Audi of America's CEO Johan de Nysschen is not known for mincing words, infamously calling the 2011 Chevrolet Volt "a car for idiots" just a few months ago. It seems the media storm didn't scare de Nysschen, as he's back at it again, this time saying the U.S. government has "fallen in love" with EVs, and that this irrational viewpoint is impeding more cost-effective progress on fuel efficiency.
As usual, de Nysschen is quick to ground his polemic statements in facts and figures, pointing out that the price premium of the Volt, or other similar primarily electric-powered cars can't be offset through fuel use--the expense is immense even in comparison to $4/gallon fuel budgets. Instead, costly taxpayer subsidies have to be used to make the cars affordable to the average consumer.
Tossing around even more inflammatory language, de Nysschen says that while he understands the seduction of hybrids and electrics for politicians, the newly minted relationship "shouldn't be a monogamous" one. Instead the open market, free of such government interference, is a better way to pick the technology of the future. While that may be, de Nysschen offers no alternative mechanism for bringing about the change sought by the U.S. government.
Critics of de Nysschen's free-market viewpoint are quick to point out that it is precisely this sort of government subsidy that will allow the next generation of technologies to be developed before the climate or pollution situations get so bad that the market is driven to respond. De Nysschen's only response is that such a model is simply not sustainable.
Audi, for its part, is following de Nysschen's model closely: without a hybrid in the current lineup, and only the e-Tron EV and a handful of hybrids planned for the near future, the brand's fuel efficiency efforts lie in conventional combustion engine technology, especially diesel fuel. Despite this fact, and despite issuing statements saying the brand isn't "green" centric, the recent Los Angeles Auto Show saw the A3 TDI win the 2010 Green Car of the Year award, perhaps putting proof to de Nysschen's point of view.
What do you think? Should we be focused on technologies that are currently affordable and feasible, or is it a good thing that the government is subsidizing new technology with public funds? Let us know in the comment below, or fire up your favorite word processor and write for High Gear Media.
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