Automakers like Toyota, General Motors and BMW were the first to develop pure electric cars for the 21st century. Others have taken their time.
Is this truly a case of “so the last shall be first?” While most automakers have moved, to some extent, toward electrification, there are others who seem to be taking their time. Mazda and Subaru, for instance, runs exclusively on fossil fuels across their entire current lineup. They’ve both dabbled with hybrid powertrains, such as the previous Crosstrek Hybrid and Mazda built an electric version of the Demio – known to us as the Mazda2 – for the Japanese market. However, neither have committed serious resources toward rushing electric cars to market? Why not?
A recent Bloomberg piece contends the medium-size manufacturers are content, for the moment, to let other automakers develop the technology. While batteries have gotten much cheaper in recent years, they’re still more expensive than fossil-fueled cars. As such, demand for electric cars globally hasn’t yet picked up to the point where jumping in would be a profitable venture. Mazda and Subaru don’t have the same resources as Volkswagen, Toyota or General Motors to develop the technology on their own.
From that perspective, holding off makes sense. Mazda and Subaru both save R&D costs if they incorporate technology that’s already been developed into their electrified models. More importantly, when battery prices drop, they can both make deals with suppliers to jump onto the electric bandwagon.
Waiting too long?
Of course, the other side of that argument is that other automakers will leave Mazda and Subaru, as two of the last holdouts to the electric race, behind. Both companies could lose out on the environmental front as the public consciousness shifts away from fossil fuels toward electric cars. They can also miss the opportunity to pull in thousands of early adopters who are rushing to the likes of Tesla, BMW and other EV manufacturers to get what they want.
Choice in the electric car market is also expanding. Analysts assert demand for electric cars will accelerate as gas prices increase, better EVs come to market, and the charging infrastructure improves. Back at the turn of the century, Tesla pretty much stood alone as a California startup that was trying to get the whole “electric car” thing to catch on. Even in recent years, until recent diesel scandals, that was still the case.
Now, the scales are shifting, even if they’re shifting slowly right now. Mazda and Subaru are hedging their bets by tying up with larger companies like Toyota to co-develop electric car technology. Not only that, but Mazda is also working to improve the still-dominant internal combustion engine with their new SkyActiv-X generation of powerplants.
It’s an interesting play, and one where we’ll have to wait to see the outcome. What do you think – should Mazda and Subaru be in the electric car game already, or is it smart for them to wait? Will it be too late by the time they bring their first EVs to market in the next few years? Let us know what you think in the comments!