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Electric Cars at a dealership in Los Angeles  (Source: LA Times)
A bright star just months ago, electric car industry goes into dramatic reverse.

In what many will find a surprising turn of events, electric car sales have plummeted this year, plunging the fledgling industry into financial turmoil. Many manufacturers and dealers are cutting back operations; some have shut down entirely. Others are calling for government action to prevent the industry from wholesale collapse.

Many dealers understandably don't want to discuss declining sales. When asked how well their cars were selling, a spokesman for Electric Vehicles, Inc, in Tampa, tersely replied "no comment", and hung up. A dealer in Texas didn't answer the phone at all. Another in California had its number disconnected.

EPower, a retailer selling electric cars in Illinois, Iowa, and Missouri, has only sold two cars in the past three months. President Bruce Wood tells DailyTech that, "while there are a lot of tire kickers", few will actually commit to a purchase.

MCEV, the largest electric car dealer in the Pacific Northwest, has seen sales decline to 1-2 vehicles a month, down 80% from earlier this year. Buzz Duell, General Manager of MCEV, blames not only gas prices, but the economy as a whole. "No one wants to spend money right now", he says. Not only are individual buyers cutting back, but corporate and government sales -- which make up a large percentage of MCEV's revenue -- are also being impacted.

Duell expects a recovery in sales to take at least two years.

Tim Sankey, owner of an electric car distributor in Kansas concurs. "It will take time to build a customer base", he says, "but people haven't forgotten about high gas prices". Sankey hopes for a rebound next year.

Sales declines aren't limited to the U.S. In Britain, sales of electric cars have dropped a shocking 58 percent this year. For the first ten months of 2008, a total of only 156 vehicles were sold in the country -- nearly all of those confined to London itself. The announcement came just two days after the nation's Committee on Climate Change predicted electric car sales would increase substantially this year.

Tesla Motors, maker of the all-electric Tesla Roadster, announced a round job cuts last October, and said that plans for a mass-produced high-volume electric car would be "impacted" by the grim sales outlook.  Rumors suggested job cuts could be up to half the company's work force, a figure Tesla officially denied.

Larry Shriner, Chief Financial Officer of Zenn Motors, an electric car manufacturer based in Canada, says government "needs to get engaged to give the industry some momentum". Shriner doesn't necessarily favor gas price supports, but he says government needs to ensure "people stay focused" on the benefits of electric car technology.

Sales of traditional cars have also declined, but not as sharply. According to tracking company Autodata, sales are down 37 period from the same period last year.

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RE: Strong bet
By Beenthere on 12/4/2008 4:16:39 PM , Rating: -1
The false beliefs held by many regarding the Big Three car companies and the economy are simply not supported by the facts. Get the facts.

First of all the U.S. auto industry did not create the economic meltdown. That was caused primarily by $4/gal. gas prices from OPEC and oil companies financial greed. Throw in the collapse of the housing industry, the mis-management of the banking industry and the Wall Street collapse and you have a perfect economic storm - none of which was created by the U.S. auto industry or the Big Three. For the record Toyota, Honda, Nissan, BMW, et al U.S. sales all dropped over 30% last month. Does that mean that all of these companies use idiotic business practices or make shoddy products? I don't think so.

The Feds woke up on Monday of this week to discover that the U.S. economy has been in a recession for 14 months. Don't expect the talking heads in DC to do anything to help the economy because they couldn't buy a clue about what is actually happening.

For the record, the Big Three have been selling vehicles at a profit for over 60 years and supplying over 40% of all vehicles sold. They didn't achieve this by idiotic business tactics. Yes they now need to make wholesale changes in their operations and operating philosophy, but they did not create the economic meltdown that they are victims of. While armchair experts are free to express their unsupported opinion, the mis-information that passes for knowledge is appauling.

The Big Three are not asking for a bail-out! They are requesting government backed loans that will cost tax payers virtually nothing. That's right the Big Three are asking for LOANS, not a handout or bail-out as the media likes to call it. If you get an auto or car loan is that a freebie or bail-out? Of course not. It's a financial obligation that you are required to repay with interest - just like the Big Three are requesting.

