Former Ford CEO Has a Blunt Warning for the EV Industry

Legacy carmakers have begun to focus their attention on EVs, a subset of the auto industry that could become the future of the sector. Despite the challenges in place to increase EV adoption, car companies and analysts alike are convinced it will happen soon. 

General Motors has plans to be fully electric by 2035, with Cadillac going all-electric by 2030. Volvo plans to be fully electric by 2030 and Toyota is shooting to reach the same goal (at least for Europe, China and North America).

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But the transition, former Ford CEO Mark Fields said, might take longer than these brands would like. 

“We’re at a bit of a make-or-break moment for the industry when it comes to EVs. You’ve got a lot of capacity, a lot of new products,” Fields told CNBC, adding that EV inventories are beginning to exceed those inventories for internal combustion engines. But “EV demand is not keeping up with production.”

Fields is confident that the shift to EVs will happen. He just doesn’t think it’ll happen as quickly as has been predicted. 

“If you look at history in industries, when you think of Netflix, when they went from sending DVDs to streaming them, there was a big issue around ‘can that company make that transition.’ I think they were successful, but the key there is they made lives easier for consumers,” Fields said. “Right now, with EVs, If you’re making, at least initially, life more difficult for consumers, they usually take the path of least resistance.”

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And the two main ways that EVs are just more difficult than combustion engines are cost and charging infrastructure that, though improving, is still cause for concern among potential adopters. 

A new Autolist survey found that the three top hurdles to EV adoption are price, range and charging location. 42% of respondents said EVs are too expensive and 39% expressed concern over range. 

“As the market matures and EVs themselves become more capable, we’re definitely starting to see more shoppers view them as real-world possibilities,” Corey Lydstone, CEO of Autolist, said in a statement. “Unfortunately, those gains are largely limited to higher-income households. It’s clear from our survey that making EVs affordable for all consumers will be essential to their widespread adoption.”

Of course, some progress is being made on all three of these fronts. Through a combination of tax credits and continuous price cuts, potential buyers in California can get a Tesla for as little as $25,000. 

And several of these legacy carmakers recently partnered up with Tesla to gain access to the company’s ever-expanding Supercharger network, a big step toward settling fears of both range and charging accessibility. 

“It’s going to happen,” Fields said, “but there’s a mismatch amongst the industry and analysts around how fast that’s going to happen.”

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