So, you should ask, who is winning the war to electrify the automobile?
By country, it’s China. By individual company, Tesla, but only barely.
That’s according to the latest information from industry intelligence expert IIHS. A new BMW AG infographic, based on IIHS data, shows that Chinese automotive companies lead the world in new registrations of pure battery electric vehicles and plug-in hybrids combined.
More than one-quarter of all new registrations (27 per cent) for EVs and PHEVs went to these Chinese automakers: BYD (12 per cent), Beijing Auto (5.0 per cent), Roewe (4.0 per cent), JAC (3.0 per cent) and Geely-Emgrand (3.0 per cent).
Among companies, Tesla is the global leader, with 12 per cent of new registrations, followed by BYD. BMW is No. 3 globally, with 6.0 per cent, based primarily on the Munich-based company’s aggressive push into plug-ins, not pure battery electric cars. Tesla, as the world knows, is a pure battery electric car company, so it’s global share is particularly impressive.
China’s aggressive push into EVs should be a wake-up for the industry and the world. It has the potential to threaten what has long been the complete dominance of the personal transportation market by car companies based in Europe, the United States and Japan. Other than Tesla, not a single U.S.-based car company registers as a world leader in EV registrations.
Germany, where the Green Party is a significant political and social presence, is home to what might arguably be the world’s most successful and certainly most profitable car companies, has a significant and growing global presence in the EV marketplace. But the latest registration data show that Germany at 10 per cent (BMW and the Volkswagen Group combined) significantly lags China.
Japan, too, is an also-ran. Toyota, the world’s most profitable carmaker, has a built a reputation for making successful and profitable gasoline-electric hybrids such as the Prius, but has only recently announced a serious push into battery electric vehicles. Toyota Motor still clings to the belief that hydrogen fuel cell vehicles will ultimately win the hearts and wallets of buyers who want EVs in the future.
Nissan Motor, which began selling the LEAF EV a decade ago and is now in the midst of leadership turmoil, has since the LEAF pushed into EVs at a turtle’s pace. Nissan has just 4.0 per cent of new registrations – and with its global alliance partner Renault, the two combined for 7.0 per cent of registrations. No other Japanese car company shows up in the IIHS data with significant registration numbers. Hyundai Motor, with its Kia brand, also is at 7.0 per dent.
So, for now, China leads the world in EVs. That’s by design.
As Bloomberg reports, China is looking at a target of 60 per cent of all automobiles sold in the country to run on electric motors by 2035. Car companies and countries the world over should note that China’s EV plans are being driven from the highest levels of government.
The Ministry of Industry and Information Technology is spearheading the latest auto industry plans, notes Bloomberg. The auto industry and the free market are not being left to their own devices here. Bloomberg reports that the Chinese government’s plans and targets regarding EVs should be brought into greater focus by the end of this year.
At present, we know that China’s EV plans are ambitious enough without a further tightening of the screws on the automotive competition. China’s auto industry roadmap revealed in 2017 noted that so-called new energy vehicles — all-electric, fuel-celled autos and plugin hybrids — would account for more than 20 per cent of the country’s total vehicle sales by 2025, added Bloomberg.
What is undeniable is this: the shift to an electrified auto industry, away from the internal combustion engine, is real and it will be increasingly disruptive. Reuters reports that global automakers are planning a $300 billion surge in spending on electric vehicle technology over the next five to 10 years (all figures in U.S. dollars, unless otherwise indicated). And while China is the global electrified leader today, Reuters notes that about one-third of the industry’s announced EV spending total — $91 billion – is planned by Germany’s Volkswagen Group.
The EV revolution is real, despite the best efforts of U.S. President Donald Trump – the backward-looking coal king — to undermine fuel economy and emissions standards, slow progress on EVs and hold back the modernization of industry in general.
IDTechEx Research is forecasting a $2.6 trillion market in EVs and related products, suppliers and infrastructure support, a reality being completely ignored by the Trump administration. By mid-century, 90 per cent of the vehicles on the road will be EVs, say the EV optimists in the prediction game.
