Compliance Cars

Honda Fit EV

I just read this great article on Green Car Reports about compliance cars. The sad reality is that most EVs being released next year are compliance cars. In fact, even some of my top car choices are compliance cars. Right now, I’m seriously considering the CODA Sedan, Nissan LEAF, and Ford Focus EV. Other compliance cars, like the Honda Fit EV are an almost automatic “no” because they are lease-only.

I’ve been trying to decide: Is there anything wrong with getting a compliance car? This was my initial reason for not wanting a Ford Focus EV, but after reading about all of it’s awesome features, I’ve been considering it even more (remember, the MINI E was a compliance car and it was a wonderful vehicle). However, the Green Car Reports article brings up a great point:

Do you want a car that’s a begrudging, low-volume effort from a manufacturer not committed to the segment?

My answer is “I don’t know.” I don’t know if I want to give my money to a company that is making clean cars because they are being forced to rather than a company that truly stands behind a sustainable future. Of course, if no one buys the Ford Focus EV for this reason, Ford can easily say, “see? No one wants these cars!” I’d love to prove them wrong.

While I know that Renault/Nissan truly believes in EVs and stands behind the LEAF, I don’t particularly like how the LEAF looks. I would probably feel safest buying a car from Nissan, knowing that they will continue to support my car for the coming years. Similarly, CODA stands behind EVs (they only make one car, and it’s electric!), but there’s no saying if they will be around in five years to repair/service my EV (in the rare case that it needs such maintenance). Like Nissan, Ford is probably going to be around a while, but I wouldn’t be surprised if at any time they abandoned their EV program and left drivers on their own, like Toyota did to the RAV4 EV drivers.

What are your thoughts on compliance cars? Would you buy one? Why or why not? Would you buy a car from a new company like CODA?

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3 thoughts on “Compliance Cars

  1. Financially, I can not recommended leasing/ Renting a compliance car unless you simply have the money to burn. That said, some who really want to drive a compliance car because they really like it do burn that money. Cars are a funny toy in that way. They are expensive and we waste money on them.

    Recently I have become more torn on the value of compliance cars.

    First off, they do prove that our CA ZEV Mandate works as intended and the cars that that law forces automakers to make turn out pretty great technically. It shows how easily these cars can be to produced. Relatively easy that is.
    Secondly, They are great PR tools for our plugin car movement. Having a variety of vehicles to point to backs up what we have been saying for over a decade now. That they can be made in numbers and offer a wide selection for customers needs and wants. The technology is here now. The cars can be made.
    Third, and most importantly, is that each new model of compliance car out there attracts a new group of people who gets involved with plugin electric cars and become advocates for this type of car. Plugging in is infectious. These people, like the BMW MiniE/ ActiveE leasers and many others, become activated and push their automaker to bring their cars to market as a real production car.

    So I say let the ones who want to spend their money on compliance cars do so. But that only has value if we advocates can use their real-world consumer experiences to show how great plugin cars are and make more of our voices louder and in numbers that can’t be ignored at all. “See the law we pushed for works and the cars we love are great! People love them!”

    But for a young man, or any friend of mine, I would say to them invest in a car that will have at least some residual value for you when you want to trade or sell it.

    As much as I liked driving the Honda Fit EV It’s just not smart to waste my money on their project that has no warranty or promise of any kind. Been there, done that.
    I feel for long time advocates we are too far along in the history of production plugin electric cars to be renting these non-production PR cars. Let the new people do that. And let the OEMs dig themselves a bigger plugin car hole with a growing new group of advocates that they will have to deal with 🙂

    Jeff U’Ren

    • Thanks Jeff. I agree with everything you said. And another downside of these lease-only compliance cars is that they are going through a loophole in the ZEV mandate. Sure, ZEVs are on the road, but in a couple of years or less, they’re gone! And those ZEV credits don’t go away with them.

      Luckily, Linda and some other folks persuaded Toyota to sell the new RAV4 EV to customers willing to purchase it.

      • I intend to drive my i-MiEV until the battery pack begs for mercy. Then I’ll either sell the battery or use it myself to back a solar or wind power system. You won’t be doing that with the battery in a leased car. Mitsubishi may also give credit on a battery replacement at the end of the 8 year warranty period. Honda is clearly trying to shield themselves from that sort of long term support obligation. Perhaps they aren’t as sure of their electric vehicle systems as Mitsubishi or Nissan.

        Anyway, the one situation where I considered a lease on an EV is where you could lease the battery and have it swapped as Better Place / Renault does. Unfortunately these aren’t available in the US yet.

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