Will Wal-Mart get into the EV and PHEV retail business?

Back in the earlier years of this decade when rumblings about Chinese cars coming to America first started to appear, my colleagues and I came up with a business plan about how it might happen. Given that upwards of 80 percent of everything Wal-Mart sells is already sourced from China they would be natural outlet. They could set up shop adjacent to their garden centers and car crushers around back. Think of the consumer electronics model. When you buy a $25 DVD player and it dies within the warranty period, you take it back to the store and give you another one. The dead one doesn't get repaired on site, it goes to refurbishment or disposal facility. Dead Chinese car? Aside from blown fuses or light bulbs, you send it back to the factory for refurbishment or recycling and give the customer another one. Cheap disposable cars, no service headaches, little extra retail infrastructure needed.

Well now it looks like Wal-Mart actually is talking to some manufacturers about building plug-in hybrids and battery EVs for them to peddle. Wal-Mart has been making moves to green up their image in the last couple of years including running biodiesel in their trucks and installing solar panels. Wal-Mart CEO H. Lee Scott has evidently held talks with some large but as yet un-named manufacturers. Although China is mentioned specifically, given Wal-Mart's lowball pricing and sourcing policies that would seem to be the only logical choice. There's no guarantee anything will happen, but it's a safe bet that existing car dealers won't be sitting still for this one. They don't like changes to the status quo and this would be a major change. Perhaps they could team up with Malcolm Bricklin's Visionary Vehicles. Is this the kind of push that EVs need to go mainstream?

[Source: Bloomberg]

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