GE backs off plan to buy 25,000 EVs
January 7, 2012
by Tim Catts
General Electric Co.'s commitment to buy 25,000 electric autos, promoted as the largest ever when it was announced more than two years ago, is taking a detour.
The obstacle: Customers of GE's corporate fleet-services unit wanted more options, said Deb Frodl, the division's chief strategy officer. So GE has included natural gas-powered pickups and propane-fueled vehicles among about 11,000 autos -- mostly plug-in hybrids and electric cars -- already acquired from makers including Ford Motor Co. and General Motors Co.
The shift at GE, whose 2010 pledge was hailed as a catalyst for bulk buying of electric vehicles, shows how businesses are struggling to balance greater fuel efficiency and reduced emissions against higher sticker prices, limited range and lingering doubts about still-infant technology.
GE is a large purchaser of fleet vehicles -- it owns 30,000 for its own employees and manages about 1.4 million for lease customers -- and its very name and place in U.S. history made its electric-autos promise particularly notable. The plan's new scope underscores the competition those vehicles face from alternative fuels as well as traditional gasoline engines.
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