Something that I think not many people are aware of is that some green cars are only produced because of California’s strict laws aimed at greening the automobile industry. Unfortunately, while some automakers get the underlying point of it all and eager to lead the way into the automobile market of the future (i.e., the electric vehicle market), some are like old dogs stubborn in their ways and just produce EVs in order to satisfy California’s green car laws. They produce a minimum number of cars, and they only offer them in very select markets (e.g., California), and sometimes not even to sell, but only to lease. And, in the worst scenarios, they won’t even let consumers buy the cars from them at the end of the lease period, but take them back and likely trash them (think GM’s EV1).
The common name for such cars is “compliance cars.” GM doesn’t actually seem to be “in the compliance car business” these days — its Chevy Volt (or a relative of it) is sold around the world. It is sold in large numbers. And GM is very proud of the car. The Chevy Spark EV, about to hit the roads, also seems to be aimed at real sales, as GM cut its initial price to just lower than the price of the market-leading Nissan Leaf. Many are very excited about the car, and I think it could see very good sales. We’ll see how many GM produces.
However, the Honda Fit EV and Fiat 500e have been called out as compliance cars, and it looks like they really are. The Honda Fit EV is only leased, and it took a loooong time for Honda to offer it on the East Coast at all. Despite very low sales, Honda announced in early June that it was sold out. It also isn’t exactly the most competitive EV on the market. All the signs of a compliance car there. Oh yeah, plus, it is created out of the design of a gasmobile, with electric insides simply replacing the gasoline engine — another clear sign of a compliance car.
When Honda cut the lease price on the Fit EV, it was quickly swamped with orders–and had to apologize for the long waits.
Honda: pace won’t change
But Steve Center, Honda’s vice president of environmental business development, said in June that the company’s pace of Fit EV production for the hand-built electric conversion won’t change.
Each month, Honda’s U.S. distribution arm will continue to receive 40 to 50 Fit EVs and allocate them to dealers based on the demand at the time.
That’s because Honda assembles the hand-built electric conversion at the same low-volume factory that builds its FCX Clarity hydrogen fuel-cell vehicle.
Parts for those cars are ordered in very small batches, and there’s little ability to “ramp up” production as you might on a conventional assembly.
Each of Honda’s 200 electric-car-certified dealers will get one Fit EV at a time, potentially meaning one every four months.
If you’re in fourth position on the waiting list, that means you might wait more than a year for a car.
The Fiat 500e is actually a very cool little EV that Fiat has been advertised surprisingly well. It goes for a competitive price and has garnered a lot of positive attention. Unfortunately, however, it has only been offered in California and it is already sold out despite the fact that none have been delivered to owners yet — in other words, not very many have been produced. Very sad. It’s a beautiful little car, and from what I’ve read, great to drive. And Fiat really did advertise it well:
Interestingly, Green Car Reports also noted that the Fiat 500e is bringing in a lot of new buyers to the brand. Jason Stoicevich, Fiat’s new US chief, said that 80% of the electric car’s buyers and lessees are new to Fiat. Nonetheless, despite that and the car being essentially sold out through the end of the year, Fiat has no intention to ramp up production.
Personally, even if you like the Honda Fit EV or Fiat 500e (I love the 500e), I’d recommend against buying them simply to boycott the companies’ lame EV plans. Of course, that may justify them, and that may not really matter anyway, since the companies are producing so few cars that they have no problem finding buyers. But I’d still feel much better about giving my business to Nissan or Tesla.