There have been assertions from industry experts that early adopters have all been served. That’s right, those eager-beaver electric-vehicle customers have acquired their Ford Mustang Mach-Es and Lightnings, etc., hence a drop in EV interest and vehicles now languishing on lots.
“A year and a half ago, we couldn’t build enough EVs,” Ford Canada CEO Bev Goodman told the Automotive News Canada Retail Forum in Toronto, Oct. 23.
“Now there are some cases where inventory is building up on selected vehicle lines, and there’s some cases also where we have the wrong inventory in the wrong places.”
Others are seeing the same thing.
“I think all the early adopters have bought their shiny object,” said Joe McCabe, president of U.S-based AutoForecast Solutions.
Maybe, but I think there should be an asterisk to qualify that blanket statement to the effect of, “the market is out of early adopters .. who are rich.”
As a journalist who has access to press cars, I see no lack of EV interest. The most common reasons people provide for not buying an EV are the cost and lack of selection. Sure, there’s some hesitation about range and especially charging, but if the vehicles are too much money, then the EV conversation is a nonstarter.
The Ford Mustang Mach-E and the Lightning pickups are good examples. These are the only two battery-electric passenger vehicles the automaker sells. The grey Mach-E press car in my driveway right now rings in at $83,000, including destination charges, and the Lightning that will arrive in a week or so is $111,350 with destination. Sure, there are cheaper variations, but I don’t think it’s entirely accurate to say that the market is out of early adopters, or EV interest is falling, because your $100,000 electric pickups aren’t selling.
The challenge for those vehicles is their relevancy once the shine wears off. The Mach-E is a fine car, but, for the money, it’s no bigger or more functional (save for the front trunk) than an Escape CUV. The Mach-E could also be suffering declining sales due to age: It’s a three-year-old design and is probably due for a midcycle refresh.
So, with seemingly plenty of eager customers in the $25,000-$50,000 range who are worn out paying $100 to fill up their fuel tanks, what’s a good next move for Ford? It seems obvious to me to build lower-priced EVs, but I don’t run a car company.
Unlike the early adopters who want to be the first on the block, the next group of EV shoppers, the “early majority,” according to Goodman, are more interested in the practical benefits of EVs. That’s fair.
She recognizes that there will have to be a broad range of vehicle choices, suitable charging infrastructure and government support in place.
McCabe called this next phase the “largest hurdle.” Until high vehicle prices, range anxiety, infrastructure availability and battery-material supply are solved, sales will be a challenge, he said. That’s also fair.
But don’t discount affordable early adoption, which, by McCabe’s own comments at the Retail Forum is what could give experienced EV automakers from China — BYD, Chery, Geely and SAIC, to name just a handful — a foothold in North America if traditional automakers don’t step up with options, and quickly. I think VinFast could be a player if it decides to bring the VF 3 city car to North America.
Goodman faces extra challenges because Ford is invested/committed to building EVs that are not selling well, and there are no lower-priced options for customers, such as an Escape EV.
McCabe is right that the next hurdle will be tough, but that seems especially so for brands that don’t appeal to the next level of early adopters looking to go electric without going broke.
That should be keeping auto executives up at night.