2012 Nissan Leaf

A new survey by audit powerhouse KPMG suggests auto executives don't see electrified car sales passing 15 percent of global sales until at least 2025. Yet despite the slowly developing market, these same execs foresee substantial increased investment in electric and hybrid car production along with research and development. Given very limited consumer acceptance of hybrid cars since their U.S. introduction back in late 1999 (gas-electric new car sales are still around two percent), cautious sales estimates seem like par for the course.

Among the many highlights of the survey that polled 200 executives is word that 83 percent expect an increase in electric motor production, 81 percent think automakers will increase investment in battery technology, 76 percent see more power electronics investment, and 65 percent see increased investment in fuel cells. The survey results didn't show any conclusive winner as to which sort of alternative fuel technology might win out, with 20 percent choosing fuel cell vehicles, 16 percent picking battery-powered electrics, 22 percent choosing hybrids, 21 percent weighing in on plug-in hybrids, and 18 percent opting for battery-powered electrics with range extenders.

Perhaps the most interesting nugget we see is that 61 percent of the executives surveyed agreed that "the optimization (so-called downsizing) of internal combustion engines (ICE) still offers greater efficiency and CO2 reduction potential than any electric vehicle technology based on the current energy mix."

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Global Auto Execs Don't See Spark in Electric Vehicle Sales for More Than Decade: KPMG Survey

However, auto makers expected to pump investment into electric technologies; No clear electrified propulsion winner, execs mixed on consumer demand for e-vehicles by 2025


DETROIT, Jan. 5, 2012 /PRNewswire/ -- Despite continued heavy investment by auto makers in electric propulsion technologies, global automotive executives don't expect e-car sales to exceed 15 percent of annual global auto sales before 2025, according to the 13th annual global automotive survey conducted by KPMG LLP, the U.S. audit, tax, and advisory firm.

In polling 200 C-level executives in the global automotive industry for the 2012 automotive survey, KPMG found that nearly two-thirds (65 percent) of executives don't expect electrified vehicles (meaning all e-vehicles, from full hybrids to FCEVs) to exceed 15 percent of global annual auto sales before 2025. Executives in the U.S. and Western Europe expect even less adoption, projecting e-vehicles will only account for 6-10 percent of global annual auto sales.

"Electric vehicles are still in their infancy, and while we've seen some recent model introductions, consumer demand has so far been modest," said Gary Silberg, National Automotive Industry leader for KPMG LLP. "While we can expect no more than modest demand in the foreseeable future, we can also expect OEMs to intensify investment, fully appreciating what is at stake in a very competitive industry."

Automakers Inject Investments into Range of Electric Technologies

Despite the relatively modest sales projections for electric vehicles over the next 15 years, automotive executives in the KPMG survey indicate that a wide range of electric technologies will be an increased focus of their investment matrix. In fact, over the next two years:
  • 83 percent say automakers will increase investment in e-motor production,
  • 81 percent say investment in battery (pack/cell) technology will rise,
  • 76 percent expect increased investment in power electronics for e-cars, and,
  • 65 percent predict increased investment in fuel cell (hydrogen) technology.
Additionally, executives expect that hybrid fuel systems, battery electric power and fuel cell electric power will be the alternative propulsion technologies to attract the most auto industry investment over the next five years.

Placing Bets 'Across the Board'

"What's interesting is that automakers are placing bets across the board, and large bets at that, because no one knows which technology will ultimately win the day with consumers," added Silberg.

"In last year's KPMG survey, execs told us it would be more than five years before the industry is able to offer an electric vehicle that is as affordable as traditional fuel vehicles for mainstream buyers. It will be interesting to see how consumer adoption progresses as automakers discover ways to offer these electrified cars at better price points and the infrastructure for these vehicles becomes more robust and accommodating," he said.

However, despite all the investment and energy being focused on electric platforms, nearly two-thirds (61 percent) of executives say the optimization (so-called downsizing) of internal combustion engines (ICE) still offers greater efficiency and CO2 reduction potential than any electric vehicle technology based on the current energy mix.

No Clear Electrified Propulsion Winner Yet

When asked to name the electrified propulsion technology that will attract the most consumer demand until 2025, auto executives were as mixed as their projected investments. In fact, the variation in response rates between fuel cell electric vehicles (20 percent), battery electrified vehicles (16 percent), full hybrids (22 percent), plug-in hybrids (21 percent), and battery electrified vehicles with range extender (18 percent) was ever so slight.

According to KPMG's Silberg, "The industry faces a tough decision about whether to place more trust and resources in fuel cell or battery vehicle concepts, and these results show that it's way too early to call right now. Clearly hybrids, whether plug-in or full, are more mature and have more market presence, but this battle for the dominant technology platform will continue for years to come."

For the KPMG Global Automotive Executive Survey 2012, KPMG interviewed 200 C-class global automotive executives, including 25 from North America, representing vehicle manufacturers and suppliers, from October through November 2011. KPMG has released an annual survey of automotive executives expressing their views on the state of the industry since 1999.

About KPMG LLP

KPMG LLP, the audit, tax and advisory firm (www.kpmg.com/us), is the U.S. member firm of KPMG International Cooperative ("KPMG International.") KPMG International's member firms have 145,000 people, including more than 8,000 partners, in 152 countries.