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Automotive News predicts 2020 downturn in EV sales, despite coming wave of new electric cars

Dave Versical, chief of editorial operations for Automotive News, believes the 2020 outlook for electric vehicles is weak. In his commentary piece published yesterday, Versical reports that auto executives speaking with him privately are using terms like “carnage” and “Armageddon” to describe the EV sales landscape for 2020. Has somebody been breathing in exhaust fumes?

To bolster his argument, Versical quotes a Swedish website,, which forecasts that US sales of plug-in vehicles will drop by 1.7 percent next year. That’s despite the biggest crop of new EVs hitting the market ever – from the likes of Audi, Ford, Rivian, Volkswagen, and Volvo. And that’s not counting Tesla’s introduction of the Model Y crossover in about mid-2020.

He writes that “getting all these electrified vehicles from dealer lots into consumer driveways is going to be a lot like discharging a fire hose through a drinking straw.” To make his point, he spoke with usual suspects.



Roger Penske, CEO of the Penske Corporation, is quoted saying that electric vehicles “have not had the lift that [the industry] expected.” Perhaps his dealership groups are not benefitting from sales of the Tesla Model 3, which on track for about 150,000 sales in the US in 2019. It’s the ninth best-selling car in the country. And Versical quotes Mark Wakefield, co-leader of AlixPartners’ global automotive practice, who believes that EVs are going to be a “tough sell” if they aren’t “distinctive.”

So then why are these automakers introducing EVs into a disinterested marketplace? According to Versical, it’s pure politics. Regulations. The popularity of Greta Thunberg. And leaders rallying Americans not to let China dominate the future of battery production and technology.

Meanwhile, Automotive News didn’t quote the Motley Fool, which a few weeks ago wrote:

In 2020, the momentum in electric vehicles may reach a new level, and once they get rolling, they will be hard to stop. Not only is Tesla expected to have another big year with Model Y deliveries expected to start, but General Motors, Kia, Hyundai, Audi, Porsche, and many more will also introduce or expand their range of EVs.

And these offerings aren’t tiptoeing into the market, as we’ve seen in the past. There will be compelling, long-range, affordable vehicles available for customers next year. The EV market may finally be something to take seriously.

Versical points to two challenges: affordability and creativity.

On the affordability front, consider the arrival of the Volkswagen I.D. Crozz, also called the ID4. VW has a lot riding on its electric-vehicle future. The ID4 will be the company’s first high-volume, ground-up EV sold in the US. Scott Keogh, CEO of VW of America, said the long-range ID CROZZ will sell in the low- to mid-$30,000 range after a $7,500 federal tax credit.

Not affordable enough? Then consider the 226-mile Nissan Leaf’s price point below $30,000 after incentives. Or new 2020 models like the all-electric Mini Cooper SE. Its range is modest, but after incentives, it could sell below $20,000.

What about creativity? Let’s look past the Audi e-tron GT, Audi e-tron Sportback, Byton M-Byte, Jaguar XJ, Lucid Air, Polestar 2, and Volvo XC40 Recharge – all coming at some point in 2020.

Ford Mustang Mach-E

But let’s consider the Detroit-born creativity represented by Ford offering an affordable, spacious SUV in the form of a powerful, all-electric Mustang. The Mach-E will appeal to a set of American consumers who had not previously considered an EV.

And if that’s not creative enough, then consider a pair of Rivian vehicles expected by the end of 2020. The company’s two initial vehicles offer an overwhelming combo of range, performance, and towing capacity. Rivian has a devoted fan base only eclipsed by one other EV maker.

That brings us to Tesla. Any of Mr. Versical’s assumptions about a declining EV market in 2020 will be challenged by one recent news item. Tesla last week confirmed that it’s moving the Model Y production timeline from fall 2020 to the summer when the company expects to be producing about 1,000 units per week.

Electrek’s Take

Automotive News builds a case that 2020 will be an uphill battle for EVs. Then, in closing, Mr. Versical says that it will only be a matter of time, perhaps five years, before EVs have price parity with internal-combustion vehicles.

It’s fascinating to see the reluctance of the legacy auto industry slowly give way.

What are your predictions for 2020 EV sales? Which electric cars will lift the market?

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Avatar for Bradley Berman Bradley Berman

Bradley writes about electric cars, autonomous vehicles, smart homes, and other tech that’s transforming society. He contributes to The New York Times, SAE International, Via magazine, Popular Mechanics, MIT Technology Review, and others.