EVs changing California market regardless of mandate

The Tesla Model 3, despite being a “near-luxury” vehicle, had 59,514 sales last year, overtaking the Toyota Corolla, Honda Accord and Toyota RAV4, according to the California New Car Dealers Association. This year, Tesla launched a new electric crossover, the Model Y.

Even the Chevrolet Bolt, which has not been a big hit nationwide, was California’s No. 2 subcompact vehicle, with 8,239 sales last year — just shy of the Kia Soul. Other EVs among the top five in their segments: the Tesla Model S, Tesla Model X and Nissan Leaf.

Karl Brauer, executive analyst at ISeeCars, noted that Newsom’s executive order came on the heels of Tesla’s public Battery Day event, at which CEO Elon Musk promised a $25,000 electric car for the masses, along with cheaper and higher-capacity batteries using more sustainable materials.

“You look at someone like a GM or a Volkswagen that’s got the global reach to be able to rally together a supply chain to produce that volume of batteries over the next 10 to 15 years, it certainly seems doable,” Brauer said of the notion of a mass-market EV. “Smaller automakers, like a Honda, are going to be more challenged.”

Honda is partnering with General Motors to make its first EVs for the U.S., but GM controls most of the technology. Toyota has said it will jump into the EV market when there is greater volume. There still is time to do so, and the California mandate could evolve over time.

“It’s a long way off; so many things can change,” Brauer said of the 2035 deadline. “I still question a lot of things about that mandate, like whether Gavin Newsom even has the power to do that.”