Tip of the Week
Three of America’s largest auto producers announce significant electric vehicle factory plans in the United States.

Jeep beat General Motors and Ford to the punch. In March, Jeep announced plans to prepare its U.S. factories for electric vehicle manufacturing. Jeep did so at the Geneva (Switzerland) auto show. What better place to announce your American factory plans? Having been caught a little behind the curve, Both Ford and General Motors announced their electric vehicle production plans at the end of the month -- on the same day.

Electric vehicles in America have been rolling along at a very slow pace since the dawn of the new EV era in America in 2010. Sure, the EV-advocacy media can write stories every week about huge leaps in production – by percent. After all, if you build two EVs in a month instead of one, your sales just increased by 100%. The fact is that there has never been an affordable EV capable of maintaining a pace of 2,000 units per month. Even Tesla’s Model 3 luxury EV still has not had a calendar year in which it sold more than 2,000 units each month. By contrast, vehicles like the Nissan Rogue and Toyota RAV4 crossovers sell above 30,000 units regularly. Ford builds as many as 80,000 F-series trucks in a good month.

EVs have thus far been mainly small cars, which the buying public has been moving away from for years. That will change soon. Automakers are finally getting around to building affordable crossover EVs, and in the near future, one automaker will decide to go big and produce an affordable EV crossover we actually want in high volumes. The only way that can happen is if the automakers have factories capable of building the vehicles. Up until now, none have.

Jeep’s announcement was part of an overall investment of many billions in U.S. manufacturing. Jeep included in that announcement that not just one, but three of its facilities would, “… produce plug-in hybrid versions of their respective Jeep models with the flexibility to build fully battery-electric models in the future.” Jeep’s announcement was tied to the display of two of those vehicles in the flesh. Unlike most EV companies, Jeep didn’t announce its vehicles years before they would be ready. Instead, it drove them out and plugged them in.

GM’s announcement is also very meaningful. GM has led the affordable EV market with its Volt and Bolt pairing. GM has also had EV versions of its subcompact Spark and the company’s luxury division has had a couple of low-volume vehicles that were clearly testing the waters. GM says that it will invest $300 million in its Orion Township (Michigan) plant to build the next of its EV models. In a move that left some scratching their heads, GM idled its Volt factory in February. The Orion plant is where GM makes its battery-electric vehicle (BEV) Bolt. Clearly, GM is serious about moving toward battery-electric vehicles (BEVs) rather than plug-in hybrids (PHEVs) and EVs with gas range extenders (EREVs). Cutting its best-selling green car, the Volt EREV, shows that commitment. GM says it will build a new model based on the Bolt’s architecture. We would expect that vehicle to be the size and shape of Subaru’s Crosstrek and Jeep’s Compass.

Ford’s moves are more forward-looking. Although Ford’s C-Max Energi and Fusion Energi EVs did well initially, their sales have dropped to the also-ran pack. “We’ve taken a fresh look at the growth rates of electrified vehicles and know we need to protect additional production capacity given our accelerated plans for fully electric vehicles,” said Joe Hinrichs, Ford’s president, Global Operations. Ford is preparing a new platform from which it will build multiple new EV models in its Flat Rock Assembly plant in southeast Michigan. Ford also has a new electric performance crossover model it will import from Mexico.

By all indications, GM, Ford, and Jeep are positioning themselves to be producing a higher-volume of affordable electric vehicles in the coming two to five years. Coupled with Tesla’s already significant production capabilities, the U.S. looks to have a noticeably higher volume of EVs in its mix in the near term. That most are being produced inside America’s borders may help automakers when they begin to lobby Congress for extended taxpayer-funded EV price supports.

-- John Goreham/BestRide.com

Auto news
According to AAA’s latest survey, if gas prices remain low, 1 in 3 Americans (33%) would likely plan another summer road trip while 27% would increase the distance of one they already have planned.

Did you know

Every state has a law requiring you to slow down and, when possible, move over if you see flashing lights on the side of the road, says the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The federal agency recently revealed that several states are reporting an increase in drivers failing to move over and crashing into emergency responders, and traffic-related incidents continue to be one of the leading causes of death among on-duty law enforcement officers.

If you see an emergency vehicle stopped along a roadway with flashing lights, first, you should immediately slow down. Then move over if you can safely do so; and lastly
switch to a lane that’s not immediately next to the emergency vehicle, if possible.