Daimler, lends out only its two-seater Smart electric drive (300 of them) there, and grabbed 6,000 members in the first 100 days. Hertz on Demand is also in the area, at 14 locations at three naval stations around San Diego. "Not every sailor and marine has a car," said Mark Frissora, Hertz's chairman. Hertz on Demand now has 150,000 members at 500 locations worldwide.
Blame the Weather, or Ethanol?
The ethanol industry is up in arms that people are scapegoating it for the rapid rise in corn prices this summer. Governors in North Carolina, Arkansas, Maryland and Delaware put their name to a statement claiming that "Mother Nature" should be blamed, not biofuel producers. "A lack of rain and record high temperatures are the true culprits of rising commodity prices," the statement said. The producers also blamed "misinformation" for the claim that ethanol uses 40 percent of the corn crop—they say it's only 16 percent. Apparently spreading that disinformation is the American Meat Institute (AMI), which is a player here because much of the corn crop goes to animal feed. AMI cites the 40 percent figure, and it says that federal requirements to produce corn-based ethanol "will continue to drive food prices up, since corn is the major input cost for the animals we eat."
Ford Plugs In
Apparently not deterred by the slow take-up of plug-in cars so far, Ford is investing $135 million in electrification. Part of it is to draw a bead on Toyota, which has sold 186,000 hybrids in the U.S. this year through July, compared to Ford's 9,300. You could say that Toyota's lead was formed during its four years (2000-2004) with no hybrid competition. The word "Prius" is almost generic for "hybrid" these days.
To its credit, Ford is making up for lost time. It now has the Focus Electric on sale (though only in a few areas), and will make both the C-Max and Fusion available in plug-in hybrid form. The C-Max version, capable of 85 mph on batteries alone, will be on sale in November. The Fusion Energi is on tap for sometime later this year. Ford plans to have 1,000 engineers working on electrics in all forms.
Let the Car Drive
By 2019, a new report from KMPG and the Center for Automotive Research says that self-driving or autonomous cars will be in showrooms. Millenials should be happy, because they're showing great reluctance to get their driver's licenses.