Automakers have used the LA auto show as an opportunity to showcase their much improved hybrids and electric cars. Still, only 3.3% of the vehicles sold in the U.S. are electric-hybrids and the share of the plug-in hybrids or pure electrics is even lower.  So there is a significant opportunity up for grabs for the automakers ready to bet on these cars becoming more mainstream within the American auto market. Higher initial cost combined with inconveniences such as charging the battery or low range have so far prevented the electric cars from gaining traction in the U.S. auto market.
It’s Getting Electric Out There
General Motors (NYSE:GM) unveiled the new 130 horse-powered 2014 Chevrolet Spark EV, which can go from zero to 60 in less than 8 seconds, much quicker than its gasoline powered Spark. GM didn’t close how many miles the car will run on a single charge but the company says it will be one of the highest in its class. The lowest priced model will cost less than $25,000 including the Federal assistance. That’s much lower than the electric Nissan Leaf which starts at $27,700 including the tax credit. Overall, the company plans to sell 500,000 electric cars annually by 2017. For 2012, the total sales of GM’s electric vehicles are expected to touch 50,000. 
Ford Motors (NYSE:F) will showcase its new plug-in called C-Max Energi as well. The car has an equivalent mileage of 100 mpg; 5 more than Prius’. Moreover, the C-Max Energi is larger and has a 50-horsepower advantage over the Prius. According to Ford, the vehicle can travel 21 miles on electricity before the gasoline engine kicks in.  Ford’s traditional hybrid C-Max, launched in 2012 itself, has got positive reviews and even outsold the Prius by 400 units in October. Similarly, Fiat has also introduced the new 500e. The all electric car will travel 80 miles when fully charged. The 500e will start selling from the second quarter of 2013.
BMW debuted its electric model called i3 which is made up of the lighter carbon fiber instead of steel. BMW claims the car can go 100 miles on a single charge. The i3 produces 168 horsepower and 184-lb. ft. of torque. Pricing has not been disclosed but the car will hit the showrooms sometime during the fourth quarter of 2013. BMW plans to introduce another model under the same series, called i8, in the first quarter of 2014. 
The days of Toyota Motors’ (NYSE:TM) dominance of the hybrid market could change with a plethora of automakers rolling out much improved vehicles. However, it will still take some time for that to happen since the American customers are continuing to put their faith in the Prius. The car’s sales have almost doubled to 200,000 units in the first ten months of the year. 
Moreover, Toyota is leaving no stones unturned as the automaker plans to roll out 21 new hybrid models by 2015 as well as expand its hybrid offerings in territories which have no or limited options at the moment. Prius’s global sales have already exceeded 1 million this year and hybrids currently account for about 14% of Toyota’s sales. 
We have a $12.6 price estimate for Ford, which is about 15% above the current market price.Notes:
- 2013 Ford C-Max Energi Drive Review, November 29, 2012, autoweek.com [↩]
- General Motors to make 500,000 electric vehicles by 2017, November 15, 2012, dnaindia.com [↩]
- Ford energizes the hybrid market, November 22, 2012, detroitnews.com [↩]
- BMW Unveils New Electric Brand At Los Angeles Auto Show, November 28, 2012, autos.aol.com [↩]
- U.S. Auto Sales, wsj.com [↩]
- Toyota’s global hybrid sales top 1m in 2012, November 19, 2012, tradearabia.com [↩]