I recently called out Honda and Fiat for making their first electric cars — the Honda Fit EV and the Fiat 500e — compliance cars. Basically, I was critical of Honda and Fiat for taking that path. However, many people consider compliance cars to be the result of bad policy. I don’t subscribe to that view, and I’ll present some of the reasons for that below.
First of all, while it would be super if every car company took fuel economy and alternative fuel mandates to heart and worked to green their offerings as much as possible, the reality is that isn’t happening. But when these companies are essentially forced to produce plug-in electric vehicles and they find that there is actually considerable demand for their new vehicles, the companies may suddenly (or slowly) open up their perspective and delve into producing more EVs than anticipated. In the case of Fiat, according to Jason Stoicevich, Fiat’s new US chief, 80% of the Fiat 500e’s buyers and lessees are new to Fiat. The car is brining in new customers. That has to get some people at Fiat thinking!
Furthermore, the “forced” experience making electric cars, even if not from the ground up, is useful experience that will make developing electric cars in the future (when it’s obvious this is what they should be doing) easier, which would likely bring them to that stage quicker than they would come to it otherwise.
Thirdly, the new electric cars make more people aware that electric cars are on the market, and many of them (not just the Volt & Leaf), which is a very important first step in the electric revolution.
There’s also a bit of speculation that some of these compliance cars have helped to drive down the price of other electric cars. I’m not certain of that, but it is a possibility.
Other thoughts on how compliance cars have helped the EV industry? Or perhaps how they have hurt it?