Paris Motor Show reflects paradigm changes in the global auto industry

paris-auto-show-logoAs previewed last week, the Paris Motor Show has gone through a do-over – what was once the hallmark auto show for high-performance luxury and sports supercars (with many of them powered by diesel engines) is now shifting over to electric cars as the stars of the show. Crossover utility vehicles with battery power is another trend noticed by observers.

Paris Motor Show 2016 has also been marked by the disappearance of several automakers deciding to cut expenses through attending less auto shows and marketing through other channels such as social media. Paris has been the largest auto show in the world, with 1.25 million attending in 2014. Those attending this year are expected to be disappointed by several brands disappearing: Ford, Mazda, Volvo, Cadillac, Rolls-Royce, Aston Martin, Maserati, McLaren, Genesis, Lamborghini, Bentley, Bugatti, and others are skipping the show altogether.

Along with the diesel emissions reporting scandal, the impact of Tesla’s presence in the European market (and the hype and pre-orders for the Model 3) has been stirring up European automakers on the electrification front. Stricter emissions targets in Europe, the U.S., and China, are behind the EV launch as well; falling battery costs with more energy storage capacity is also playing its part.

“Crossovers and vehicle electrification are again expected to be key reveals at the event,” said Ian Fletcher, the principal analyst for IHS Markit, to Bloomberg. “The key trends are being determined by a combination of consumer demand – in terms of the number of crossovers being revealed – and legislative emissions factors, through a focus on electrification.”

Here’s a roundup of interesting announcements during the media days:

EQ electric brand launched: Daimler previewed its new EQ electric car brand through the Generation EQ concept, which is an electric small crossover utility vehicle. The EQ brand unveiling is the first step in launching 10 new battery-electric models by 2025 in Daimler’s strategy to become the global leader in electric vehicle technology; it appears to serve as a sub-brand of Daimler’s Mercedes-Benz division. Daimler expects electric cars to account for 15 to 25 percent of its global sales by 2025, CEO Dieter Zetsche said at the auto show. The German automaker’s chief confirmed what has been rumored lately – that the new electric cars will be launched under the EQ brands. Daimler said that the Generation EQ will have a range up to 500 kilometers (311 miles), which is probably based on Europe’s NEDC standards; that will be lower in U.S. mileage range under EPA measures. The concept car is being moving closer to production, and is being built on an architecture developed specifically for all-electric models. That architecture is adaptable for crossovers, SUVs, sedans, coupes, and other model series, the company said.

Volkswagen I.D. concept: Volkswagen’s chairman, Herbert Diess, was on the stage to unveil the new concept, called I.D., at the show. The Volkswagen I.D. will be rear-motored and rear-wheel-drive, much like the original Beetle, an interesting point that the automaker has emphasized in its press releases. It will be the first new model built on the automaker’s MEB modular electric platform. Its battery in-flat-floor architecture is built within a futuristic exterior design with a glass roof, artistic wheel covers, digital headlamps, and sliding rear doors. It’s expected to hit production level in 2019 for purchase starting in 2020. It’s part of the automaker’s Strategy 25, where the company will be building up to one million EVs by the middle of the next decade. Last week, the automaker announced it will be expanding sales of its e-Golf nationwide in the U.S., beyond a few select states. However, VW also revealed in Paris that the I.D. will eventually replace the e-Golf (but not the Golf).

Porsche Panamera plug-in:  VW’s Porsche brand unveiled its Panamera 4 E-Hybrid plug-in hybrid electric vehicle at the Paris Motor Show. The large luxury hatchback will have a range of 31 miles and top battery-powered speed of 86 mph. The company says that the car generates some 340 kW of system power and delivers fuel consumption figures of 2.5 l/100 km in the European NEDC cycle for plug-in hybrid models. That corresponds to CO2 emissions of 56 g/km. “At Porsche, the term ‘hybrid’ is synonymous with not only sustainable mobility, but performance too – a fact proven not least by the victory of the 919 Hybrid in the 24 Hours of Le Mans race in 2015 and 2016,” the company said in its press release.

BMW X3 and new Mini:  BMW said on Friday it will offer all electric versions of its next generation BMW X3 compact sport utility vehicle and electric Mini models. The electric Mini is expected to debut in about three years, company officials said. BMW had played a leading role in luxury plug-ins, but slow sales for the i3 and i8 have put plans back on the drawing board. BMW is also showing the new electric i3 and i8 Protonic Dark Silver special edition model. The German automaker said it will begin production of the BMW i8 Protonic models in December and in early 2017, but it will be in limited production; that’s similar to what happened with its previous Protonic Red Edition. BMW is also showing its new 3 Series Gran Turismo four-door, a C evolution e-scooter, and the X2 Concept SUV that is expected to go into full production late next year. The company chose to have its executive leadership stay in Germany to debate the future of its electric vehicle strategy.

