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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 eye smite on 12/5/2008 9:42:51 PM , Rating: 0
I have to disagree with you, the big 3 are all run by Lee Iaccoca types just to a lesser degree. They haven't improved gas mileage in over 20 yrs and they produced huge volumes of gas hungry SUV's that were costing well over $100 to fill up the tank on as gas prices rose. If they're making you something that's costing you enough money to have to change your lifestyle just to keep the tank filled up, why would the general public keep buying their products? lol

RE: Strong bet
By thepalinator on 12/6/2008 12:34:59 AM , Rating: 3
Don't start with the stupid "we'd buy higher MPG cars if Detroit sold them" line again. Every time they offered a high mpg car, it sells like crap. Except for last year, their SUV sales were the biggest profit makers they had.

The problems at Ford and GM have nothing to do with SUVs. Nothing at all.

RE: Strong bet
By Spuke on 12/8/2008 4:58:08 PM , Rating: 4
Their problems started WELL before the SUV came online. And I STILL can't figure out how someone can be FORCED to buy something they don't want. I guess that's why trucks have been the number one seller for roughly 30 years. Cause no one wants them.

RE: Strong bet
By eye smite on 12/10/2008 12:54:01 AM , Rating: 2
You're absolutely right, SUV's aren't the problem, and I thought I made that clear in my opening sentence, but let me re-iterate for the reading comprehension challenged such as yourself. The problem is the idiots running the companies. Read that sentence 3 times to make sure you understand it ok.....

There's no reason they can't make large cars and trucks that get better gas mileage than they do today. If you tell me they can't, you've been brainwashed along with the rest of america. Pull your head out of your butt and do your own reserch back to the 80s and see how they've improved gas mileage overseas because of the price they had to pay for gas and the big 3 have done nothing. Or, keep being naive and brainwashed, your choice.

"So if you want to save the planet, feel free to drive your Hummer. Just avoid the drive thru line at McDonalds." -- Michael Asher

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