In a nutshell: Jim O’Donnell (above), Chairman-CEO of BMW North America, said, “For at least 90 percent and maybe more of the population, (an EV) won’t work (at the current battery range).”
He probably should have qualified that statement with the phrase, “…won’t work as a primary car,” but it’s still obviously true. And he expressed another opinion: that the U.S. government should end the $7,500 tax credit for EVs. “I believe in a free economy. I think we should abolish all tax credits.”
I think he’s wrong about the tax credit, for reasons I’ll give below. But he’s certainly right about the 90 percent figure, and he got hammered by a number of green-car websites for speaking the truth. Autobloggreen, for example, went looking for an apology, which O’Donnell in fact issued last Friday.
So, political correctness wins again, even though auto execs are just about the most PR-challenged group around.
Right now, there are too many green cars chasing too few buyers, which is Problem No. 1. And the major issue is price. BMW has been collecting data on EV usage and driving habits so as to make its EVs more practical for more people.
O’Donnell’s remarks should have taken off from that standpoint, rather than gunning for Nissan-Renault’s Carlos Ghosn, who has been derided everywhere for predicting that EVs would achieve 10 percent market penetration by 2020. I wonder if he’s so wrong.
Regarding the tax credit: It is not only right but necessary for government to subsidize a new technology/industry that is strongly and manifestly in the public interest. I won’t repeat the same old arguments about oil independence, clean air, carbon reduction, and priming the industrial pump. If we don’t help this fledgling industry, prepare to see it go to Asia, where other countries will not hesitate.
Finally, O’Donnell did his own company a big disservice by basically offering personal opinions that may well affect how others view BMW’s effort to electrify—with the Activ-E (above), for instance.
You know the old saw about shooting yourself in the foot.
Did O’Donnell commit the sin he is charged with? Did he help or hurt his company?