When Barack Obama was sworn into office in 2008, the auto industry was in turmoil. The U.S. economy was tanking, and though Obama's predecessor, George W. Bush, had offered some assistance to Detroit automakers, at least two of those companies were at risk of going belly-up if they didn't receive additional help.
What a difference eight years can make. Today, the U.S. economy has recovered, and although auto sales in 2016 might not surpass those of last year, the market is still strong. As auto technology improves--offering motorists new infotainment systems, new, self-driving safety systems, and of course, new, electrified powertrains--automakers hope to keep luring shoppers back into showrooms to sell them the latest and greatest.
The question on many minds, though, is whether the policies of president-elect Donald Trump will keep up the pace of the industry's progress, or whether they'll slow things down. That's of particular interest to electric car fans, given Trump's remarks about fossil fuels--specifically, his willingness to boost oil production and dial back regulations on oil companies. If he follows through on those plans, he could help keep gas prices low, which would likely keep consumers from making the switch to more expensive electric vehicles.
Trump has roughly two months until he moves into the Oval Office, and he still appears to be formulating his policies. So, in the absence of anything official, we thought we'd turn to the Twitterverse to see how our followers feel about the president-to-be.
Do you feel that there is a future for electric cars during the Trump administration?— CarConnection (@CarConnection) November 17, 2016
As you can see, nearly half of our respondents believe that development of electric cars will continue during Trump's presidency. And to be fair, that's probably a fairly safe bet.
After all, a president can influence policy decisions, but it's far more difficult for him to affect an entire industry--much less change the demands of the marketplace. As many of us see it, automakers have committed too much time, energy, and other resources to developing electric cars. Even if Trump were completely opposed to EVs--and there's no sign that he is--he could at best slow down their progress, not stop it altogether.
That vaguely optimistic opinion clearly isn't shared by the 23 percent of you who fail to see a place for electric vehicles in a Trump administration. Whether those respondents hate EVs and want Trump to stop them in their tracks or love EVs and worry about their future, we can't say.
But the most accurate answer to the question may be "No clue". Frankly, until Trump lays out some concrete policies, it'll be hard to guess what effect he might have on the auto industry, and on electric cars in particular.
Missed our poll? Share your thoughts in the comments below.