Don't be duped by talking heads who haven't bothered to get the FACTS.

If any of the Big Three go under, at least 3 million U.S. jobs will be lost immediately. Within 90 days an additional 5 million jobs will likely vanish and we will be in an unprecedented depression like never seen in history. Why people would not want to support U.S. jobs with proper bridge loans to the Big Three is incomprehensible. In no way, shape or form are government backed loans, socialism any more than you getting an auto or home loan, is socialism.

People need to EDUCATE themselves instead of being manipulated by talking heads in Washington and on the tube. The job you save will be your own.

Get the facts !

All U.S. citizens need to educate themselves before the fools in Washington force us into a serious economic depression - which could be only weeks away if the Big Three do not get proper loans. Demand that your elected officials get the facts and protect the interest of all Americans by retaining U.S. jobs and saving our economy.

RE: Strong bet
By lukasbradley on 12/4/2008 5:10:15 PM , Rating: 4
First, anytime someone states "get the facts" when they are talking about matters of opinion, or worse, predicting future events, drastically undermines their position.

Second, these companies are not going to collapse overnight. They most certainly can go through restructuring and bankruptcy and emerge. The assertion (you'd probably call it a fact) that no American would buy a car from a company in bankruptcy is a ploy. I would buy one. Some are decent vehicles that will have worth even if the company goes away.

Third, even if these companies do literally evaporate in the next three weeks, and there are an additional 5M jobs lost, that would bring the current total of unemployed to 15.1M (Oct 2008 figures), or 9.7%. This is a high figure, but to infer it would be "an unprecedented depression like never seen in history" is preposterous. The unemployment rate during the Great Depression hit around 25%.

Lastly, in the interest of full disclosure, I purchased Ford stock recently.

RE: Strong bet
By grenableu on 12/4/2008 5:29:58 PM , Rating: 2
That "five million lost jobs" figure is total crap, based on the idea that everyone would stop buying, repairing, or servicing their cars entirely, just because some automakers filed bankruptcy.

RE: Strong bet
By Hiawa23 on 12/4/2008 5:42:33 PM , Rating: 5
First of all the U.S. auto industry did not create the economic meltdown.

LOL, they may not have caused it but Toyota & Honda are not about to go under as they faced the same economic conditions. You can make all the excuses you want, but the American companies have made decades of mistakes, especially the legacy costs, & the unions, the gas guzzlers. I don't want anyone to lose their jobs, & I work for Goodyear which supplies tires & various other parts for automobiles, but something has to be done for em. My thing is if you are going to just throw away money at the auto industry then how about give the American cosumer a tax break or something.

What happened to capitalism, or is it up to the government to decide who fails, cause I believe if you have a bad business model, & your company can't support itself as a result you should fail.

RE: Strong bet
By walk2k on 12/4/2008 6:16:34 PM , Rating: 5
Why aren't Toyota or Honda down on thier knees begging for a handout then?

Oh it's not a "bailout", it's just a free loan of billions of dollars with NO requirement for it to EVER be paid back (and most likely never will be).

As for the UAW workers - BOO F'ING HOO you made THAT bed, now you get to crap in it. Go get a job at Toyota or Honda which by the way build cars RIGHT HERE IN THE USA and yet aren't on the verge of total collapse.

Oh yeah sorry, you might have to work for a competitive wage without the ridiculous benefits - welcome to the real world.

RE: Strong bet
By cmdrdredd on 12/4/2008 10:54:33 PM , Rating: 2
Why people would not want to support U.S. jobs with proper bridge loans to the Big Three is incomprehensible. In no way, shape or form are government backed loans, socialism any more than you getting an auto or home loan, is socialism.

I don't support it because the union runs the show. End of discussion.

RE: Strong bet
By thepalinator on 12/6/2008 12:40:53 AM , Rating: 2
How many different threads are you going to past that identical set of non-facts in?

"You can bet that Sony built a long-term business plan about being successful in Japan and that business plan is crumbling." -- Peter Moore, 24 hours before his Microsoft resignation

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