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German Electric Vehicles @ IAA 2017 – The Force Awakens
Electric vehicles have arrived – but you must wait another two years to buy them. In a strong showing their commitment to electrify vehicles, all German OEMs have EV concepts at the show. Some of them may be closer to series production than others, but they won’t be available before 2019. German OEMs are following Volvo and JLR in their footsteps by announcing to electrify their fleets partially or totally from 2025. Ranges of 500 to 600 km are announced, but few specifics are available about price points.
SUVs go green – A lot of established OEMs and start-ups want to satisfy the green consciousness of their SUV customers while meeting emission and consumption regulations. This trend is backed by our insights from the Auto Shanghai 2017 and the Geneva Motor Show 2017. Result of these developments is a flurry of electric SUVs, creating a win-win situation for customers and OEMs. Customers get attractive SUVs with a green conscience. OEMs utilize packaging advantages of higher platforms for more battery power and range.
Out-of-the-box solutions for e-mobility – Many automotive first tier suppliers have expanded their portfolio to offer highly integrated electric propulsion solutions such as electric drive axles. Packaging advantages, higher electrical efficiency and features like rear wheel steering and torque vectoring are selling points, especially to smaller OEMs planning to roll out their electric vehicle portfolio in the coming years.
The end of the high margins? – OEMs are under pressure to sacrifice margins to sell electric vehicles in meaningful numbers, i.e. to convince customers to buy EVs from 2019 when batteries are still expensive. Mercedes has for example introduced a €4bn savings program to offset declining electric vehicle margins. Battery powered vehicles may reach cost parity with conventional cars by 2025. At least until then, OEMs need conventionally powered cars in their portfolio while managing EV prices carefully.
Customer Experience instead of moving the metal – It is early days, but there were some credible showcases of seamless integration of customer’s private experiences into vehicles. Some car companies showed this earlier in 2017 at the CES in Las Vegas. Today in Frankfurt, we see Mercedes with a similar presentation concept called “Me Convention”, which emphasizes Instagram walls and celebrity interviews to carry customer stories and mobility emotions across.
Many OEMs are trying to expand the customer experience beyond the actual car experience by offering combined on- and off-vehicle solutions. One of those solutions is that a customer journey does not stop when parking. The vehicle will communicate specified destination information back and forth with his smart device. This feature will allow a guided customer travel experience before and after travelling with the vehicle, and demonstrates how OEMs are creating seamless and brand-distinct connected vehicle features to build proprietary ecosystems.
Stuck in the retro design trap? – Besides novel design approaches that fully leverage the package freedom of electric drivetrains and epitomize what lies beyond the status quo, many OEMs show vehicle concepts based on renowned historic models, e.g. Volkswagen I.D. Buzz, MINI Electric and Honda’s Urban EV Concept. This illustrates how manufacturers are trying to provide meaning to their cars in the electric era. Even without technical constraints of conversion designs they play to their strengths with references to their rich past. Looking east, new Chinese OEMs like WEY are trying hard to enter the European market by mimicking local design. Sticking to lukewarm me-too designs might bare severe risks for European OEMs.