Buffett on investing in EVs: 'You won't see anyone that owns the market'

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It's premature to declare any winners in the electric vehicle competition, Warren Buffett said on Saturday. There's just too much uncertainty in the sector.

"You will see a change in the vehicles, but you won't see anyone that owns the market because they changed the vehicles," Buffett said at Berkshire Hathaway's (BRK-A, BRK-B) annual meeting.

In recent years, Tesla (TSLA) has dominated the US market for EVs. While Tesla still has a strong hold on the market with 54.3% market share, legacy automakers such as General Motors (GM) and Ford (F) have gradually started adding market share as well.

The competition has intensified as traditional automakers and new startups spend billions on EV production, securing supply chains, and infrastructure. Automakers including Tesla have signaled they are willing to suffer lower margins through price cuts as they vie for market leadership.

Buffett alluded to Ford as a cautionary tale of how unsteady the auto industry can be: "Henry Ford looked like he owned the world with the Model T ... and 20 years later they were losing money," he said.

Berkshire Hathaway does own a dealership group with over 100 franchises representing 27 automakers across 10 states, mainly in Texas and Arizona. The conglomerate, which also owns railroad BNSF, purchased the dealership chain Van Tuyl Group in 2014.

Berkshire also owns roughly 50 million shares in General Motors, worth $1.68 billion as of Dec. 2022, but sold some of its GM stock in the second and third quarters of 2022.

But Buffett and his right-hand man Charlie Munger said they didn't have an interest in venturing further into the auto business.

"Charlie [Munger] and I long have felt that the auto industry is just too tough," Buffett said. "It’s just a business where you’ve got a lot of worldwide competitors, they're not going to go away, and it looks like there are winners at any given time, but it doesn’t get you a permanent place."

Berkshire Hathway CEO Warren Buffett answers questions at the annual shareholder meeting in Omaha, Neb. on May 6, 2023. (Screenshot/CNBC)
Berkshire Hathway CEO Warren Buffett answers questions at the annual shareholder meeting in Omaha, Neb. on May 6, 2023. (Screenshot/CNBC)

Munger agreed, adding that although EVs are certainly on the rise, that uptick comes with some significant costs.

"The electric vehicle is coming big time, and that’s a very interesting development," Munger said. "At the moment, it's imposing huge capital costs and huge risks, and I don't like huge capital costs and huge risks."

It's better to identify opportunities with more certainty, Buffett explained.

"I think I know where Apple’s going to be in 5 or 10 years," he said, "and I don't know what the car companies are going to be in 5 or 10 years."

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