Automobile manufacturers are investing billions of dollars in the move to cleaner, greener battery-fuelled vehicles. Still, the new technology comes at a higher price: Vehicle fires, recalls, power outages, and issues starting some of the automobiles have all harmed the company’s reputation.
Traditional manufacturers suffer a high learning curve when it comes to batteries, and even Tesla, which has faced comparable challenges, finds the technology challenges. However, automakers are keen to adopt the new technology. President Joe Biden pushes for half of all new car purchases to be electric by the year 2030, a proposal that will almost certainly include billions in tax and other benefits.
While traditional cars with internal combustion engines are subject to costly recalls, much of the current issues with electric vehicles involve software and batteries, two areas critical to EVs but not traditionally core specialisms for Detroit automakers.
According to Doug Betts, head of J.D. Power’s automotive division, “anytime you move into a new field of technology, there’s more to learn than there is to know.” “There are dangers and lessons to be learned.”
On corporate balance sheets, the problems are already visible. Three high-profile carmaker recalls in the last year — by Hyundai Motor, General Motors, and Ford Motor — cost a total of $2.2 billion and involved around 132,500 electric vehicles. Most recently, GM announced that it would invest $800 million on the recall of the Chevrolet Bolt EV after several reports of fires caused by two “rare manufacturing faults” in the vehicle’s lithium-ion battery cells.
In the automotive business, recalls are regular, particularly for new vehicles. It’s one of the grounds because new-technology automobiles have historically performed poorly in J.D. Power studies.
“When you switch from gas to electric, you’re going to have a whole new set of challenges to cope with, but we just have to find out how to cope with those problems that you know we haven’t had to deal with before,” said Sam Abuelsamid, principal analyst at Guidehouse Insights.
- GM ordered a second recall of the 2017-2019 Chevrolet Bolt EVs last month after at least 2 of the electric cars that had been repaired for a previous fault exploded into flames.
- Porsche recalled its flagship electric vehicle, the Taycan, due to a software issue that caused the car to lose full power while driving.
- Ford Motor Company announced in April that a “limited number” of early Mustang Mach-E crossover Electric Vehicles customers reported that the 12-volt batteries in the vehicles wouldn’t charge, prohibiting them from driving.