TUPELO • If General Motors’ plans come to fruition, by 2035, its entire fleet of vehicles, which include the Chevrolet, Buick, Cadillac and GMC brands, will be all electric.
“General Motors believes in an all-electric future,” said GM Executive Vice President Mark Reuss in January. “Although that future won’t happen overnight, GM is committed to driving increased usage and acceptance of electric vehicles through no-compromise solutions that meet our customers’ needs.”
However, demand has to meet those expectations. Last year sales of all electric vehicles sales – from hybrids to battery electric vehicles – made up only 3% of sales in the U.S.
Rudy Dossett, of Dossett Big 4 in Tupelo, said GM’s plan is aggressive, and he’s gotten some interest from potential buyers of the upcoming Hummer EV coming in 2023. But other than that, interest in other potential electric or hybrid vehicles is minimal.
“Cadillac has said every one of its vehicles will be electric by 2030,” Dossett said. “But I just don’t see that. I like gas. Most people I know like gas.”
But electric is the future, and all GM dealers like Dossett will have to have their dealerships “electrified” to have infrastructure in place for charging stations. Auto analysts have said those investments will reach into the six figures or more, depending on the size of the dealerships.
“We’ll have it done by the fourth quarter of this year,” Dossett said. “But it’s hard to say how sales will go. Right now, they haven’t even set the prices for the electric vehicles. It’s all TBD – to be decided. Gas vehicles outsell the hybrids 8 or 9 to 1.”
Like much of the U.S., Mississippi is still truck and SUV country. These large vehicles for more than 70% of new-vehicles sales annually. While electric and hybrid trucks and SUVs are on the horizon, there’s no guarantee they’ll be as popular.
“I’m not sure everybody is ready to swallow that electric pill quite yet,” Dossett said.
Tesla has been the poster child of electric vehicle manufacturing in recent years, but the rest of the automotive world isn’t ceding anything to the upstart, forging ahead with their own plans to grab market share.
For now, GM only offers one electric vehicle, the extended range Chevy Bolt, but plans to roll out about 20 vehicles in the next couple of years.
GM isn’t alone, however. The world’s automakers have all committed to some kind of move toward electric and hybrid vehicles, forgoing the gasoline- and diesel-powered vehicles they’ve relied on for more than a century.
Toyota said it plans to launch three electric vehicles this year in the U.S., including two battery electric vehicles (BEVs) and one plug-in electric vehicle (PEV).
“We continue to be leaders in electrification that began with our pioneering introduction of the Prius nearly 25 years ago,” said Bob Carter, Toyota Motor North America executive vice president of sales. “Toyota’s new electrified product offerings will give customers multiple choices of powertrain that best suits their needs.”
Toyota seeks to grab more of the alternative fuel vehicle market, where it already enjoys a 40% share, including a 75% share of the fuel cell market and a 64% share of hybrids and plug-ins. By 2025, Toyota’s goal is to have 40% of new vehicle sales be electrified models, and by 2030 expects that to increase to nearly 70%.
Volvo models will use either hybrid, plug-in or pure battery-electric drivetrains, and Volkswagen AG said it will invest $20 billion to develop electrified products. Every model sold by its various brands – including VW, Audi, Bentley and Lamborghini – will be offered with at least one battery-based drivetrain option.
Globally, electric vehicles sales are faring better. Last year sales increased by 39% to 3.1 million units, compared with a sales decline of 14% of the total passenger car market in 2020. In China, electric car sales were 12% higher. Both in Europe and China, electric car sales reached about 1.3 million in 2020, which translates into a share of electric cars in total sales of about 10% in 2020 in Europe, and 5% in China. Electric vehicles sales worldwide reached 4% market share, nearly double that of the U.S. Many industry experts believe the number of EVs sold globally could rise to 30 million by 2020 and will account for nearly half of all passenger cars sold globally by 2030.
Joe Marshall, who owns a dozen automobile dealerships that include domestic and international brands, sees a future in electric vehicles, but perhaps not as quickly as manufacturers hope.
“I think there’s going to be a time when people want to leave a safer planet and also save money, and they’ll save money by the fact that gas is going back up, and suddenly an electric vehicle is more acceptable,” he said. “I think it’s getting ready to boom. These manufacturers are competitive with Tesla – they know what Tesla is doing. There’s not a holy grail that one manufacturer has that no one doesn’t. I think Tesla might have a small lead on some manufacturers and a larger lead on others.”
Marshall sees worldwide automotive sales as a zero-sum game. With some 80 to 85 million vehicles sold annually, electric vehicle sales will replace gas and diesel-powered vehicles, so manufacturers have to decide what consumers will turn to in the future.
“Sales aren’t growing from 85 million to 90 million or 100 million, so it’s a matter of where those sales will come from,” he said.
Scooter Carr, Honda sales manager at Dossett Big 4 House of Honda in Tupelo, said there is some interest in hybrid sales, especially with parents of college students.
“We sell a lot of Insight Hybrids because they’re reliable and there’s little to no maintenance and that that’s what these parents want for their kids,” he said.
But he said sales will remain relatively low until gas prices rise.
“That will change when that ‘2’ changes to a ‘3’ or ‘4,’” he said, nodding to a gas station’s sign with fuel at $2.50 a gallon.