We are used to car companies talking up their plans for electric cars, but in a man-bites-dog speech, the boss of Volvo says it isn't going to happen.

Stefan Jacoby, the CEO of Volvo said in a speech in Brussels, that without significant help at a European level, electric vehicles will not take more than 1% of the car market in 2020. That is a pretty big bucket of cold water. Renault talks about a 10% share for electric cars by 2020 and most other manufacturers reckon 3%-4% is a realistic target.


Jacoby says that a pan-European system of incentives is needed to kick-start the market. He said that Volvo had to work very hard to get the price of the new V60 plug-in hybrid below 50,000 euros (£40,000), but that is still too high for mass-market acceptance.

He warned that the European automotive industry will lose its present technological leadership if the EU fails to develop a common system of incentives both for R&D and for consumer subsidies. He added: "In the long-term, this jeopardises our industry's competitiveness and European jobs."

Jacoby pointed out that the Chinese government has earmarked 15 billion U.S. Dollars to support its domestic vehicle industry's research and development within electrification. This dwarfs the EU commitment to electrification.

Being Scandinavian, Volvo is well aware of what happened in mobile phones: Europe was well ahead with the development of GSM technology and had strong suppliers like Nokia and Ericsson – then it was suddenly left behind by Apple and Samsung. It does not want the same to happen in cars.