With a market share of 16% in September, sales of electric cars have for the first time exceeded sales of diesel in France. Should we rejoice? I do not think.
First, this boom in sales comes at a time when the European industry is not ready to fuel it. Not a single one of the promised gigafactories, these giant battery factories, has yet emerged from the ground, and all the European manufacturers are still sourcing almost exclusively Asian batteries at what is still between half and a third of the cost of their production.
Next, the only affordable new electric car (or almost: €13,800 to €15,300 bonus deducted) for the average Frenchman – and one of the best sellers – is the Dacia Spring… made in China. A small car cut out for sleeping at work and even dropping the kids off at school and doing the evening shopping, but no more, and that for the price of a thermal compact before Covid. All the others are still at stratospheric prices considering the median salary which is €1,940 and even the average salary: €2,424.
The popular electric car doesn’t exist yet, and I don’t see it coming. At least not from France, Germany or Italy, but I’ll get to that…
Affluent buyers drive little
From a social point of view, the result is disastrous: from what I see, what I hear and what I read, it is the wealthy townspeople who, because they have the means, convert to “watts”. There is little or no crowd of those who have a real economic need for it: rural and peri-urban people who are devastated by their high daily mileage, and this all the more so since they have been massively encouraged to abandon diesel for petrol.
They are not refractory to electricity, simply, its prices do not fit with the 5,000 to 10,000 € maximum that they set aside for the purchase of a car … used.
Too bad because their conversion wouldn’t cost much to the community, they have an outlet at home to recharge, while there will never be enough terminals and never powerful enough on the streets and parking lots for the townspeople.
Ecologically, the picture is the same: you have to drive a lot to compensate for the high CO2 impact from battery manufacturing. What the vast majority of current buyers don’t do: The average annual mileage for a motorist in metropolitan areas is two to three times lower than that of a rural or suburban resident.
Those who doubt this can look in the classified ads for the ridiculously low annual mileage of the vast majority of used electrical appliances.
Every month a Chinese news
Too quickly too, because in the absence of an affordable offer and by forcing the buyer’s hand with ZFE and subsidizing the purchase up to €11,000 (Bonus + conversion premium) the red carpet is rolled out for the Chinese industry.
As a result, not a month goes by without the announcement of the arrival in Europe of a new model or brand of car from China, all with prices much lower than continental brands. An MG4 costs €8,000 less than a directly comparable electric Mégane. Moreover, sales in Europe of this formerly British brand are no longer anecdotal.
Nothing surprising. Faced with a consumer who looks at his bank account before his passport, insane prices and a shortage that puts delivery times at six months to a year, any manufacturer, even unknown and without a network of dealers, enters the old continent as butter.
No more tin cars from the 2000s
And when I write “any manufacturer”, you do not see anything pejorative: Chinese manufacturers have made a leap of half a century in 10 years.
All you have to do is climb aboard an Aiways or an MG to see – and feel – that the production quality is now up to our standards. Even the design now rivals that of the Europeans.
As for safety, we must forget the fun crash tests of the tin Chinese from the 2000s: they now show 5 stars at EuroNcap and offer the full range of driving aids.
Add to that the fact that their experience with electrification is superior to that of the Europeans, and that their batteries are sometimes technically ahead, and the reality is stark: our car industry had only a small lead in one area: engine heat in general and diesel in particular. The stigmatized diesel, which now sells less than the electric.
I absolutely do not see how the European car industry could resist this increase because Germany, for whom China is an important outlet for its industry, will never accept quotas or increased tariffs for fear of retaliation.
Regarding customs, they announced in August that the French trade deficit over a year reached 139 billion euros against 85 billion a year earlier. For those who do not visualize, I put the zeros: €139,000,000,000.