Ever wondered why legacy automakers make constant contradictory statements on electric cars?
On Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays they are great, but on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays they suck…
Legacy automakers are having problems adapting to electric cars. We can clearly see this from constant contradictory statements on electric cars, especially from German automakers such as Volkswagen, Mercedes or BMW.
While this may seem strange, it’s absolutely understandable that it’s happening.
Automakers have two different narratives that vary depending on the audience.
When investors are the audience, automakers need to have a positive speech towards electric cars – or any other technology that is expected to become mainstream. They need to show investors that they aren’t ignoring the future and can already build electric cars as good as Tesla and for a fraction of the price. This way, shareholders can be assured that the companies are sustainable in the long term and their money is safe.
A good example is Volkswagen bragging about its MEB platform for electric cars. The automaker recently said that the ID.3 on this platform achieves a 40 % cost reduction when compared to the Volkswagen e-Golf that was build on the old MQB. Meaning that it could be sold with profit for less than 20.000 euros.
On the other hand when the general public and politicians are the audience, automakers have a much more negative speech towards electric cars or any other innovative technologies. In this case they need to convince the audience that the technology isn’t ready yet and the status quo isn’t that bad.
Big corporations hate to be told what to produce by politicians and even consumers. The biggest advantage of huge corporations is that they can focus on themselves, ignoring the opinions of consumers and politicians. The consumers can be told what to buy via marketing techniques and politicians can be told what the laws will be via lobbying and corruption. This is a much more stable and safe environment for the corporations, since consumers and politicians can be unpredictable and that’s no good for business.
However, since the negative narrative on electric cars isn’t based on facts, contradictions within itself are plenty.
“First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win”
First automakers said that no one wanted an electric car, ignoring people who did… remember?
Then they laugh at us saying that electric cars were clown golf cars for hippies… remember?
Now they are fighting electric cars with ridiculous and false narratives. For example, we see the exact same automaker claiming that electric cars can’t be affordable also claiming that they are technological leaders and could sell with profit the ID.3 for less than 20.000 euros, however they sell it for almost twice as much.
Sometimes automakers even admit that electric cars are much cheaper and simpler to produce than ICE (Internal Combustion Engine) cars, but for this reason production lines require less space, time, energy, machines and more importantly less workers. The unemployment argument is clearly aimed at politicians in countries like Germany and France where the auto industry is a huge employer. Nonetheless, even this argument is ridiculous since there is no future for workers producing obsolete products. Demanding the production of electric cars is what progressive workers unions are doing to assure a future for their members.
Summing up, when automakers say good things about electric cars they are presenting themselves as technological leaders to investors. However, when they say that the technology isn’t ready yet to make good and affordable electric cars they’re speaking to the general public, so they don’t ask for them. Moreover, when automakers bring the unemployment argument they are pressing politicians to keep quiet and maintain the status quo.
I always remember the time when I heard a Chinese politician saying that the Chinese automakers were far behind their Japanese, Korean and European competitors regarding ICE car technology, therefore embracing electric cars was the opportunity for them to emerge as world leaders. If Japanese, Korean and European legacy automakers keep making excuses and fighting to keep the status quo, the Chinese politician will be proven right.
I thought that I needed to write this article to clarify why we see so many contradictory statements by legacy automakers on electric cars almost everyday. They are meant for different audiences. A positive narrative for investors and a negative narrative for consumers and politicians.