GE to buy 'tens of thousands' of electric cars

By Ben Rooney, staff reporter


NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- General Electric will order "tens of thousands" of electric cars in about a week, the conglomerate's chief executive said Friday.

In a speech in London, CEO Jeffrey Immelt said the purchase would be the largest of its kind in history. But he did not specify exactly how many vehicles GE would buy, nor what brand of electric cars would be included in the order.

GE spokeswoman Leigh Farris said the company will release more details on the order at a later date.

General Motors' Volt and Nissan's Leaf electric vehicles are due to hit the market late this year. Ford, Toyota, Honda and Mitsubishi are also expected to roll out battery-powered cars in the coming years.

Immelt disclosed the plan in a speech on business and sustainability at the University of Cambridge, Bloomberg first reported on Friday. He said half of GE's sales force will eventually drive electric vehicles.

"We've got to really inspire in business a clean energy future," Immelt said in his speech. "Now is exactly the time, because it's less popular and we're going to have to go for a while without the government at out back."

A big order from a global conglomerate like GE that makes products ranging from jet engines to light bulbs could provide a significant endorsement for electronic vehicles. But it remains to be seen how quickly they will become part of the mainstream car culture.

Analysts at J.D. Power Associates predicted Wednesday that just 7.3% of passenger vehicles sold globally will be hybrids or plug-in cars of some kind over the next decade.

Sales will be higher in the United States, but the vast majority will be "conventional" non-plug-in hybrids like the Toyota Prius or Ford Fusion Hybrid, according to the study.

Michael Omotoso, an analysts at J.D. Power, said the GE order probably would be the largest of its kind in the relatively short-history of electric cars.

"There aren't more then a hand full of EVs on the road right now," he said, adding that the Nissan Leaf is the only electric car currently being mass produced.

Given the relatively small number of EVs expected to roll off the assembly line in the coming years, GE will probably have to space out its purchases over time, or order from multiple manufacturers.

Omotoso said analysts had been expecting fleet orders from big companies and government agencies to give a short-term boost to sales of electronic vehicles. "But over the long run, for the industry to survive, they're going to have to rely more on retail sales," he said.

To get more consumers interested in electronic cars, he said there would have to be a significant increase in gasoline prices, a big reduction in the cost of lithium batteries or additional government tax breaks.  To top of page

Just the hot list include
Frontline troops push for solar energy
The U.S. Marines are testing renewable energy technologies like solar to reduce costs and casualties associated with fossil fuels. Play
25 Best Places to find rich singles
Looking for Mr. or Ms. Moneybags? Hunt down the perfect mate in these wealthy cities, which are brimming with unattached professionals. More
Fun festivals: Twins to mustard to pirates!
You'll see double in Twinsburg, Ohio, and Ketchup lovers should beware in Middleton, WI. Here's some of the best and strangest town festivals. Play
Find Your Next Car
Index Last Change % Change
Dow 26,559.54 110.00 0.42%
Nasdaq 7,998.06 1.98 0.02%
S&P 500 2,905.03 4.58 0.16%
Treasuries 2.56 -0.03 -1.23%
Data as of 6:11am ET
Company Price Change % Change
General Electric Co 9.35 0.23 2.52%
Merck & Co Inc 73.19 -0.73 -0.99%
Regions Financial Co... 15.25 -0.51 -3.24%
Kinder Morgan Inc 19.39 -0.30 -1.52%
Wells Fargo & Co 47.58 0.03 0.06%
Data as of Apr 18
Sponsors

Sections

Bankrupt toy retailer tells bankruptcy court it is looking at possibly reviving the Toys 'R' Us and Babies 'R' Us brands. More

Land O'Lakes CEO Beth Ford charts her career path, from her first job to becoming the first openly gay CEO at a Fortune 500 company in an interview with CNN's Boss Files. More

Most stock quote data provided by BATS. Market indices are shown in real time, except for the DJIA, which is delayed by two minutes. All times are ET. Disclaimer. Morningstar: © 2018 Morningstar, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Factset: FactSet Research Systems Inc. 2018. All rights reserved. Chicago Mercantile Association: Certain market data is the property of Chicago Mercantile Exchange Inc. and its licensors. All rights reserved. Dow Jones: The Dow Jones branded indices are proprietary to and are calculated, distributed and marketed by DJI Opco, a subsidiary of S&P Dow Jones Indices LLC and have been licensed for use to S&P Opco, LLC and CNN. Standard & Poor's and S&P are registered trademarks of Standard & Poor's Financial Services LLC and Dow Jones is a registered trademark of Dow Jones Trademark Holdings LLC. All content of the Dow Jones branded indices © S&P Dow Jones Indices LLC 2018 and/or its affiliates.