Biz Fix: Who’d kill for an electric car? - Macleans.ca

Biz Fix: Who’d kill for an electric car?

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In the money: The plug in electric car is fast moving from pie-in-the-sky concept to on the ground reality as evidence mounts that high fuel prices are forcing drivers to hang up their car keys. BMW plans to have an electric version of its Mini on U.S. roads by next year. Nissan aims to offer an electric car to commercial fleet customers by 2010, with consumer models to follow two years later. Meanwhile GM is sticking to its goal of getting the Chevy Volt into dealer showrooms by 2010. The company is working with 30 U.S. utility companies to make sure the electrical grid can handle the extra power demand. Until the cars are actually available, and people prove they’re willing to shell out for them, there will be questions about the viability of plug ins. But things have definitely come a long way from when the electric car was written off for dead.

Trading down: I suppose we shouldn’t be too surprised that Malcolm Bricklin is suing Chinese car maker Chery for fraud. In a lawsuit Bricklin accuses the company of reneging on a joint venture that would have seen Bricklin’s Visionary Vehicles sell Chery cars in the U.S. Instead Chery ditched him and signed on with Chrysler. What is surprising is the language and alleged losses thrown around in the suit. Bricklin claims he’s out more than $14 billion in potential profits distribution rights. That’s a lot of Chery cars. Even Toyota, one of the world’s largest, most profitable automakers, only earned $1.7 billion last year. Bricklin also says Chery’s modus operandi has been to “serially plunder Western technology.” That’s funny too, because back when Bricklin was flogging Chery cars, he didn’t seem to mind that they bore a striking resemblance to vehicles designed in Detroit. In Bricklin’s promotional parlance, that just meant they were “international cars with American soul.”

Update: Bricklin’s PR people point out the $14 billion figure isn’t related to potential profits, but instead with “distribution rights for a 30-year period” and that he’s only asking for a percentage of that amount, which hasn’t been specified.

Number cruncher: After watching oil climb so steadily for so long, it’s easy to forget the price of crude can also go the other way. Over the last week and a half oil prices have plunged nearly 14 per cent to around $127. Is this the end of “the end of cheap oil” stories? That’s doubtful. Analysts say relative calm on the geopolitical front, not to mention calm on the tropical storm front, are the reasons for the drop.

Boom or Gloom: Ever so slowly there are rumblings of a recovery in the U.S. A Conference Board of Canada report today says the American economy will struggle back to life in 2009. And U.S. Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson said a recovery in the housing sector is a matter of months, not years. This hardly adds up to a boom, but after so much gloomy economic news, any bright spots are welcome.

Ticker tape: Henry Blodget on what Apple’s cheaper pricing means for rivals like Research in Motion…