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LA Times – Strong demand for electric vehicles leaves supplies short

If you’ve been enticed by the recent spate of cheap lease deals on electric cars, good luck finding one.

Southern California dealers are seeing heavy demand for battery-powered cars, now leasing for as little as $199 a month. Fiat’s new 500e has waiting lists even though it hasn’t hit dealer lots. And Honda dealers have already sold out of the Fit EV since a $259 lease was announced Thursday.

The reaction revealed pent-up demand for electric vehicles — as long as the price is right.

Until recently, most consumers have rejected the cars at sticker prices that can be double those of gas-powered rivals, before $10,000 in state and federal incentives. But a lease-price war appears to have brought electric cars to a tipping point, engaging average consumers who shop on price in addition to eco-conscious buyers looking to make a statement.

Three electric-blue Fits sat gathering dust for about three months at Honda of Santa Monica — until Saturday morning, when customers snapped them up and competed to get on a waiting list.

“It’s incredible, especially since we haven’t had any foot traffic or interest in the car in six months,” said Jeff Fletcher, sales manager at Honda of Santa Monica. “I’m not even sure we’ll have enough cars for the people on the waiting list.”

It seems like a good problem for the automakers to have, but surging demand also puts them in an awkward position — especially given the losses they’ll take on the sale of every electric car because of high development costs. Honda and other automakers must now walk a fine line between limiting short-term losses and creating long-term goodwill in a fledgling market, said Jeremy Anwyl, vice chairman of auto information company Edmunds.com.

“This is basically a government-created marketplace,” Anwyl said, referring to California rules that essentially mandate that automakers build zero-emission cars. “So you see car companies trying to limit their costs associated with meeting these mandates.”

And yet Honda and others have a big marketing opportunity here. “The idea that electric vehicles are desirable — that would be a wonderful notion to get out in the marketplace,” he said. “This is a fine balance.”

More http://touch.latimes.com/#section/-1/article/p2p-76170867/

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