What happens when the federal government wants to "pick a winner" but the auto industry decides the time isn't quite right for that winner to emerge? We might be about to find out. Again.
A recent article in Automotive News details the diverging roads that the industry and the Obama administration are taking when it comes to electric vehicles. Obama continues to support plug-ins, but most automakers seem to have decided that slow and cautious is the way to move forward. This presents itself in the way OEMs are rolling out small fleets of some plug-in vehicles (see: Toyota RAV4 EV, Ford Focus Electric) and are out there promoting standard but more efficient gasoline-powered vehicles. As Mark James, director of Lotus Engineering, told AN, "Everybody rushed toward EV vehicles and hybrid vehicles. Now, they're going back, and saying, 'Actually, we need to look at engines.'" Plug-in technology does have a certain attraction, though. For example, the Chevrolet Volt pulls in a lot of buyers new to the Chevy brand.
The subtext of the AN article, though, is that the OEMs believe customers aren't quite ready to make the big shift to plug in vehicles. That may be true, in a sense, but it is also true that there are questions about whether or not customers can make logical decisions about which fuel type is the best.