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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: This says it all
By inighthawki on 12/4/2008 6:37:09 PM , Rating: 2
I hate to also mention, but im sure there are plenty of people who will not buy an electric/hybrid because of that really bad looking design. Perhaps this is part of the case, those who really wanted an electric car for what it is now have one, and now all the people who like it but wont buy it because of the design are coming into play. Im sure theres plenty of people who would love to save money on gas, but wouldn't want to be caught dead in one of those around their friends.

RE: This says it all
By Viditor on 12/5/2008 1:58:10 AM , Rating: 2
there are plenty of people who will not buy an electric/hybrid because of that really bad looking design

Not all of them. The Tesla is a beautiful design (built on the Lotus frame).

RE: This says it all
By borismkv on 12/5/2008 2:28:34 AM , Rating: 3
I'd rather get a Fisker Karma.

RE: This says it all
By inighthawki on 12/5/2008 9:06:42 PM , Rating: 2
Sorry if i didnt make it clear, but i was more pushing towards an "overall" bad looking. Im sure there are some good looking ones, and of course a good looking car is subjective from person to person. But some may not buy a prius, regardless of the rate, just because of how it looks (ive actually heard people say that before)

RE: This says it all
By GlassHouse69 on 12/5/2008 8:25:32 AM , Rating: 1
I 100% agree.

they look like a hunk of shit.

RE: This says it all
By callmeroy on 12/8/2008 10:50:56 AM , Rating: 2
call me a bit shallow on this topic but you can talk "green" figures until you are blue in the face, you can talk fuel savings with me until your throat blows out...if the car looks stupid - I'm not interested...period end of discussion. The day the car dealers get THAT point, then talk to me about saving the environment with one of these cars.

And btw....the tesla roadster is a non issue, because of its price tag.

When normal working class folks can get a good looking car then we can talk.

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