Stop us if you’ve heard this one before: Americans are getting beat, they keep losing more and more, and all the good manufacturing jobs are being sent overseas. But many economists disagree with this grim, counterproductive assessment of things in the U.S., and when it comes to electric vehicles, you can’t even begin to make that argument.
Tesla, the plug-in vehicle sales leader, is based in California and just opened the world’s largest battery factory in Nevada. Meanwhile, its flagship Model S sedan is the most American-made EV on the market. Looking at the top four cars on the sales charts, all are made by American manufacturers, as are the top five in American-sourced content. Put simply, U.S. companies and workers are winning in every facet of the electric car industry, and they are about to increase their edge.
America’s EV edge by the numbers
With seven months on the books in 2016, American-branded electric cars held four of the top five spots on the sales charts and represented nearly two-thirds of the 77,834 vehicles sold over that time. Model S and Model X, which are manufactured in Tesla’s Fremont plant, accounted for nearly 30% (22,000) of that total on their own. Chevy Volt and Chevy Spark EV, which are second and third among EVs in content sourced in the U.S., held better than 15% of the market.
Meanwhile, Ford’s two plug-in hybrids held close to another 15%, though the Fusion Energi is built at the company’s Hermosillo plant in Mexico. Even Nissan Leaf, the lone foreign-branded car among the top five in plug-in sales, is assembled in Smyrna, Tennessee. The same cannot be said for the auto market as a whole, whether you go by foreign brands or amount of U.S.-sourced content in the cars themselves.
Gasoline vehicles are losing
If — like the GOP nominee for President — you wanted to break things down into the starkest, most black-and-white terms, gasoline car manufacturers are losing in the battle for U.S. supremacy in the auto industry. The best-selling Ford F-150 ranks among the most American-made vehicles, but Chevy Silverado (No. 2) and Ram (No. 3) ranked 16th and 32nd, respectively. (Honda Accord and Toyota Camry, rounding out the top five, scored higher than both American-branded pickups.)
In other words, U.S.-made gas vehicles have nowhere near the type of market share electric cars do. Globalization and the need to keep big cars cheap for consumers caught in automakers’ price wars are obvious reasons for the outsourcing of parts and assembly, and no fossil-fuel car manufacturer is innocent of these business realities in the 21st century.
However, as our leaders look for ways to power the country forward — beyond a quixotic struggle to hang onto low-wage manufacturing jobs — they may want to consider more public investments in electric cars and charging infrastructure, as President Obama recently did. Boom times are on the horizon.
The coming surge in EV production
Tesla’s battery Gigafactory, which will employ well over 10,000 people in the next four years, opened August 2 in Nevada. The electric car maker is already preparing its Fremont plant for a furious ramp-up of production in order to meet accelerated goals this year and accommodate loftier targets in 2017 and 2018, when it plans to churn out 500,000 cars, including the Model 3, the hottest commodity of all.
This summary alone reeks of well-paying manufacturing jobs. Meanwhile, General Motors is on schedule to begin production of the Chevy Bolt in Michigan in late 2016. These two cars represent the near future of the electric car industry, and both come from American manufacturers in U.S.-based plants. Expect collateral service jobs to spring up as more people show up to handle these assignments.
From our vantage point, the opportunities only begin there. EV charging infrastructure remains so limited in most of the country that hundreds of entrepreneurs could focus on this piece of the pie alone and succeed wildly. Innovations in solar power, wireless charging, and zero-emissions public transport would also have huge markets in the near future.
In the meantime, we’re tired of this scorecard that doesn’t show all the stats. American-made electric cars are succeeding in the present and have a very bright future ahead. Let’s run with this winning team.
Connect with Eric on Twitter @EricSchaalNY