Renault Zoe in 200-mile range:  During the show, Renault confirmed that the next-generation Zoe all-electric car will come with a 41 kWh battery rated at 400 kilometers (248 miles) on the European NEDC cycle. The company acknowledged that the actual range per charge will vary, from around 186 to 200 miles per charge depending on how and where the electric car is driven. Chevrolet and Tesla have been getting all the attention for the upcoming Chevy Bolt (with 238 miles) and the 200-plus mile Tesla Model 3. Renault may have already crossed the barrier, and is now taking orders in Europe for delivery – and will be ahead of sister company Nissan’s Leaf reaching that range anytime soon. It beats the Bolt and Model 3 in cost, with a starting price of $24,500 before incentives.

Citroen CXPerience:  French automaker Citroen is showing the plug-in hybrid CXperience concept car. It’s a low-to-the-ground sedan with rear suicide doors and a short rear deck. It combines a front-mounted gasoline engine with an electric motor, and an eight-speed automatic gearbox. The company claims that the battery range is 37 miles. The five-door hatchback was presented online a month ago, and may be the foundation for future Citroen plug-in models.

Mitsubishi GT-PHEV concept: Mitsubishi will introduce a few hybrid and all-electric vehicles, including a plug-in hybrid SUV concept vehicle. The GT-PHEV SUV has been designed around the automaker’s next-generation plug-in hybrid system. The system uses three electric motors and an internal combustion engine designed specifically for hybrid applications. Mitsubishi’s Executive Vice President of Overseas Operations, Kozo Shiraji, introduced the GT-PHEV concept (which stands for Ground Tourer Plug-In Hybrid Electric Vehicle) as the “possible form for a future large SUV.” The company said that the driving range for its next plug-in vehicle promises to expand on the current Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV’s range. The Outlander PHEV is a strong selling plug-in vehicle in the European market.

Opel Ampera-e:  General Motors’ Opel division unveiled the Ampera-e, the European version of the Chevy Bolt. Opel says it will cost less than a Tesla and will go 250 miles on a charge, using NEDC European standards longer than U.S. range. “With the new Ampera-e, we continue the largest model offensive in Opel’s history,” said Opel CEO Dr. Karl-Thomas Neumann. “The Ampera-e with its outstanding range makes electric mobility fully feasible for everyday use and also lots of fun.”

Smart electric cars:  The Smart ForTwo has a next-generation platform that will be extended over to the Cabrio and Smart ForFour models for a 2017 launch. Smart says it will be the only automaker to offer its entire lineup with both gasoline engines and all-electric versions. The Smart electric cars will compete with the Renault Zoe and Volkswagen e-Up. Smart says its electric cars will go 100 miles on a charge, and take around 45 minutes to recharge from a fast charger.

LaFerrari Aperta:  Ferrari will be attending to represent classic, high-performance luxury brands. Ferrari will show the LaFerrari Aperta (aptera translates to “open” from Italian), which is an open-top version of the $1.1 million, limited-edition LaFerrari hybrid. Ferrari said that the entire production line has already been sold out, for an undisclosed price. Ferrari also unveiled the supercar grabbing most of the attention at the show – the GTC4Lusso T, a rear-wheel-drive, turbocharged V8 version of Ferrari’s rather all-wheel drive V12-engined grand tourer.

Toyota fuel cell and hybrids:  Toyota thinks the future of green cars will be built around fuel cell vehicles and hybrids (not plug-ins), as expressed in its latest ad campaign comparing the Toyota Mirai to the historic role the Prius played. The company is showing the Toyota FCV Plus fuel cell car, shown for the first time in Europe after being revealed at the 2015 Tokyo Motor Show. Owners will be able to produce electricity directly from hydrogen coming from an exterior source – to power something else beyond the fuel cell car. Toyota’s Lexus division will show the UX SUV concept. The SUV is expected to have 3D driving and hologram components that would be new for the Toyota-owned brand. Lexus is also showing the LC 500h hybrid, which Toyota says will be getting a brand new Multi Stage Hybrid System engine. It will combine a 3.5 liter V6 engine with a “powerful electric engine,” a lithium-ion battery, and “a revolutionary automatic transmission delivering the sensations of a 10-speed gearbox.”

VW mobility brand:  Volkswagen AG announced prior to the show that it has established a new subsidiary to handle carsharing and logistics, which is yet to be named. The so-called 13th brand in the VW family will be based in Berlin, according to VW CEO Matthias Muller. According to the chief of the new brand, Ole Harms, it will focus on on-demand mobility, with the help of Moscow’s number one ride hailing app, Gett, in which VW recently invested $300 million. VW’s recent partnership with the city of Hamburg may be the best market to introduce the service; and Gett’s presence in New York make it a likely market for the new VW service to expand to. European cities will be more of a priority for now. “Our new group brand is to rank among the leading mobility services providers and become the market leader in Europe by 2025,” Muller said.


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