How Coronavirus Has Impacted Electric Vehicle Sales

by Adam Phillips

Since the first crude attempt at an electric car in 1891 by William Morrison of Des Moines, right up until the futuristic models we are driving now, making electric cars mainstream has been a dream of many that almost seemed to be impossible at times. In 2018 electric vehicle sales hit record highs, inspiring hope and excitement among manufacturers, dealers, and enthusiasts. Although the electric car sales started strong in 2020, and many believed that this would be the decade that EVs would begin to climb to the top, eventually surpassing gas-powered vehicles, the coronavirus pandemic has created a bump in the road. With most people staying home, and therefore not going out to view and purchase cars, electric car sales are taking a big hit during this difficult time. Understandably, most people are prioritizing food, shelter, and various essentials when they make purchases during this time.

Another problem that arose from the pandemic is that manufacturers find themselves very uncertain about the future of electric vehicles, so they are forced to rethink all of their plans and strategies. With well over a million sales in 2019, electric car companies were expecting big things from 2020, but the pandemic has left them unsure of how to proceed. It is highly unlikely that 2020 sales will be able to match 2019, but then the question of whether or not the economy will bounce back remains. Do manufacturers prepare for a long dry-spell, or do they prepare for a sudden reemergence of interest in electric vehicles when this whole thing blows over?

Considering the fact that China is the world’s biggest producer of electric vehicles, it is really no wonder that EV sales have plummeted since the beginning of the coronavirus outbreak. Electric car sales out of China have dropped more than 80% since the onset of the pandemic, and the future of the industry is very uncertain. Will the industry recover? Almost certainly, but we are left to wonder how long the recovery will take, and if there is any chance of salvaging the record-breaking decade that many automakers were hoping for and expecting in the 2020s.

Another reason that the virus has hit electric car sales so hard is the timing of the pandemic. Obviously, there is no such thing as “good timing” for a global disaster like the coronavirus, but it happened to coincide with the auto-show season, which usually takes place in the springtime of each year. This means that not only are people stuck indoors, unemployed, and uncertain about the future, but many of the upcoming electric cars have not even debuted to the public in the first place. You can imagine that it is difficult to sell a product that no one has ever seen.

The coronavirus has caused other, less direct, problems with electric car sales as well. For instance, many of the parts, supplies, and raw materials used to manufacture electric cars come from China. As you can imagine, these parts are a little hard to come by these days. Even many of those that are still shipping at all have raised their prices, although to their credit, many of the price-increases seem pretty minimal. With parts and materials being more expensive and difficult to obtain, the future of sales being very uncertain, the global leader of EV sales being the presumed center of the disaster, and buyers experiencing difficult financial times, it is a tough time for electric car sales all around.

So, having read all of that, you might be asking yourself; what are automakers doing to fix the problem? Unfortunately, there is not much that Tesla or General Motors can do about the state of the global economy. Tesla has already announced that they expect to take a rather hard hit. We can always hope that the recovery will be nearly as fast as the drop, but that remains to be seen. What we can see is that many automakers are taking steps to ensure that the upcoming electric cars are not forgotten. The sales may not be as strong as everyone thought they would be, but that does not mean that exposure to the public has to suffer as well. General Motors was only one of the first to announce that they would be taking their auto shows online, so they can still count on most of their base being able to see their newest and upcoming lineups. How much this will actually help sales is something of a mystery, but there is reason to believe that maintaining visibility now will help the chances of a fast recovery in the future.

The coronavirus has been a disaster for the entire world, and that is true in more ways than one. Without a doubt the loss of life is by far the most serious effect of the pandemic, but the hit on the global economy is nothing to scoff at either. We know that most automakers are working overtime to safeguard the future of not only their own products, but of the electric vehicle industry as a whole. The value of electric cars is far beyond simple convenience and accessory, the value is in reducing our carbon footprint and being good stewards of the environment. What we do today will impact the world for generations to come, and that’s why it is so important that electric vehicles are not allowed to be forgotten or left by the wayside. The pandemic will eventually blow over, and the economy will recover, although we cannot claim to know how fast that recovery will happen. Electric car automakers are doing what they can to ensure that the industry will make a smooth and speedy recovery when the economy bounces back, but they will be counting on their base customers and electric car enthusiasts to help keep the excitement going. While you are maintaining social distance and staying home, be sure to spend some time on electric cars sites and forums so that we can keep the conversation about EVs strong.

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1 comment

Mark Cryderman April 10, 2020 - 9:14 am

This is faulty logic. ICE vehicles have all the same issues with starting back up again. But people are looking out their windows and are seeing mountains meadows, etc., that they couldn’t see before. Why – because, with reduced traveling, vehicle tailpipe emission has been greatly reduced, along with the associated air pollution. Look at the world maps that validate this. Polls validate that EVs stand to be more popular than ever.

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