Carmakers to invest at least $90 billion in batteries, electric car technology

Dozens of new models to be debuted over next five years

Reuters

Visitors look at cars in the Ford booth at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit on Monday.
Reuters Visitors look at cars in the Ford booth at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit on Monday.

DETROIT — Ford Motor’s plan to double its electrified vehicle spending is part of an investment tsunami in batteries and electric cars by global automakers that now totals $90 billion and still is growing, a Reuters analysis shows.

That money is pouring in to a tiny sector that amounts to less than one percent of the 90 million vehicles sold each year and where Elon Musk’s Tesla, with sales of only three models totaling just over 100,000 vehicles in 2017, was a dominant player.

With the world’s top automakers poised to introduce dozens of new battery electric and hybrid gasoline-electric models over the next five years — many of them in China — executives continue to ask: Who will buy all those vehicles?

“We’re all in,” Ford Motor Executive Chairman Bill Ford Jr. said of the company’s $11 billion investment, announced on Sunday at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit. “The only question is, will the customers be there with us?”

“Tesla faces real competition,” said Mike Jackson, CEO of AutoNation, the largest U.S. auto retailing chain. By 2030, Jackson said he expects electric vehicles could account for 15 to 20 percent of new vehicle sales in the United States.

Investments in electrified vehicles announced to date include at least $19 billion by automakers in the United States, $21 billion in China and $52 billion in Germany.

But U.S. and German auto executives said in interviews on the sidelines of the Detroit auto show that the bulk of those investments are earmarked for China, where the government has enacted escalating electric-vehicle quotas starting in 2019.

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Mainstream automakers also are reacting in part to pressure from regulators in Europe and California to slash carbon emissions from fossil fuels. They are under pressure as well from Tesla’s success in creating electric sedans and SUVs that inspire would-be owners to flood the company with orders.

While Tesla is the most prominent electric carmaker, “soon it will be everybody and his brother,” Daimler AG Chief Executive Dieter Zetsche told reporters on Monday at the Detroit show.

Daimler has said it will spend at least $11.7 billion to introduce 10 pure electric and 40 hybrid models, and that it intends to electrify its full range of vehicles, from minicompact commuters to heavy-duty trucks.

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