Car manufacturers continue to distance themselves from electric

Credit where credit is due, General Motors was among the first car manufacturers to understand that the blindfold race towards electric would cause serious damage. Already in March 2023 he abandoned the crazy idea of ​​building 400,000 electric vehicles by the middle of this year, admitting that it is precisely sustainability done only on paper that is unsustainable. Four months later it was Ford's turn, determined to postpone its battery-powered projects for at least twelve months, complaining about the effects of a market plagued by uncertainty and confusion. Until then, rather than environmentalist strategies, green political decisions were golden opportunities for manufacturers; after all, it had never happened that politics pushed towards a rapid (too) rapid renewal of almost all of the fleet in circulation, laying the foundations for selling much and above all vehicles built to be more profitable.

Pay attention, the budgets of the companies in the period 2022-2024 showed improved margins in the face of lower production in terms of numbers. Instead, today, forced to lower prices due to Chinese competition and the inability of buyers to all be “premium customers”, here they are offering discounts and – some brands – chasing key performances, primarily better autonomy. Then came the cuts to Tesla's staff and the decisions of other manufacturers to accept, albeit in their own way, the harsh law of Akio Toyoda, i.e. Toyota, which has always maintained that customers have to decide which engine is best for them , but above all the conviction not to abandon the development of endothermic fuel, be it petrol, diesel or hydrogen.

In Europe it is even worse: after four years of brainwashing and electric catechesis, the EU Commission, blind to reality and the consequences of decisions taken with ideology, thanks to people like Frans Timmermans, led Parliament to decide that from 2035 it will no longer be possible to sell new vehicles (cars and light commercial vehicles) equipped with petrol or diesel engines. A dream, or rather a delirium, which lasted less than a year, with the manufacturers far from reaching the forecasts, pardon the horoscopes, made by their managers. Tochetti Provera's phrase in Milan two months ago is emblematic: “Someone has miscalculated”. It's a shame there were those who had been writing it for five years but were called boomers, populists and sovereignists.

So even someone who believed in it like Ola Källenius, CEO of Mercedes-Benz, announced to his shareholders a few days ago that combustion engines will also be around after 2030. They will hardly admit that they followed politics, that they looked for a way to raise the margins of the products at the expense of the number of workers and the reduced number of components that make up the electric car. Going so far as to underestimate the weight of the market and even the pragmatic nature of customers in knowing how to distinguish the price of a car from its value. Ola Källenius, interviewed by Bloomberg, made cautious statements claiming that “the change could take longer than expected”, but the reality is that the German company had focused on battery-powered models to improve its profits. Stellantis has arrived shortly after: although during this year it will launch 25 car models of which at least 18 will be electric, from the words of the number one in corporate finance Natalie Knight it is clear that the group will only be able to follow the requests of customers, who at the moment they have given unequivocal indications, such as the too high price of the 500e and the insufficient autonomy of other models.

Proof: the relatively recent decision to combine the battery-powered versions of some models with the hybrid and petrol variants. Even launching the thermal before the electric, as happened with the Jeep Avenger. And even those who have convincingly pursued the electric philosophy, such as Luca De Meo of Renault, have recently renewed their partnership – in this case with the Chinese Geely – to continue to also have low-cost internal combustion engines. Incredibly, in a world that was facing the pandemic and enormous geopolitical tensions, therefore epochal changes, billions were invested without any critical attitude or prudence, with politicians barely considering the opportunity to soften the transition by switching from ecological and synthetic fuels . Often and mistakenly, the model to follow has been the Northern European one, see the end of the diesel combustion engine from Volvo dated 26 March 2024, pretending not to know that at those altitudes the population density is very low (for example Finland has the inhabitants of Lombardy in a territory twice the size of Italy), and that the territory is certainly not that of the Alps and the Apennines full of small historic villages and small streets. The history of the automobile should teach us this: it is no coincidence that in the USA the dimensions of the cars were enormous while in Italy and Japan small cars were born; and Minister Urso is right when he says that in Italy we should produce at least one million cars, perhaps economical ones.

At the next European elections we must remember this: the problem arose within a Commission that took ideological decisions and European citizens undoubtedly deserve more prudent and realistic commissioners. Crippling Giovannino Guareschi, in the voting booth your wallet sees you, Brussels doesn't.