2013 Nissan Leaf electric car tested as taxi in New York City, April 2013Enlarge Photo
When companies want to sell more of something, they market it. Now, at long last, electric cars are about to get the same treatment.
Following an announcement at the New York International Auto Show last week, 16 major automakers are joining forces with seven states to promote sales of electric vehicles to consumers.
The Alliance for Automobile Manufacturers announced it would launch two separate marketing campaigns – Drive Change, Drive Electric and Buyers Wanted – in seven northeastern states that have signed on to follow California's electric vehicle mandate.
2018 New York Auto Show Plug-in Electric Car Floor MapEnlarge Photo
The Alliance consists of BMW, Fiat-Chrysler, Ford, General Motors, Jaguar-Land Rover, Mazda, Mercedes-Benz, Mitsubishi, Porsche, Toyota, Volkswagen, and Volvo. Most of those automakers sell some form of plug-in vehicle in the United States.
New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Vermont and New Jersey are the seven states where the marketing campaign will be directed. All seven, along with Oregon and Maryland, have passed laws requiring automakers to sell the same percentage of electric vehicles in those states as they do in California. So far, that has been a tall order.
The marketing effort is a first since automakers began producing electric cars in 2011. EV advocates have long noted that consumers need more education about the benefits of electrics, and these ads will provide it, focusing on performance, affordability, choice, and convenience.
BMW i 'Born Electric' World Tour hits New York CityEnlarge Photo
Automakers have invested more than $19 billion in developing more than 50 plug-in vehicles and battery technology in the United States to comply with those laws.Today those electrics account for a little more than one percent of all the cars sold nationwide.
Critics often cite low sales numbers compared with conventional cars to claim that there is no natural demand for electric cars, and that their production is driven entirely by the state mandates. Yet automakers fuel demand for other cars constantly with advertising and other marketing, yet they have produced hardly any advertising for electrics.
Part of the reason automakers have decided to put some marketing muscle behind promoting electric cars now is that EV sales requirements are ramping up.
Massachusetts Electric Car PlateEnlarge Photo
Regulations in California and the nine other states that follow the Golden State's rules now require EV credits equal to 4.5 percent of each automakers overall sales in each state.
In addition, automakers can no longer count sales in other states toward the mandate in California.
Since nine other states, mostly in the Northeast, follow California emissions rules, automakers on paper have had to sell EVs in those states as well.
In practice, according to our research, it hasn't worked that way. The travel provision allowed automakers to meet EV sales requirement in one state (e.g. California) with sales in another state (e.g. Maine, or another of the northeastern states) that followed the pollution standards set by the California Air Resources Board.
Instead, automakers have so far focused all their effort on selling EVs in California, where buyers are more accustomed to seeing EVs on the road, and where charging infrastructure is more plentiful.
In Northeastern States, such as Connecticut and New York, that has left BMW i3s, Teslas, and Nissan Leafs as almost the only readily available battery electric cars,
Plug-in electric cars at PSE+G facility in Newark, New JerseyEnlarge Photo
Without the travel provision, automakers will have to ensure that consumers in the Northeast buy more electric cars.
Now that the Trump Administration is rolling back fuel economy and emissions rules, it is setting up a direct conflict with California's electric vehicle mandates. We likely won't know the outcome for several years after what now seems and almost inevitable battle in court.