What’s Happening with Electric Vehicle Demand?
Has the trend passed about caring for the environment and preventing harmful emissions?
Despite the fact that GMC is touting its new, 2024 Hummer EV SUV, starting at a cool $80,000 with a 329 range on a full battery charge, Reuters is reporting that the demand for electric vehicles isn’t keeping up with expectations. In October 2023, Honda and General Motors announced they were ending a $5 billion partnership to develop lower-cost EVs. GM says it’s to “enhance the profitability of our EV portfolio and adjust to slowing near-term growth.” Ford, too, just announced it pushed back its EV production timeline because of slower customer demand. Investors are taking notice. Automakers are thrown for a loop.
It’s not for lack of desire for electric vehicles by consumers, auto manufacturers and climate activists alike. Reducing the sting at the gas pump while helping the environment? Bring that on. Indeed, Cox Automotive Report tells us EV sales exceeded 300,000 units in the U.S. in Q3 2023. That’s record numbers.
So, what’s going on?
There are vexing factors swirling around this marketplace, colliding into a miasma of toil and trouble for auto manufacturers.
High interest rates = slowing demand
The current demand slowdown reflects the uncertain economy and the looming shadow of high interest rates (Will they go higher? Will they come down?) driving up the price of the already-expensive EVs. It’s a one-two punch. For most people, the decision to buy a car depends on the affordability of the monthly payment combined with other factors affecting their household budget. The vast majority of us are not rushing out to spend $80K on that Hummer. Maybe a more affordable model? Sure, but with sky-high interest rates driving up the monthly payment of already-expensive vehicles at the same time a pound of ground beef costs upwards of $8, people are taking a wait-and-see attitude. Maybe a gas-fueled car is a better bet right now.
Raw materials shortages for batteries = supply chain issues
As The Buzz EV News recently put it so succinctly, the raw materials that power EV batteries, namely lithium and cobalt, “aren’t exactly littering the landscape.” This, coupled with the fact that 90% of the supply chain for EV batteries runs through China, makes it difficult for U.S. auto manufacturers to realize efficient, profitable production. No one in the industry wants a repeat of the auto microchip shortage during the pandemic.
How is it all affecting auto manufacturers, and what can be done about it? At USCCG, we have a half century of experience dealing with the effects of supply, demand and the economy on many different industries. We work across the entire battery supply chain from mining to metals to battery manufacturing plants. Here’s how we see the issues playing out currently.
Auto manufacturers are doing a 180 (for now), so…
Based on the changing demand, automotive manufacturers are pulling back from EV investment right now and putting it back into traditional auto manufacturing. Even though the industry’s goal is still moving towards a 2030-2035 conversion to EVs, consumers are still buying gas-powered vehicles. Automakers need to maintain production to satisfy the demand.
…Demand and schedule planning is crucial, but…
Automakers’ backlogs need help — they have the orders and demand for gas vehicles, but are struggling to fulfill this demand and fill those orders. At USC, we happen to be the specialists in wrangling schedules, planning for demand when those sands keep shifting, and adding horsepower to teams just when they need it the most. It’s an all-hands-on-deck situation for auto makers, except…
…The skilled labor shortage is real
The new UAW contracts are driving labor costs throughout the industry, even in non-union facilities. Couple that with the ever-shrinking skilled workforce, and it puts auto makers behind the eight ball just when they need to find and retain quality, reliable employees. At USC, we’ve been focusing on this issue, helping employers train their people on best practices and optimal processes. It’s crucial now, like never before.
EV issues aren’t going away. It’s time to reshore now
Yes, the demand is slowing. For now. But auto makers are still on track for conversion to electric vehicles, and the public still wants them. But these battery and supply chain issues are still plaguing the industry.
A few facts entering into this mix: The current Inflation Reduction Act included billions of dollars in government loans to fund EV battery plants in the U.S., and also included a $7,500 tax credit to people who buy U.S.-made EVs. It also allocated $7.5 billion to fund a network of charging stations around the U.S. (That, in itself is exciting for logistics nerds like us.)
Gov. Brian Kemp of Georgia is taking advantage of this trend, creating a push for EV jobs, major manufacturers including Hyundai and Kia located in the state, and pledges to make Georgia the “electric mobility capital” of the country.
TechCrunch+ says the U.S. is in an EV battery factory construction “boom” as a result of these initiatives. In 2019, there were just two battery factories here in the U.S. Today, 30 are either planned or under construction.
What does it all mean? It means auto manufacturers need to meet current demand while keeping an eye on the future. USC can help you do that. Contact us today.