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Renault delaying electric Twingo because nobody wants one.



Renault has a problem. Last year, Renault-Nissan chief Carlos Ghosn said the two companies would not meet their collective goal of selling 1.5 million EVs a year by 2016. While sales of the Nissan Leaf have been strong – 115,000 globally so far - Renault sold less than 20,000 its EVs like the Zoe, the Fluence ZE and the Twizy last year.

This year was supposed to see the introduction of the Twingo ZE electric vehicle. The problem is that people aren't clamoring for the Twingo, leaving the order books fairly empty. The company now says it will delay the model's debut to an undetermined future date, Bloomberg News says, citing an interview with Renault executive Jerome Stoll.

And it looks like that delay will be indefinite, says Renault spokeswoman Rie Yamane, who didn't address the lack of demand but cited the automaker's current range of EV models.

"We have no plan to commercialize the Twingo ZE, as well already have a comprehensive range of electric vehicles," Yamane wrote in an e-mail to AutoblogGreen, citing the Twizy, Kangoo ZE and Zoe models.

Renault first displayed the electric Twingo at this year's Geneva Motor Show, when the French automaker planned to make good on its 2011 estimate that the Twingo ZE would start sales during the second half of 2014. The company's 20,000 EV sales are a small part to the 2.63 million vehicles that Renault sold altogether, thus the rethink.

Of course, Renault has company. With the exception of Nissan, Tesla and BMW, a number of automakers haven't done well convincing people to go electric, especially in Europe. For instance, Germany, which has set a goal of having 1 million plug-ins on its roads by 2020, has just 12,000 or so. Norway is an exception here, of course.

In fact, Fiat chief Sergio Marchionne, when speaking at the Brookings Institution this week, reiterated that his company loses money on each Fiat 500e EV that his company sells, and even upped the loss to $14,000 per vehicle from his previous estimate of about $10,000. He hammered his point home by telling the audience that he hoped they wouldn't buy the 500e. Maybe he should talk to Renault about marketing.
Renault has put the battery-electric version of the Twingo city car on hold as demand for the automaker’s other electric vehicles has fallen well short of expectations. The move raises a pertinent question concerning the attitude of electric car buyers.
“We’re not in a situation where the market has followed our forecasts,” Chief Performance Officer Jerome Stoll told Bloomberg. “People haven’t yet reached the point where they feel the need to have an electric vehicle for full daily use. People need to feel that to shift to electric models.”
Renault’s decision reflects an increasingly apparent dichotomy between more expensive premium electric cars and those aimed at the mass market. It’s now clear that for many people electric cars are a status symbol, and as such must exhibit an appropriate level of luxury.
While Tesla, for example, is increasing production of the $63,570 Model S to 1,000 units per week, sales of Renault’s ZOE reached only 10,000 in its first year – 40,000 short of the French firm’s target. This despite the zero emissions hatch being attractive, enjoyable to drive, and aggressively priced.
Another luxury electric car – the BMW i3 – is also enjoying early success, with predictions of 25,000 sales this year, whereas the Chevrolet Volt range extender has struggled to win buyers so far this year.
It will be interesting to see how Volkswagen – a company that has recently straddled premium and utilitarian market segments with huge success – fares as its first battery-electric and plug-in hybrid models arrive over the next couple of years.
Ironically, it’s Renault’s sister-brand Nissan that has enjoyed moderate success in selling ‘the people’s’ electric car. The LEAF, which is available in the US for less than $25,000, has sold well over 100,000 units in the past three years and continues to be a popular choice with those unwilling to pay the wrong side of $40,000 for an equivalent vehicles from BMW, Mercedes-Benz, or Kia.
Electric cars are getting less expensive every year. The question is whether non-premium brands will have to offer their zero emissions vehicles at the same price as their gasoline vehicles to for sales to pick up, or if the price will have to be even lower to compensate for the limited range and lack of luxury.
Would you rather spend $45,000 on a BMW i3 replete with olive oil-massage leather seats, visible carbon fiber, and that all-important Munich roundel, or get essentially the same package minus the badge for roughly half the price. Let us know.
Electric cars a rich man’s toy? Renault thinks so. What happens to the smart ED?
 

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I have read of research and development of batteries and electric drive. I have read of batteries getting cheaper / better and faster to charge. I think it would make electric vehicles more appealing in the future.
 
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