Why OEMs Build EVs and Other Things You Think You Know That Probably Aren’t the Case

A lively discussion of things from why Americans don’t buy small, cheap cars and why OEMs aren’t likely to get a big revenue stream from sending data to vehicle head-units

By Gary S. Vasilash

Although there is a whole lot of development going on in the electric vehicle (EV) space, as OEMs announce products and plans with what seems to border on giddiness, maybe things aren’t what they seem.

Consider, for one example, the F-150 Lightning reveal. While it might seem as though every person on your street is likely to replace their gasoline-powered F-150 with an electric one as soon as is practical (even though there is a starting MSRP of $40,000, and even though $40,000 is pretty much the average cost of a vehicle, it is still $40,000), even though people are touting the frunk that will allow them to fill it up with ice and beverages and the power outlets that will permit the audio equipment to be plugged in for parties and picnics, when you listen to Eric Noble, founder and president of The Car Lab, what seems to be the case may not be the case.

The F-150 Lightning in what is a natural environment: a work site. (Image: Ford)

That is, Noble points out that largely because of EV batteries—“They are expensive, huge, very heavy and don’t store very much energy”—especially the cost part, OEMs don’t make money on EVs unless these EVs are priced so highly that the cost of the battery can be buried in the MSRP.

Noble argues that because of the zero-emissions mandate of California and the other states that follow California’s lead in emissions regulations, OEMs that want to sell vehicles in those states—including vehicles with a 5.0-liter V8 under the hood—need to sell zero-emissions vehicles: EVs.

What is the number on the sales forecasts that OEMs have for EVs, he rhetorically asks.

Pretty much what the number of EVs required by the ZEV states are for that particular OEM.

However, he points out that there could be some real business for OEMs when it comes to selling to fleets. (“Ford is good at fleets,” Noble says.)

In other words, Teslas and Mustang Mach Es notwithstanding (and I don’t know whether the champagne need be busted out for the Mach E quite yet because in April Ford sold 1,951 Mach Es and 8,000 regular Mustangs), things like the Lightning are likely to be more oriented toward places where they can do the OEM the most good, which very well may be in fleet applications.

Noble talks about this on this edition of “Autoline After Hours.” And many of his arguments are bolstered by observations by Sam Fiorani, vice president of Global Vehicle Forecasting, AutoForecast Solutions.

Also on the table are other subjects of the moment, like over-the-air updates (not likely to be a revenue stream for OEMs because customers don’t want to have a monthly charge to their credit cards, why tech companies won’t become auto companies and vice versa, and a whole lot more.

Per usual, “Autoline’s” John McElroy and I are engaged in the conversation with these guests, and it is one of the livelier discussions you are like to see about the state of the industry—the reality versus the proclamations.

And you can see it here.

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