event, April 2013

2013 Fiat 500e electric car, Los Angeles drive event, April 2013

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Nissan to benefit?

Those buyers could move to Nissan, which has its own tempting deals on the 2013 Leaf--a car benefitting from the lower prices associated with its Tennessee-based production and entry-level model. May was one of Nissan's best months yet for Leaf sales, with 2,138 cars sold.

A $199 per month lease might have something to do with that, though it isn't clear what proportion of Leafs went to lease customers or outright buyers.

Unlike Fiat and Honda, Nissan's supply isn't really limited--though extra demand has cut the company down to 40 days of inventory--apparently tighter than for some of its other models.

What each of the stories suggests though is something pretty much everyone has known all along--there's not a lot wrong with the cars themselves, they just needed to be priced right.

A wave of lower prices and great lease deals has clearly opened electric vehicles up to buyers waiting only for lower pricing. It's essentially a price war, and it's great for buyers--provided they live in the select few states where these cars are available.

Just what would electric car sales be like if pricing really came down?...


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Comments (61)
  1. "Just what would electric car sales be like if pricing really came down?..."

    Or, if they were sold in more than a few select markets?

  2. Agreed. They're worried Honda will alienate buyers by not having enough vehicles, but what about the rest of us throughout the country being alienated by ALL of the EV manufacturers.

  3. Sadly, I think it's safe to say a lot of ICE primary car companies have little interest in selling electric cars because of....big surprise....the oil companies. And with states like Texas and North Carolina giving Tesla a hard time about selling their cars online, it's going to be an uphill battle. Sadly, Tesla is alone in the Electric only market, having a competitor at this point would actually help avoid these legal issues. CODA had some potential, but as we all saw with their bankruptcy, that potential is now gone. Hopefully someone will come along with another ground up BEV manufacturer, we desperately need it.

  4. Do you mean besides Nissan?

  5. Cities need to start buying EV's for their fleet cars. Given an average municipal fleet car doesn't travel very far away, it would be ideal for this niche.
    The economics make a ton of sense there.

  6. That is absolutely correct. I am not sure why Nissan and other manufacturers are not working on deals like that. Seeing a fleet of electric car in your city will boost the demand for those cars, once people see that they are great cars with a really low price (if you do the math correctly, they are much cheaper than ICE).

  7. Price point at 20K seems to sell like mad.
    Lease point at 250 seems to move them too.

  8. Sounds like consUmers are starting to look at cars like economists. Cost per mile, 5 year cost of ownership...

    When you reconcile those perspectives to these lease prices, electric becomes a no-brainer.

    Can't wait for charging stations on the NY'S Thruway!

  9. "Can't wait for charging stations on the NY'S Thruway!'
    Yeah, what are waiting for?

  10. I need to test drive these cars to see what they are like. As a Volt owner, I can't comprehend why anybody would drive anything else. I get range anxiety over whether or not I'm going to use my whole charge and use....gasp...gasoline. I can't imagine what it would be like driving a car that is done when the battery is depleted. I don't have that concern with the Volt. Just use....puke.....gas. But at least I can keep going.

  11. Your Volt blows away all those cars in performance, except for the Chevy Spark...

  12. [ I can't imagine what it would be like driving a car that is done when the battery is depleted]
    You can find out by running yours out of gas!

  13. The difference is that you can call a tow truck and get couple of gas easily so you can go on with your merry way. With BEVs, you call a tow truck and if you are lucky, you might be able to get a quick charge for about 10 miles and then you still need a charge somewhere for a long time...

    Like I said, beside Tesla, NO OTHER BEV can cruise at 75+mph for at least 1 hour with heat on. NONE, NOT a single one!!!!!

  14. Yes I'm not stupid we all know the difference, the point is sensible people don't usually run out of gas or run the EV car out of power. Staying within ones range is something we all do at one level or another its just some set the bench mark at their perceived ideal and any mode of transport that doesn't match it is inferior in their eyes only. It gets back to ones needs, not perceived needs but actual needs when contemplating choosing a shorter range vehicle.

  15. Well, one major issue with BEV is that if you happen to forgot charging the car, you are "screwed". But if you forgot to put gas in your car, then usually you can spend 5 mins to get some gas and go on your way.

    That is the technology and infrastructure piece that I keep bring up. In that sense, BEV is very limiting and "unforgiving" for any owner's mistake.

  16. Xiaolong Li yes that's right but to use one you have to adjust or adapt just the way we have adapted to changes in air travel. There's no point in comparing the idiosyncrasies of EVs with ICEs just because they both have wheels and run on roads. If you prefer unlimited range over some of the advantages of an EV that's OK but to continually slag off electrics because they haven't quite come up to your expectations doesn't mean they can't be successful as they are. They will evolve only if (by your definition) the inferior ones sold today are bought. Have you ever forgotten to charge your cell phone or have you gotten used to its charge cycle and think nothing of it?

