Big automakers are ushering in the next electric vehicle era

Updated: Nov 7

While Tesla still commands the top spot as the best selling electric vehicle automaker in the U.S., a bumper crop of new cars from the world’s largest car companies are set to challenge Elon Musk’s EV dominance.


Ford’s fully electric F-150 “Lightning”. Image Credit:Ford


Last week, Ford and Kia both announced the time frame for their new electric vehicles to make their U.S. debuts in early to mid-2022 and other big automakers still have reveals waiting in the wings.


Toyota will soon unveil its first fully electric vehicle for the U.S. market and General Motors is set to give Chevrolet’s flagship Bolt EV some higher end company as the company’s Cadillac line shows off the Lyriq and Celestiq, while GMC’s all-electric Hummer will also make a 2021 appearance.


Early data from the European market showing a breakout year for Volkswagen’s line of electric vehicles could presage what’s in store for Tesla in the U.S.


Across the Atlantic, Volkswagen is racing ahead of Tesla in sales, according to data from Schmidt Automotive Research, cited by Forbes.


For the 12 month period from May 2020 to April 2021, Volkswagen Group claimed the top spot in terms of sales with the Renault/Nissan alliance, Hyundai/Kia, and Stellantis moving ahead of Tesla in sales.


EV sales in Europe grew to 856,000 from May 2020 to April 2021, and the Volkswagen Group accounted for 206,400 of them, according to the data cited by Forbes.


Those numbers — and the onslaught of new electric vehicle offerings hitting the US market over the next year, don’t bode well for Tesla. And it’s likely part of the reason for a recent downturn among other electric vehicle manufacturers.


These are companies like Nikola, Fisker, Lordstown Motors, Canoo, and Arrival, which lost a collective $40 billion this year after they tapped public markets through a controversial financial mechanism known as a special purpose acquisition company, according to a report from Bloomberg.


The great contender to take Tesla’s crown in the US is undoubtedly Ford, which has managed to take a spot among the top five electric vehicles sold in the U.S. with the appearance of its Mustang Mach-E model despite only appearing on the market late last year.


However, it’s not the electric Mustang that is expected to give Tesla a run for its money. Instead, it’s the workhorse that launched last week — the electric F-150 that could keep Tesla’s executive team up at night.


Ford’s truck is the best-selling vehicle in America and its electrifying launch last week brought rave reviews from self-professed “car guy”, President Joe Biden along with a host of others.


Consumers are already lining up to buy Ford’s latest EV offering, with 45,000 reservations booked for the new truck in less than two days, as NBC reported.


That’s on pace to beat year-to-date sales of Tesla’s Model Y offering, but it still means that Ford has a way to go to top the well over 65,000 vehicles Tesla sold so far in 2021.


That said, the F-150 is America’s vehicle and it’s the one that could prove to be the tipping point for legions of consumers reluctant to make the switch.


And at the same time that automakers are surging into the electric vehicle market, the President is planning to juice spending on infrastructure to support their roll out. The infrastructure bill proposed by Biden includes $174 billion to promote electric vehicles.


These billions in federal dollars that are up for Congressional approval could be matched by spending from the private sector on infrastructure that can only further allay the fears of Americans that have been resisting the electric flow.


Such changes (and the flood of cash that can usher them in) will be needed to successfully manage the transition over the next 14 years if the U.S. is to meet its targets for getting rid of internal combustion engines by 2050, as The New York Times noted.


“It would not shock me if the transition eventually starts accelerating,” Dr. Christopher Knittel of M.I.T. told the Times. “Right now it can be inconvenient to own an electric vehicle if there are no charging stations around. But if we do get to a world where there are charging stations everywhere and few gas stations around, suddenly it’s less convenient to own a conventional vehicle.”


Movement from automakers to electrify their most popular vehicles are a critical first step — something that Ford’s chief executive, Jim Farley, acknowledged.


“There’s lots of different kinds of sodas; there’s only one Coke. There’s lots of different electric pickup trucks, but there’s only one F-150,” Farley told The Atlantic.

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