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The electric car was heralded as a huge win for the environment, saving mankind from the guilt of knowing we're polluting the air, damaging our lungs and the envioronment around us.
But electric cars, or any other type of green vehicles, aren't selling very well. Why is this?
Let's take, as a starting point, the Chevrolet Volt. The Volt, and its European sister the Opel Ampera, have won numerous awards all over the world, big and small, including the 2012 European Car of the Year. The year before, in 2011, it also won World Green Car of the Year and North American Car of the Year. So, on the back of this, you'd expect that dealers couldn't get rid of them quickly enough, wouldn't you?
At the beginning of last year, it was expected that there would be long waiting lists for green cars and plug-in hybrids, such as the Volt and the Nissan Leaf. But these queues never materialised – and GM and Chevrolet eventually said it was going to temporarily stop producing the Volt because of a lack of demand.
However, at the same time as suspending production for four weeks late last year, Chevrolet bragged that it had reached a monthly record (September 2012) for sales, hitting 2,500 cars sold in one month. Now, though, Chevy admits it has 140 days of inventory sitting on car dealer lots – and that's a huge amount, more than double the 60 which manufacturers consider ideal.
There are two main reasons, though, why the Volt has sold badly and why it continues to sit on the dealership shelves – price and hassle. At $40,000 for the most basic model, the Volt doesn't come cheap. Car buyers want to save money at the same time as saving the earth – not spend a fortune to do so. According to a Wall Street Journal piece last year, "even if you never used gasoline in the Volt, you'd wait about 12 years before you saved enough on gas to make up for the Volt's price premium."
And, with the need to plug in to charge the vehicle's battery, it's just extra hassle – it's a simple thing to do, but it's another thing for the busy American to do that puts people off buying the Volt.
Other green vehicles have suffered in exactly the same way. Take the Toyota Prius, which has been praised from numerous quarters and which is considered by some to be the ultimate in environmentally-friendly vehicles. While it saw record sales in 2012, it was reported last month that Toyota's sales target for 2013 looks set to be missed.
So, what can us dealers do about it? The main strategy is to try to sell the green cars to the businesses. We're trying to target the private buyers and it's not working because they're not ready for electric cars. It makes much more sense for the businesses because they can afford the overpriced green cars and they get more benefits both in taxes and savings. Another thing for the dealers to do is to educate the customer. Some tips can be picked up from the Top Green Blogs that are doing great job in persuading members of the public that electric cars is exactly what they need!
While hybrid cars and their like have come along leaps and bounds in recent years, the fact remains that a car fuelled by gasoline remains far superior in terms of performance.
Gasoline prices across the U.S. have been falling in 2013, and Toyota has admitted that their fall has taken them by a certain amount of surprise – and making the Prius a less attractive option to car buyers across the country.
The Prius is the largest line of car model imported to the U.S., and is manufactured solely in Japan. With the idea that Americans should only drive American cars growing in support, the Prius is being increasingly shunned.
But, and this seems to be fairly clear, the main reason for green cars not selling as well as their manufacturers would like lies with their performance compared to gas vehicles, as well as the fact that gas prices are continuing to fall.
Until the Prius, the Volt and other hybrids perform as well as traditionally-fuelled vehicles, they're going to be staying at the dealership.
As Business Week says, the message to the car industry: "Make a product that suits the needs of consumers, and they will buy."
At the moment, green cars simply don't meet our needs.