Editor's note: This week's letters are in response to Mark Rechtin's June 26 column, "Conspiracy theories abound in EV1 flick," a review of the film Who Killed the Electric Car? Rechtin's response to these letters follows them.
Readers charged up by electric car review
To the Editor:
Regarding Mark Rechtin's June 26 column ("Conspiracy theories abound in EV1 flick"): Excellent review and points. My copy of The Car that Could has suddenly become a collector's item or at least a frequently requested loan from friends and family.
From 1973 through 1976, I published an electric-vehicle newsletter with the staggering circulation of about 900 die-hard readers. I drove an electric from home to work and back (roughly 45 miles) daily on L.A. freeways when you could actually hit 65 mph on occasion.
The "Lectric Frog" (a Renault 10 converted to EV by a pair of Fontana engineers) let me down only once, which was quite enough even for a fuzzy-brained proponent of the technology.
I bring all of this up for only one reason: Electric cars weren't the answer then. Not the answer now. Rechtin's review is on target. Congrats.
ART SPINELLA, President, CNW Marketing Research, Bandon, Ore.
To the Editor:
Sorry. I completely disagree with Mark Rechtin.
You know that large corporations have always moved the politics around to suit their profits. That is business. And what went on against the electric car is very obvious.
General Motors and all the others never sold an EV. They kept control of them. Previously, when they made a bad business decision, such as the Corvair or the Edsel, they simply stopped making them. They have never recalled and crushed any car before.
Why? Because they are afraid of them.
But keep on telling the lies. Tell them often enough and loud enough, and some will believe you.
ROBERT STELLING, Angwin, Calif. The writer is a laboratory scientist in a hospital.
To the Editor:
I went to the third birthday party of General Motors' EV1 at Universal Studios in December 1999. GM was finally starting to deliver much-improved, second-generation EV1s. At that event, a GM executive told me that GM had already decided not to build anymore EV1s. He also told me that the advertising was never intended to sell the cars.
GM spokesman Dave Barthmuss said that when GM checked in with the waiting list of 4,000 people, there were only 40 takers. The offer was sent out a few days after GM announced that the EV1 program was over.
Paraphrased, the offer was: We just announced that the EV1 is dead; there may be early lease terminations; we might or might not be able to get you a car for the rest of the lease period; you'll have to spend $1,000 to $10,000 to wire your house for the charger, which you'll have to buy as well. You won't be able to keep this car; it is a short-term lease with no option to extend. If you still want to try for one of these cars under these conditions, send us a filled-out credit application.
It is a wonder that GM got as many as 40 takers with salesmanship like that. Is that how to market a car or how to show that there isn't a market? When I got the offer in 2002, I thought it looked fishy, and I suspected I'd see the results of it trotted out later to prove the absence of a market.
ALEC BROOKS, Pasadena, Calif. The writer is a former EV1 driver and led the development of the GM Impact electric vehicle, the predecessor to the EV1.
To the Editor:
Well said, Mark Rechtin.
What a joke. I worked on EVs at Ford in the mid-1990s. Most EV fans temporarily suspend reality when they start ranting. I'm also a fan of clean air, but not at any cost.
I had some choice comments (and responses) on my blog: http://motoralley.blogspot.com.
DAVID WASSMANN, CEO, MotorAlley LLC, www.MotorAlley.com, Bloomfield Hills, Mich. MotorAlley is an automotive Web site for consumers.
To the Editor:
I thought Mark Rechtin's EV1 review was very good. I haven't seen the movie. But I did see a trailer for it, and even that struck me as long on bias and short on facts. Rechtin's review confirmed my suspicions (and saved me $10).
I liked the fact that he mentioned some of the problems that electric cars could have ameliorated, such as dependence on foreign oil and global warming. Though all-electric cars like the EV1 have not succeeded, those issues are still very much with us.
DREW DAVIS, President, Drew Davis Communications Inc., Redondo Beach, Calif. Drew Davis Communications produces automotive marketing and sales training materials.
To the Editor:
Mark Rechtin's EV1 column is full of inaccuracies and unwarranted assumptions. He rightly states that documentaries can be opinionated and says, "But it also has allowed those with an agenda to create propaganda."
The accusation fits Rechtin's column better than it describes the documentary, Who Killed the Electric Car? Allow me to introduce some electric vehicle information of which he obviously is ignorant.
Below, Rechtin's comments are followed by rebutting facts.
- "Toyota's RAV4 EV cost more than $100,000 each to build, far more than its $30,000 sticker price after incentives. The cost of its $32,000 battery pack isn't scalable by volume."
Prices of all automotive components come down when mass-produced. Batteries are no different. By the way, rights to produce the nickel-metal hydride RAV4 EV power packs are controlled by Chevron, which will not allow the packs to be produced in or brought into the United States.
- The filmmakers "make the leap that consumers would have bought the EV1 in droves, if only GM and Big Oil hadn't intimidated California regulators."
GM and Chrysler sued to avoid mass-producing EVs; the current Bush administration aided them with an amicus brief.
An EV market study published in 2000, based on Dohring automotive marketing research data, projected that a practical EV would produce sales of more than 100,000 units yearly within five years after the first offer.
- "Simply put, American consumers voted with their wallets against electric vehicles. Consumers had serious problems with a two-seat vehicle that could drive for only 80 miles before it had to be recharged for four hours. When a car isn't profitable, it gets the ax, no matter how good (or not) it is."
American consumers were not allowed to vote with their wallets; 800 EV1s and a few thousand other EVs were available (lease-only) in three states for a total of five years. All EVs offered were leased, with waiting lists for all eight EV models built.
HUGH E. WEBBER ,Member, Florida Electric Auto Association, Winter Park, Fla.
The June 26 column was intended to deal with the quality of the movie, not the basic validity of electric vehicles in the marketplace. The producers of Who Killed the Electric Car? could have created a sober look at why electric vehicles -- or most high-mileage vehicles, for that matter -- have not caught on with U.S. consumers. Instead, the movie resorted to hype and hyperbole, wending a tenuous tale of alleged conspiracies. The American moviegoer deserves better.
-- Mark Rechtin
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