Who's got their electric car act together?
Other companies don't want to make their own batteries and prefer to buy them. For a company like BMW, producing its own batteries doesn't make economic sense. Volkswagen has the necessary scale but isn't fully committed to electric power.
Two of the biggest bets on electrics for the U.S. market are being placed with radically different strategies.
Tiny Tesla (TSLA) makes only electric cars and is focused on the market's high end. Now that it has put more than 1,000 fully-electric Roadsters on the road for $100,000 plus, it is developing a sedan, the Model S. The car is expected to sell for $57,400 and begin deliveries in 2012, with production aimed at 15,000 cars a year.
Nissan is targeting higher volume with a less expensive car. It launches the five-passenger Leaf, powered by Nissan's own batteries, later this year, priced at $32,700 in the U.S. It hopes to sell 50,000 cars worldwide the first year, and it has production capacity to build several hundred thousand. The Leaf will account for only a fraction of Nissan's car and truck production, but its success or failure will weigh heavily on the company's reputation.
As to which company has the right combination of capital investment, technology, branding, and distribution, only the marketplace can decide who has invented the next Model T -- and who has given birth to another Edsel.