  17. If I forgot to charge my cellphone, I can have a conversion by pluggin it in while talking or swap out a battery within 10 seconds... I can't keep the function of the EV going by doing either today.

    You are right, I have no support or respect for substandard BEVs.

  18. Dan; my SO's car is gas and she has run out 3 times in the past 7 years so don't even been to think your Volt is immune. more than 35,000 miles on my LEAF and have NEVER been stranded

  19. That is b/c you have been paying more attention to your electric gauge rather than your gas gauge.

    Volt is a "dual source" car, which by defintion can run on either source of energy. So, in a way, it has to run out of both before it gets stranded...

  20. LEAF owners won't be stranded either. Tow trucks are 1 call away.

    And there are few examples of how LEAF owners get stranded in the SF Bay Area. In fact, one of those even blogged about it on plugincars.com

  21. I think my point is being missed. I can leave my house and not worry that if something comes up, I can go cross country if I needed to. After the battery is dead, I can just stop for gas after that gets low. FWIW, if the gas tank does run dry after the battery is depleted, the Volt will go to battery power and give you some extra miles in a last effort to get some evil petrol. I

  22. There are more comments in this thread
  23. Sales would be quite good if prices came down.

  24. well, this is what i have said, all along. price and not battery distance is the only reason why evs have not taken over yet.

    and until we can make the gradual manufacturing change in going from to the other, we will experience these types of problems, that are common any time one is making a drastic change.

    manufacturers need some time to make a huge change from making gas cars to making electric cars.

    but i still think that my original 10-year estimate still will hold true for new car sales. and in that time, we will see hybrids pretty much vanish, as totally electric cars take over.

  25. I think it more likely regular Ice only cars will disappear leaving a mix of hybrids and full EVs. Over the last decade hybrids have provided the transition to where we are today by offering higher efficiency and comparable range to the straight Ice vehicle so can easily replace it. Until EV's match hybrid range, quick refill and price they will only be suitable for certain types of use. This of course doe's not take into account societal changes.

  26. are we talking new car sales or used cars on the road ?

    the big problem with hybrids is the complications. it has both gas and electric parts in it.

    people want simplification - less cost and hassle getting things fixed at the shop.

    and all that smog stuff in a gas car. an ev is so much simpler.

    the snowball has definitely been falling these past 2 years. in 8 more, i think the evs will be the largest segment of the new car market, if they can transfer production at that pace.

  27. I think a mid sized sedan BEV with 120mile range and 6.6kw charging would fit my need over my volt. Or a cuv with a similar 120mile range.

    Volts are popular for many reasons but will be hurt by the above two types of BEVs. Chevy should make both of them before tesla does.

  28. "people want simplification - less cost and hassle getting things fixed at the shop."

    I think people can care less if it is complext or simple. Most people only care if it is easy to use and has good quality.

    Even with more parts, some hybrids are known to have way better quality than a less complex ICE. Samething can be said for a well designed PHEV vs. a badly designed BEV.

    I think most people would choose a Volt over a CODA.

  29. evs have way less maintenance. and people do care about the cost and the hassle (time).

  30. Okay, let us talk about that.

    BEVs have way less maintenance than ICE cars. But compared to PHEV, how much less is it?

    1. It depends on % of electric miles.
    2. Even the newer ICE cars don't require too much so called "maintanence".

    If a PHEV is 75% electric (mine is higher), then a 15,000 miles/yr PHEV would only have about 3,750 gas miles per year. That would require only 1 oil change at most. What else is there to "service"?

    So, the difference between a BEV and PHEV in that case is only $40 and 15 mins per year.

    @ 100k mile, engine is only 25k miles old.

    I believe most people will be gladly to pay that for less anxiety or the "hassle" of pre-plan all your driving route so there are available charging stations.

  31. it still has an internal combustion engine as an "extra".

    it is highly unneeded by most drivers.

    btw, you have mentioned several times about "until there is a charging infrastructure".

    if by that, you mean something similar to the gas stations that we have now, then i dont think we will ever see that.

    people wont use them often enough that anyone could stay in business.

    the only infrastructure that makes business sense is for the big rigs. and it could also be used by cars, when needed - which for the most part would be vacationers.

  32. There are more comments in this thread
  33. Lower pricing is one half of the sales equation. Longer range is the other half. By the time the Gen III Tesla comes out, EVs will be flying out of the showrooms. Could you imagine how many 200 mile LEAFs they could sell right now?

