US manufacturers are investing heavily in electric cars

New York, San Francisco, Düsseldorf Joe Biden has been in office for just three weeks. But it works: The traditional manufacturers from Detroit are rushing to announce investments in e-mobility. So does Mary Barra. The boss of General Motors announced on Wednesday that it would invest seven billion dollars in the development of electric cars this year alone.

That is new. With Tesla the USA has the world’s most important driver of electric mobility. But the big traditional corporations slept a long time. Now the successes of Elon Musk have shaken the board members in the Autostadt Detroit after all. When the new administration in Washington took office, the “big three” finally turned around to electromobility.

“President Joe Biden is far more positive about electric cars than the previous administration,” said Michelle Krebs, chief analyst at Cox Automotive. Biden withdrew Donald Trump’s lawsuit against California. Trump, on the other hand, complained that California has its own, stricter emissions requirements. In addition, Biden has rejoined the Paris Climate Agreement and has presented a two-trillion-dollar plan to combat climate change: In addition to tax breaks, this also includes building a nationwide charging network. Federal authorities and the military should drive electrically in the future.

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However, “the USA is still lagging far behind China and Europe,” says cancer industry expert. The proportion of electricity in new cars is currently around two percent. According to the latest figures, Europe has an e-share of ten percent, including plug-in hybrids. But according to the analysts at Evercore, that could soon change rapidly with the new course in Washington. They anticipate that in four years’ time electric cars will account for 25 to 30 percent of new registrations in the USA – that would be up to five million units per year.

GM is the strongest

Even if Detroit initiates the U-turn: So far, Tesla and Volkswagen clearly ahead in the race for electric supremacy. VW will invest around 35 billion in e-mobility by 2024. The Wolfsburg-based company wants to produce 26 million electric cars by 2030. But overall, the US automakers can compete with the Germans. This is the result of a current analysis by the Center of Automotive Management. The German research institute analyzed all manufacturers in terms of their innovative strength in terms of electromobility, in categories such as range, charging power, acceleration or power storage capacity.

According to the innovation ranking, GM is the strongest among the “big three”. The group was able to make up two places compared to the previous year. Also Fiat Chrysler and Ford improved, but are still disappointingly far behind with 14th and 17th place. However: also Daimler and BMW only make it into midfield.

In Detroit, under Barra’s leadership, GM was the first to focus on the new world beyond the internal combustion engine. By 2035, all cars that come from GM’s plants are to be battery-powered. Barra wants to sell one million electric cars annually by 2025 and would even overtake Tesla.

GM is considered by analysts to be a serious player in the new e-car world because of its battery technology. Alongside Volkswagen and Tesla, GM is one of the few manufacturers to build their own battery factory. According to GM, the Ultium batteries should guarantee ranges of an e-vehicle of up to 720 kilometers.

Ford lags behind

By adding aluminum, the GM storage facilities also need less of the rare cobalt, which makes them cheaper and more sustainable. “Our Ultium batteries already cost 40 percent less than those in the Bolt and the next generation even 60 percent less,” said Barra on Wednesday. GM plans to bring a total of 30 different electric models onto the market by 2025. The electric version of the giant SUV GMC Hummer is due to hit the streets by the end of this year.

Ford has the most catching up to do. In 2017, the group actually brought on board an outsider far from the car, Jim Hackett, to lead Ford into the future. But even under him the U-turn was slow. In the fall, the electric fan Jim Farley took over. He is now planning to invest $ 22 billion in e-mobility by 2025.

So far, Ford only has the American cult car Mustang Mach-E as a pure electric car on the market. The analyst Emmanuel Rosner of the German bank welcomes the new course at Ford. “This shows that the new CEO Jim Farley is really accelerating the transformation of the company towards the electric and connected future.” However, investors were eagerly awaiting the details that Ford will announce in the spring.

The exact details of the e-car platforms, the performance of the batteries and volume targets will show “whether the company can one day become a credible car 2.0 player,” writes Rosner. Ford’s biggest advantage over its advanced competitors: The company can still benefit from tax breaks of $ 7,500 per car, which Tesla and GM have already exhausted.

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Stellantis, the result of the merger of Fiat Chrysler and PSA has emerged, has so far still the most tentative plans. The group with its 14 brands from Jeep to Alfa Romeo to Peugeot intends to bring out all models as hybrid or pure e-models in the next four years. CEO Carlos Tavares may present more detailed plans when the quarterly figures are presented on March 3rd.

US market is shrinking

In the ranking of the Center of Automotive Management, PSA made it to seventh place, Fiat Chrysler just 14th place. Especially under the long-term CEO Sergio Marchionne, the group had neglected future topics such as e-mobility and autonomous driving and preferred to use the lucrative SUVs and pick-ups set.

Tesla is still by far the largest electric car manufacturer in the USA. The industry pioneer is still under great pressure. After its rocket journey in 2020 from ailing automaker to the most valuable company in the industry, Tesla has to meet the huge expectations of the stock exchange. After around 500,000 cars sold worldwide, Elon Musk wants to clearly jump the 750,000 mark this year.

The US market plays a major role in this. While Tesla already sold fewer electric cars in Europe in 2020 than the Volkswagen Group or Renault, the pioneer still clearly led the electrical sales statistics in his home market in 2020.

But the US market for electric cars shrank for the second time in a row in 2020, from 361,000 models sold in 2018 to 296,000 last year. In a forecast from the end of January, the energy market analysis company S&P Platts Analytics assumes that sales will only recover from the corona crisis in 2022 and then rise to more than one million by 2025.

However, this does not yet include possible new subsidies under Biden. In any case, Musk seems confident that he can defend his part of the cake: Tesla’s second US plant in Austin is set to produce cars this year.

More: The electric car race – which manufacturers have the best odds against Tesla.

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