NAIAS - More Promise Than Product



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Sunday January 20, 2019 NAIAS More Promise Than Product  The 2018 North American International Auto Show (NAIAS) is currently underway in Detroit but apart from a few plug-in concept cars the emphasis has been on SUVs and Trucks.  Electric Vehicles have been pretty scarce on the ground.


Part of this is because some of the big EV players, especially Audi, and  BMW, that are expected to launch a new EV some time this year, have forgone the NAIAS completely. America's big three and giants like Toyota and Honda did attend but did not present any new electric cars that are likely to make the showrooms this year.

That's not to say that there weren't huge announcements and even a few pure EV concept cars but most of the new entries that are likely to hit the streets were already announced at either the 2018 LA Auto Show or CES.  For example the Nissan Leaf e+, the version of the Leaf that has a 62 KWh battery pack and offers 226 miles on a charge, was first shown at CES. 


One of the most interesting set of concept vehicles came from Chinese car builder GAC.  GAC has been planning on entering the US market by 2020 and have been showing vehicles at NAIAS for several years.  This year they had 2 electric vehicles on display.  One was a full sized SUV concept that doesn't look anywhere close to being production ready, and the second vehicle was a smaller crossover which looks like it would be ready for market and would probably end up with an EPA rating of around 150 miles range on a charge.  Entry into the US market may be delayed by the on-going tariff wars going on currently between the US and China, and it is widely expected that GAC will first enter the market with an ICE powered compact sedan, but with China being a powerhouse in electric vehicles they are a company to watch..

GM announced that Cadillac would be their future brand leader for electric vehicles and showed off an electric crossover concept which is apparently being built on a new platform designed to help GM roll out a number of electric cars over the next 5 years.  Cadillac itself will roll out a new model every 6 months although not all of these will be electric.  The concept car they showed didn't really look like it was production ready so we will need to watch for their first EV which should see the light of day some time in the latter half of this year.


Ford also said that it was going to be increasing spending on electric vehicles and indicated that an electric version of their best selling F-150 Truck was being worked on.  This is no doubt a reaction to the possible arrival of a pickup truck from Tesla and a few other companies, especially Rivian, that are likely to be offering an all electric pickup in the next few years.  Ford also indicated a planned to release and electric version of the Bullet Mustang in about 3 years.  In all they say they will be developing 16 battery powered vehicles over the next 5 years. 


Ford also announced a partnership with VW which may include working together on electric vehicles.  For its part VW announced that they are spending $800 Million on upgrades to their plant in Chattanooga, TN where they will start building electric vehicles in 2022.  This is about par for VW who always seem to be adding electric cars three years in the future.  They already build a number of plug-in cars for sale in Europe but so far the e-Golf is the only one they sell here and they always seems to be in short supply.  To be fair they do have a couple of plug-in models selling in their Porsche division and one for Audi and Mini divisions but they do seem to be lagging the field with pure electrics.


Infiniti also showed an all electric crossover vehicle but this again was not production ready.  In fact it was so not production ready that when they debuted it the car wouldn't start so they ended up having to push it on stage.  Infiniti has a habit of showing off lots of concept cars with very few of them making it to market.  I suspect this is another one that is going to be just a one off show car.


By the end of the press week there was a lot of promises of electric cars but the reality is that the majority of vehicles being announced were bigger and less fuel efficient conventionally powered vehicles.  It's time for the automakers to step up and start working to bring cost down and provide more electric vehicles across the US market.  The Chinese are starting make the electric vehicle space their own and are hungrily eyeing the US market.  Only Tesla has shown any real drive to produce electric vehicles in large numbers.  The other carmakers need to step up and start making electric cars that are sold nationwide and are promoted so they sell well.  If not the Chinese automakers with "eat their lunch".

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