A survey of global auto industry executives finds they see only modest potential for electric vehicle sales over the next 13 years.
But a large majority believes the industry will continue putting larger investments into EV technology -- just in case.
Two-thirds of the executives surveyed believe that combined hybrid and electric-vehicle sales will account for as little as 6 percent of the market in the United States and Western Europe as late as 2025.
"They are hedging their bets," interprets Gary Silberg, national auto industry leader for the U.S. financial consulting firm KPMG LLC. KPMG conducts the executive attitude survey each year.
"They are saying that we don't know yet what the winning vehicle technology will be for the future, and so they are going to invest in all of it and let the market decide."
According to the survey of 200 automotive executives, who participate anonymously:
- 81 percent anticipate larger investments in battery packs and battery cell technology;
- 85 percent believe automakers will invest in more electric motor production; and
- 76 percent expect more investment in electronics for electric vehicles.
This was the first year executives were surveyed on the question, so comparable data was not available.
"The dilemma for the industry is, how do you predict the future when there is a high probability you will be wrong?" Silberg says. "It's a gamble."
Ford, Chrysler gains expected
Separately, the survey also captured an increasing perception among industry executives in North America, Asia and Europe that Ford Motor Co. and Chrysler Group LLC will gain global market share over the next five years.
According to the survey, 47 percent predicted that Ford's market share will increase, compared to 43 percent a year ago, and 31 percent predicted Chrysler's share will rise, up from 24 percent last year. Two years ago, only 13 percent of the executives believed Chrysler could increase market share, and 29 percent forecast growth for Ford.
The numbers reflect more positive public perceptions of the companies, Silberg says.
"Consumers are saying they like what they see from these automakers," Silberg says. "And the auto executives are saying that more positive consumer attitudes will translate to more market share."