EV Startups Like Tesla And Fisker Will Not Survive A Mainsteam Auto Collapse

by Jack Lifton on March 17, 2009

in Hybrids & EVs, News Analysis

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Automobiles are not built from do it yourself hardware obtainable at Home Depot or Lowes. The components of an automobile are made from the strongest, most durable and temperature extreme resistant metals, plastics, and fabrics. The structural “frame” or “chassis” of an automobile or truck must be made of steel or aluminum or magnesium alloys/or and plastics that can absorb high energy impact shocks without shattering. The power trains for such vehicles must be safe against mechanical breakdowns, sudden interruptions of core functions, and containment of flammable and/or explosive fuels in the case of an impact that could rupture fuel containers. The tires for all such vehicles must be resistant to be torn or punctured and have internal cohesion high enough so that they don’t disintegrate under impact or sheering forces. Service for all mechanical and electrical and electronic components must be universally available. Etc. etc…

The fact that the mechanical components and the alloys and forms, from which private passenger-carrying motor vehicles are mass produced, are widely available. is due entirely to the demand created and maintained by the OEM automotive industry.

The price of such components and their raw materials is low because the demand for them supports their mass production.

The dramatic reduction in the demand for motor vehicles will start a vicious cycle of increased cost for components, as economies of scale are sharply reduced. That this has not yet happened is due solely to the overhang of inventory at this juncture.

The failure of the American OEM automotive supplier base has not yet been noticed, but notwithstanding the flat earth theories of clueless prognosticators such as Thomas Friedman, the domestic automotive supply base will not be seamlessly replaced by outsourcing. The quality of southeast Asian steels and alloys, the state of their component manufacturing and operating efficiency technology, and the costs of competing with the domestic markets in southeast Asia will, I believe, make outsoucing of components more expensive and will drive ultimately the production of the cars themselves off shore thus completing the destruction of the OEM American automotive industry.

There is no point at all in trying to design or manufacture a private passenger carrying vehicle in a country in which the parts are not manufactured.

There is no further point to the Tesla or the Fisker startups even if GM or Chrysler should survive. There will simply be no market for limited production cars, at any price, but especially at high prices, with twitchy power trains and without a widely available and affordable service support operation at reasonable prices.

Ironically it is the fact that the mass producers of automobiles are not making electrified vehicles, that dooms the makers of limited production electrified vehicles, because they do not produce the momentum for the mass production of batteries, motors, and control electronics, which can only be affordable and serviceable in mass production.

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