After Tesla dispelled any and all fears that might come with the day-to-day running of an electric vehicle, the industry was quick to react. First were the Europeans, making bold claims: Mercedes-Benz would bring 10 new EVs to market by 2025 under a new sub-brand (dubbed EQ), BMW intends to expand on its ‘i’ range of electrified vehicles, and the Volkswagen Group has shifted its focus to incorporate more electrified options going forward. Others, like Jaguar, Aston Martin, and even Bentley have all announced intent to include electric architecture in their future products too.
But Asian manufacturers were largely silent. Sure, there have been electrified options available here and there (with Lexus being the most consistent), but that’s been about the extent of it. Until today, that is. Following reports and conversations from the Detroit Motor Show last week, it’s clear that the Asian manufacturers are hot on the heels of their European counterparts, and have every intention to make electrification an option throughout their product families.
Lexus, Genesis, Acura (Honda’s upscale marque), and Infiniti say they are strategising their EV offensives, according to an Automotive News report. Their reasons vary: Some are in order to meet emissions regulations, others for the unique driving experience that EVs offer, and some simply for the allure that comes with a fully-electric model. At the Detroit show, it was worth noting that none of the luxury marques that came to show were armed with an electric vehicle or indeed a concept, but every executive would say that their firms were in the midst of getting an EV to market, in varying stages.
The South Korean luxury brand Genesis, a luxury arm of Hyundai, aims to launch as many as three electric vehicles in due course, with the first intended to hit markets by 2020. The rest, according to Lee Ki-sang, senior vice president at Hyundai Motor Group’s eco technology centre, will arrive in three year intervals. The Genesis EVs will be stand-alone EVs as opposed to being based on existing models, and will sit on a brand-new electric-only platform. “In Genesis, we absolutely need that kind of luxury vehicle,” he said, saying that the goal of a flagship EV from the brand would be to outperform the best EVs in the world.
Infiniti, the luxury sub-brand of Nissan, is noted as one of the first to test the waters with an electric concept car in 2012. At the time, it utilised a drivetrain system that now underpins the ubiquitous Nissan Leaf. Following its showing, Infiniti then put the whole idea on hold in order to refocus its resources on reimagining its core lineup. However, Infiniti president Roland Krueger said that they are now considering “very concrete” concepts to me made in to an EV, though that was all he was willing to reveal.
Honda’s stab at the luxury segment, Acura, already features electrification through its range: The NSX sports car (which wears a Honda badge everywhere else) already features a hybrid powertrain, as does its range-topping RLX (based on the fifth-generation Honda Legend that we don’t get Down Under). Acura’s general manager Jon Ikea said that while there are no serious plans at the moment, he said that EVs are intriguing for the brand “because anything innovative and unique is what we’re looking for.”
Lexus had its EV lightbulb lit after attending the 2016 Paris Motor Show, which leaned so heavily on electrified vehicles that there were almost no combustion engines in sight. “Subsequent to that show,” said Lexus International general manager Jeff Bracken, “we began conversations with our product planners.” This move is noted as remarkable for a member of the Toyota Motor Corporation, as Toyota has been very skeptical of the EV charge from the beginning. But even that is changing, as the Japanese automotive giant has formed a dedicated division designed to develop the next generation of electric vehicles.
Electric vehicles, once a reserve of the quirky & ecologically-mindful, might just be the future of motoring.
For more information on any of the aforementioned marques, be sure to visit our Showroom.