Electric vehicle sales fall far short of Obama goal

Wed Jan 20, 2016 1:12pm EST
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By David Shepardson and Bernie Woodall

DETROIT (Reuters) - Back in 2008, with gas prices averaging nearly $4 a gallon, President Barack Obama set a goal of getting one million plug-in electric vehicles on the roads by 2015.

Since then, his administration has backed billions of dollars in EV subsidies for consumers and the industry.

Yet today – with gas prices near $2 a gallon - only about 400,000 electric cars have been sold. Last year, sales fell 6 percent over the previous year, to about 115,000, despite the industry offering about 30 plug-in models, often at deep discounts.

Such challenges are part of the backdrop for Obama’s Wednesday visit to Detroit, where he’s expected to discuss the state of the auto industry.

Despite slow plug-in sales, the industry continues to roll out new models in response to government mandates and its own desire to create brands known for environmental innovation.

At the Detroit Auto Show last week, General Motors Co(GM.N: Quote) showed off its new electric Bolt EV; Ford Motor Co(F.N: Quote) unveiled a new plug-in version of its Ford Fusion; and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV(FCHA.MI: Quote) unveiled its first plug-in hybrid, a version of its new Pacifica minivan.

Ford CEO Mark Fields said last week that EVs "are a difficult sell at $2 a gallon.”

Plug-in vehicles accounted for fewer than 1 percent of the 17.4 million cars and trucks sold last year, according to data from HybridCars.com and Baum & Associates, a Michigan-based market research firm.   Continued...

A Chevrolet Bolt EV electric vehicle is displayed at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit, in this file photo taken January 12, 2016. REUTERS/Mark Blinch/Files