Tesla exec critical of others’ EV offerings

Melissa Burden

Acme — A Tesla Motors Inc. executive on Tuesday criticized other automakers for offering electric cars he described as “little more than appliances,” as regulators and the industry debate how best to meet federal and California regulations on fuel economy and carbon dioxide reduction.

Diarmuid O’Connell, vice president of business development for Tesla Motors Inc., said the industry’s offerings miss on pricing, range and performance.

“The industry’s attempts to date to advance the state of electric vehicle technology, they’re probably really not even trying,” he said. His comments came at the Center for Automotive Research Management Briefing Seminars.

The Palo Alto-based company as of mid-May took in more than 370,000 orders for the upcoming Tesla Model 3, an electric car with a 215-mile range that will be priced at about $35,000. It is expected late next year. General Motors Co. in the fourth quarter will introduce a 200-mile-plus range Chevrolet Bolt EV priced at about $30,000 after factoring in federal tax rebates.

Electric vehicle and hybrid sales have slowed amid low gas prices and are seen as a small, but important part of the industry’s efforts to reach more stringent fuel economy regulations.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the California Air Resources Board last month released a draft technical report on fuel economy that they will use to determine if fuel economy guidelines are feasible in the final four years. The report indicated automakers may not be able to achieve the 54.5 mpg fleet average by the 2025 deadline.

Consumers have increasingly shifted to trucks amid low gas prices, said John Bozzella, president and CEO of Global Automakers, a group representing foreign automakers and suppliers.

Stakeholders have 60 days to comment on the report, but on Monday the Alliance for Automobile Manufacturers, which represents 12 major automakers, called for a 60-day extension.

Mitch Bainwol, president and CEO of the auto alliance, said 5 percent or fewer of existing vehicles on the road today can meet the 2025 targets. He called the regulation a consumption mandate and pointed to challenges with consumers, including a weak appetite for EVs.

Wesley Lutz, owner of Extreme Chrysler Dodge Jeep Ram Inc. in Jackson said the cost of meeting regulatory requirements that would be added to the price of vehicles could price millions out of buying a new car.

Christopher Grundler, director of the Office of Transportation and Air Quality for the EPA, said the agency would consider the alliance’s request for a comment extension.

Grundler stressed the report is not a consumption mandate but an emissions reduction mandate. He stressed the importance of looking not just on the 2025 timeline, but that a collaborative solution is needed to achieve even larger carbon dioxide reductions by 2050.