See the picture above? It’s a lady in a white car. Nothing unusual there, right? Well, not quite. For starters, the lady is a queen. A real one.
Before I clarify the picture, let me set the scene. Spain is in the middle of economic turmoil. Its credit rating was cut to AA, it pushed through a €15b austerity plan with just one vote and is having trouble overhauling its labor market (which is considered to be one of the most inflexible in Europe). So, suffice to say, money’s too tight to mention, as someone once said. Unless …
Unless you have a plan for a green mode of transportation. Suddenly, money is in plentiful supply. In the middle of trying to cut costs, the Spanish government pledged to invest €590m (that’s about $775m) into the production of electric cars. It aims to have 250,000 electric and hybrid cars on Spanish roads by 2014. Why, is anybody’s guess.
Wait, there’s more money: In addition to that, they put aside €80m to fund subsidies for electric car sales to customers. It’s for 20 percent of the vehicle, capped at €6,000. So it kind of came as an embarrassment when it was reported that when the Spanish government pledged to have 2,000 electric cars on the road by the end of 2010, figures were released that so far in 2010 only 15 were sold. The previous year? Just one. By my calculations, that works out to be roughly €39,333,333 per car. Good value, eh?
The Spanish government tried to put a brave face on. “The figures are similar to what happened in the beginning with personal computers or mobile phones,” they said via the government backed REVE electric car and wind power project, “The first models are expensive and with few options and initial sales were low.” (Not true. The first personal computers cost a few hundred dollars for a bag full of chips and resistors, and everybody said those who bought them were nuts. Which they were.) So, what’s this got to do with the picture above?
The Telegraph reports that in order to boost sales they roped in a celebrity to help. Quite a big celebrity. The lady in the picture is Queen Sofia of Spain. She was photographed driving a Peugeot iON EV whilst on holiday in Palma, Majorca. How did she describe it? “Phenomenal”. Which is exactly the word I’d use for this boondoggle.