Exclusive outtakes from industry leaders
The U.S. government has pumped more than $100 billion into Detroit over the past year to keep automakers General Motors and Chrysler alive. But some of the sector’s remaining capitalists are having a hard time stomaching a $25 billion Department of Energy loan program intended to spark new developments in electric cars.
Start-ups Fisker Automotive and Tesla Motors have won about $1 billion in combined funding, while longtime players Ford and Nissan have received substantially larger loans from Washington to work on vehicle electrification — a technology the White House and many in the industry hope will reduce the United States’ dependence on imported oil and lower emissions of carbon dioxide, a leading greenhouse gas.
“If there’s a real market for electric vehicles, the OEMs will do it,” Leuliette said, using industry jargon for automakers. “We don’t need to have people who have never built a car in their life take $1 billion of our tax money and say ‘I can do it too.’”
One of the big challenges for French carmaker Renault, which ranks third in the world with Japanese partner Nissan and Russian ally AvtoVAZ, is that it is too complex, chief operating officer Patrick Pelata told the Reuters Automotive Summit.
“Renault is a complicated company,” he said and explained how many carmakers had embraced a matrix organisation to deal with their international expansion. “We’re definitely more complicated than Nissan,” he said.
Would you buy a car that only goes 100 miles (160 km) on a tank of fuel?
That’s the range of Nissan’s 5-seater electric car planned for sale in the U.S. and Japan in 2010 – a similar size to Nissan’s Primera or VW’s Golf.
A full tank in a petrol-driven car will take you around twice that distance so the new technology that Nissan hopes will leapfrog current hybrids won’t be for those who disappear up the mountains each weekend.