Companies that have been slower, like Stellantis, which owns Ram, Jeep and Chrysler, brands that don’t yet have battery-powered vehicles, are under additional pressure to catch up. Jeep started selling a plug-in hybrid version of its popular Wrangler this year and plans to start selling all-electric vehicles by 2023.
“Automotive leaders have long seen writing on the wall when it comes to electrification and autonomous technologies,” said Jessica Caldwell, senior analyst at Edmunds, a market researcher.
Ms Caldwell added that the sales targets set by the Biden administration and the automakers are “certainly not unreasonable, and most likely achievable by 2030, as automakers have already built large numbers of electric vehicles into their future product cycles.”
But many automakers have just started marketing electric vehicles designed from the ground up to run on batteries. The Mercedes-Benz EQS, a luxury electric sedan, goes on sale in the United States this month. BMW started selling a battery-powered vehicle, the i3, eight years ago, but slowly picked up on it. The iX, an electric SUV, will arrive at US dealers early next year.
And just because companies make electric vehicles doesn’t mean people will buy them. Volkswagen started selling an electric SUV this year, the ID.4, but sales in the United States have so far been only a fraction of the company’s established models, such as the Jetta or Tiguan.
By setting a clear target for electric vehicle sales, Mr. Biden adds impetus to the shift towards clean transportation, but also unleashes forces that automakers may not be able to control.
Consumers could switch to electric vehicles if they become cheaper and people realize that petrol vehicles are in danger of becoming white elephants with a declining resale value. That would put pressure on companies that, with the exception of Tesla and some start-ups, still mainly produce cars with combustion engines.