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The Electric Car Fiasco

Michael Barone on

Donald Trump's anodyne if overexcited comment that the U.S. auto industry would face a "bloodbath" if he's not elected and doesn't impose 50% or 100% tariffs on cars produced predictable results.

"Don't outsmart yourself," Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) posted, and Joe Biden's campaign promptly charged Trump with promising a "bloodbath" if he loses, without saying that he used a common metaphor and was talking about the auto industry.

That's a subject Team Biden is understandably touchy about, given the conspicuous fiasco of its electric vehicle policies.

It's summed up in a lengthy Wall Street Journal report on how a "dramatic societal shift to electric cars" had "overlooked an important constituency: the consumer."

Evidence is plentiful. Manufacturers have been cutting prices as dealers' lots filled up with unsold electrics. Ford is halving its output of electric F-150 trucks in its Dearborn, Michigan, plant. General Motors dealers are pressing the company to reverse its strategy, cut EV production and build hybrids instead. Tesla CEO Elon Musk warned of "notably lower" EV production.

Expectations elsewhere went unmet. Hertz sold off 20,000 rental EVs at a loss of $245 million and fired its CEO, a Goldman Sachs alumnus. EV startup Fisker, which defaulted on $192 million in Obama administration loans, is reportedly preparing for bankruptcy. Apple is shutting down its multibillion-dollar electric car division.

 

"Plans for an EV-led industrial revolution are in full-scale retreat" in Britain, France and Germany, the London-based Telegraph reported. "It looks like all those 'well-paid green jobs' are going to take a little longer to arrive than anyone anticipated."

Liberals justify the $7,500 consumer subsidies for EVs as a way to reduce carbon emissions. But, of course, reductions depend on where the electricity, and the rare earths and metals in batteries, come from. Meanwhile the environmental pitch may have boosted sales among Democrats, but it also has resulted in low sales to Republicans.

These attitudes correlate with geography. EVs may be practical to zip about in the mild weather of the Pacific Coast and over the short distances of the Northeast -- Biden territory in 2020. But EV batteries run out of charge over long distances, when it's freezing outside, or when you've got your air conditioning on -- all common experiences in the South, Midwest and Rocky Mountain states, which Trump carried in 2016 and 2020.

It's not hard to see, although government projections seem to have missed it, that many people would be reluctant to pay more for a vehicle likely to totally stop functioning in common use, and much more expensive to repair.

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