Dutch Economic Affairs Minister Maxime Verhagen does not feel like giving up. That is just not fair towards the 1500 employees of the NedCar car factory in Born in the Netherlands, according to a statement by him. He has instructed the Dutch embassies to search for possible buyers, now that Mitsubishi has put up the factory for sale for just 1 Euro. The hopes for the employees should not be too high though, according to the FD, the leading Dutch financial newspaper (http://fd.nl/economie-politiek/124859-1202/nedcar ). FD writes in it editorial opinion, that the plan B by Verhagen has a bigger chance for success. Plan B is that Verhagen will urge Mitsubishi to compensate the employees for their loss of jobs and that they they will be trained to work in other jobs. That should make an example of the resilience of the Dutch economy: well trained staff who together with the leaders of the industry are able to innovate when needed. Unfortunately the reality might be that the resilience of the Dutch economy is not that good. Or…could it be different?
The real problem with NedCar is that it is a production facility with not the best efficiency in a market with excess capacity. They produce cars that were developed somewhere else in the world. In this weakness there is also the biggest chance.
The Netherlands is one of the areas in the world with the highest air pollution. The main reason is that we have a very high dense population. The pollution is amongst others caused by the high density of traffic. Technical solutions for reducing the polluting output of cars is available. One of the best is a switch from traditional fossil fuel cars to electric ones. However because car manufacturers plan their development and production per continent or even globally, a business case for a full electric car in mass production is in most cases still rejected. In 2008 an Asian car manufacturer worked on a plan for an electric version of one of its most popular models with a price mark-up of $1500,-. At that time there was no demand for such a product … except in the Netherlands.
One of the other areas in the world with a similar pollution problem is California in the United States. In California there is a wave of new car companies developing technologically advanced electric cars. Fisker, Tesla, Coda. At the 2012 Detroit Motorshow they were already mentioned as The Big electric Three. A tongue in cheek comparison to the traditional Big Three from Detroit: GM, Ford and Chrysler.
Since 2009 the Dutch Economic Affairs department has a special task force to stimulate the introduction of electric cars in the Netherlands. The goal is to have 20.000 electric cars on the road by 2015. A kind of modest goal when you think of the big advantages an electric can have for certain users.
In California CODA Automotive is about to start the sales of its first model. It is a small four door family saloon. It is based on a Chinese car by ChangAn Hafei. The platform is locally modified and electric motors and the batteries are installed in CODA’s Californian factory. Although the design and quality of the CODA would not appeal to Dutch buyers, the idea of locally modifying or better “electrifying” a car is something that makes sense.
CODA’s management has a vision: “These times demand we take action to end oil dependence and the harm to our environment — for us and our children. We envision an EV(HS: electric vehicle) in every garage.” And their motto is inspiring: “Come on America let’s make it happen”.
And then … if it can be done in California, which has little automotive heritage, with a Chinese product, it can be done in the Netherlands. We have automotive knowledge, investors in literally everything. All major car manufacturers have prototypes of EV’s. If marketed in the right way there will definitely be demand by Dutch consumers. Demand which simply cannot be fulfilled by existing manufacturers for whom EV’s are still a niche product in global perspective. Do you see the chance? I do.