  34. no way close to 1/2. todays cars at 100 miles at same prices would almost eclipse gas cars overnight. evs with unlimited range at today's prices would still not sell nearly as well as gas cars.

    the price is simply too much for the average joe.

  35. I'd have to think a large portion of new cars are more expensive than the $18,800 (post fed and state credits) cost of a Leaf. But after having mine for 2 years I'd recommend people wait until Nissan gets their battery problems worked out. I'm down to about 55 miles range which sucks. So, range range range

  36. I have said this about 1 year ago.

    The first auto maker that can make a BEV that goes 200 miles (in all conditions, high speed with heat usage) that cost less than $30k which also sit 5-people and does 0-60mph in less than 7 seconds that also has quick charge will be the Model T of EVs...

  37. the problem with this is that it comes from a car enthusiast.

    0 to 60 in 7 seconds is not important to most people, except boys who want to race their cars.

    what percentage of the time are 5 people in a car ? i think i saw that once last year !!!

    the overwhelming amount of driving is done by 1 person in a car, going considerably less than 100 miles in a day.

    that is the reality that we need to conquer. and there is only one thing that currently stands in the way - PRICE, PRICE, AND PRICE.

  38. "what percentage of the time are 5 people in a car ? i think i saw that once last year !!!"

    I agree!!! But if I could have $1 that everytime someone told me that Volt won't work for them b/c it only sits 4 instead of 5, I would be able to buy a Tesla S by now...

    Remember that Lyle guy who traded in his Volt for C-Max energi so that news got repeated over and over again?

    I have said this already. If we are having problem filling up the HOV lanes, then why would anyone worry about sitting 5 people.

    Now, 0-60 in 7 second is basically a family sedan benchmark. Just about every V-6 family sedan can do that today. All models of Tesla S are capable of that.

    Just b/c you have that capability, it doesn't mean you use it all the time.

  39. Even with the current $199/month lease rate and sub $20k BEVs, they are still less than 0.5% of the total sales...

    Hybrids are around 3.4%

    Those numbers spreak for themselves..

  40. @Xiaolong: And do you expect those percentages to stay the same in the future?

  41. With the current technology/price/infrastructure or the rate of which they are improving. I don't expect plugins to exceed hybrids for at least another 10 years.

    Like I said, high MPG hybrids are the biggest threat to plugins. As long as gas is around the current price, I don't see it happening.

    This is ONLY b/c I don't see any automakers coming out with a sub $30k midsize sedan that can travel 200 miles in all conditions.

    Tesla is making a plan for it but the price might be higher and the car is potentially smaller than midsize.

    GM has some kind of claim on a 200 mile EV, but I will believe it when I see it.

    No other automaker (not even Nissan) is making any kind of claim that they can do that.

  42. you cant sell something that isnt there. so looking at the percentage sales today is a somewhat useless figure.

    we are still at the infant stage with production.

    and it is not just the problem of how to produce more.

    the more complicated part of the issue is how to gradually reduce the gasoline infrastructure, and make room for the ev infrastructure.

    my original guess was 10 years, so i have 8 years left.

    no one else agrees with my optimistic outlook.

    and it may turn out to be a lot longer - i guess we will just need to wait and see. my crystal ball is not always correct. but i made the statement, and will stick with it.

  43. "the more complicated part of the issue is how to gradually reduce the gasoline infrastructure, and make room for the ev infrastructure."

    I think you are over simpilfying the situation. Hybrids have been around for over 10 years now and they are way more choices than the plugins. However, they are still less than 5% of the total sales. In fact, there are hybrids in just about every segement except for minivans. But they are still NOT taking over like a storm with existing infrastructure.

    I think until battery is cheaper enough, range is long enough and charging technology and infrastructure is ready, we won't be there. 10 years is NOT enough, IMHO. 20 years with a new generation of buyers maybe sufficient.

  44. i am not oversimplifying, because i said it was not simple. it will take some time. you could be correct at 20 years ? no way to know for sure.

    but your example of hybrids is not a good one. they are too much like a gas car. and they were also more expensive than an ice, correct ?

    the bev is an absolutely different animal. it will replace the gas car in a way that a hybrid never could, nor was it ever considered to do so.

    the only question is how long ?

  45. Some hybrids are very price competitive to ICE, especially the diesel version.

    Now, BEVs won't be able to replace ICEs until technology and infastructure are both ready. Neither is close to be ready...

  46. There are more comments in this thread
  47. Regardless how often 5 people are in a car, those times are likely to exist. Granted, it is usually only 1, but when you need those seats, you know you need them. Isn't that why most of the vehicles sold in the U.S. can handle at least 5 people?

    Is that, possibly why the "Smart-for-2", just to cite an example, isn’t necessarily all that smart (and not very popular here either), especially as an only car?

  48. for those of you interested in battery technology, here is a pretty good one from popular mechanics.


  49. most of these newer lithium technologies is increasing by a factor of 10 such things as capacity, recharging time, weight.

    all things that will have a dramatic difference in the PRICE of an ev.

    but it will take some time, in that they are not gonna release this stuff until they have a business plan to match.

    they have a huge amount of gas cars and a huge infrastructure to make them.

    so they cant let an (ev that recharges in a half hour, goes 300 miles per charge and costs the same) into the market place, until they can deal with it.

    so as they gradually change from gas to ev, they will gradually release new developments which will coincide with their business plan of switching over.

  50. I'm curious EV Enthusiast, do you own and run an EV?

  51. no. i had to replace my truck about 3 years ago. i was hoping that the evs would make it out sooner. coda was supposed to come out even before nissan introduced the leaf. so it was many years behind.

    but i am a non-issue, in the sense that i only drive 3,000 miles a year.

    my only concern is to delete all these oil wars, pollution, etc. and everything else that is caused because of use of oil.

    which is why i am so big on getting to the average joe.

    cuz not until ir makes sense for the average joe to buy an ev, will we be able to move away from oil. all the teslas in the world mean nothing. it has to be the leafs, the focuses, the fits, etc. - stuff the average joe can buy.

    and like it or not, PRICE, PRICE, AND PRICE is their game.

  52. "most of these newer lithium technologies is increasing by a factor of 10 such things as capacity, recharging time, weight."

    Most of those so called 10x improvement technology are at least 10 years out. And usually those "lab claims" are about 1/2 to 1/3 effective in real world with all conditions considered.

  53. some of them seem to be less than 10 years. and there are a lot of them, now. we are not just talking about one possible miracle child.

    many of them are offshoots of the already existing lithium infrastructure. so we were not starting from scratch.

    10 years from now, i think we will have SIGNIFICANT battery improvements.

    the range will no doubt increase some. but i am more concerned about the initial cost, and the battery life, the battery size and weight.

    i think it is being very shortsighted to think that not much will occur for the next 10 years, regarding batteries.

    the car as it exists today, is already good enough. it is the battery that is most important for us to make improvements upon.

  54. i have stated this several times in the past, but not for quite awhile, since i have not really posted much here in the past year.

    but we are not suffering from lack of technology. that could and would (hopefully will) be here when the time comes that the bigwigs want it.

    we need to understand that there is still resistance by some to getting out of the oil business.

    and just about all the big car companies except nissan, are at least wanting to move forward in different varying amounts.

    this is all because of the huge infrastructure that i have described. they have been building gas cars for 100 years.

    it is simply gonna take time to gradually completely change things over.

    we simply are not privy to this overall business plan.

  55. this recent price drop by nissan is quite promising, at least i hope. nissan seems to want to move forward with all their engines revving. perhaps i should say motors spinning !!!

    hopefully this will SPARK some of the others to move at faster than a snail's pace !!

  56. I don't hold your view. I believe 20 years is more realistic. Battery technology might be ready in 10 years, but it would take another 5-7 years on top of that to get the price down to competitive level. Infastructure is another thing.

    Like I said, how fast can we recharge a large battery pack? Battery pack might be ready, but can we get the grid ready for that? A 200 miles EV in all weather condition/speed would need at least 70KWh. To charge that thing in 10 mins would require 400KW power per station without loss. It would probably require at least 500KW of power per station. That is 0.5 MW. I don't see that part being ready soon...

  57. i wont debate the 10-20 year argument. mine was a guess, and yours is a guess. but we arent talking about anything different, except how long ?

    with regard to charging infrastructure, i have already addressed that in another post.

    we will never have what you think we need, cuz we will never need it.

    you are making the mistake of thinking that we need to duplicate what we already have.

    that is not gonna happen.

  58. There are more comments in this thread
  59. Let me get this straight in my mind. In California they have this mandate that says in order for a car manufacturer to sell cars, they must sell a minimum number of EV's. So the car manufacturers must sell EV's in California (and any other state that has a similar mandate)...

  60. and must sell a minimum number. So if they sell for a profit the prices will not be competitive so not enough EV's will be sold. So they must reduce the price (below profitibility ) so they will sell. Is that what is happening?

  61. Yes and No.

    Yes, it is true for some automakers such as Toyota, Honda and Fit, to some extent GM and Ford. But for others such as Nissan and Mitsubishi and Tesla, they will sell as much EVs as they can since they believe that is "their niche".

    Typically (Tesla is an exception), automaker want to jump into a new market when they are NOT very competitive in the existing market. (ex: Nissan)

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