This, then, seems like the right moment to handicap the EV race, car company by car company. Which automakers will win over buyers most effectively with the best EV solutions? I suspect Chinese companies will struggle in the face of established car companies which have seen the mortal threat to their existence by a China bent on not just matching their successes with technology and sales, but surpassing. And that’s why German car companies, whose very existence in in peril, are particularly interesting.
EV domination odds (2030): 1-2.
Vision: Christian Dahlheim, director of group sales, says: “Overall, 2019 will be a key year in the group’s electrification offensive and marks the start of a new era.”
Product: VW plans many EV launches this year or next, but two stand out: Porsche Taycan, the group’s first electric sports car, and the Volkswagen ID.3. The latter is the first of a lineup of EV models based on the MEB volume platform, while the Taycan is an image EV
This sprawling automaker has 12 global brands, from Porsche to Audi. Says Thomas Ulbrich, VW’s head of electric vehicles: “There will be 70 new fully electric VWs by 2028; an investment of 30 billion (euros) in e-mobility by 2023; 22 million EV sales for the VW Group by 2028…The future is electric.”
Resources: Electrify America, VW’s charging network subsidiary is pouring $2 billion into a web of fast chargers.
ZHEJIANG GEELY HOLDLING GROUP (GEELY)
EV domination odds (2030): 1-1.
Vision: Geely is formidable, with the Volvo brand spearheading the EV push. Geely has also entered into a collaboration with Daimler to build electric versions of the smart car in China. Among the Chinese companies, Geely is by far and away the one with the most significant global presence and potential. The car business is, I would note, a worldwide enterprise, not simply a Chinese one.
Product: The Blue Geely Initiative aims to have some sort of electrification represented in as much as 90 per cent of Geely brand sales by 2020. The new Geometry brand will be loaded with EVs. Volvo is the showcase brand, though.
“We are determined to be the first premium car maker to move our entire portfolio of vehicles into electrification,” says Håkan Samuelsson, president and CEO. By 2025, Volvo plans to have more than one million electrified vehicles on the road.
Resources: Geely has gobs of money and is tight with the Chinese government.
EV domination odds (2030): 2-1.
Vision: Daimler has committed $42 billion to EVs. The Mercedes brand aims to have 130 electrified models in its lineup by 2022, plus electric vans, trucks and buses. Yes, Daimler has been slow to ramp up its activities, but expect dramatic moves going forward.
Product: Mercedes’ first fully electric vehicle, the EQC, is in production. By 2022, Mercedes plans to offer electrified versions of its entire range in every segment. Daimler’s partnership with a Chinese company may change smart’s EV fortunes, too. Stay tuned. Daimler may further partner with Chinese companies.
EV domination odds (2030): 3-1:
Vision: Outgoing CEO Harald Krüger said: “Electrification is one of the key pillars of the (BMW) Group’s Strategy NUMBER ONE > NEXT.”
Product launches: A fully electric Mini will arrive in 2019, followed in 2020 by an electric iX3 SUV. The first vehicle built on BMW’s new modular EV architecture will arrive in 2021, as an i model.
Krüger: By “2021, the BMW Group will have five all-electric models: the BMW i3, the MINI Electric, the BMW iX3, the BMW i4 and the BMW iNEXT. By 2025, that number is set to grow to at least 12 models. BMW’s electrified product portfolio will then comprise at least 25 models” — 12 all-electric and 13 hybrids.
EV domination odds (2030): 3-1.
Vision: Toyota is now in the game. The company plans to sell more than 5.5 million electrified vehicles by 2030. By 2025, every Toyota and Lexus model will be available in an electric or hybrid version.
Product: Toyota plans to offer make 10 different battery-powered models globally by the beginning of the 2020s and is developing a next generation of batteries for the early 2020s. Toyota’s hybrid expertise is proven. Toyota in investing heavily in hydrogen fuel cell vehicles.
Resources: Rich and formidable.
HYUNDAI (AND KIA) MOTORS
EV domination odds (2030): 4-1.
Vision: Offer hybrid, plug-in hybrid and fully electric versions of its new models.
Product: Plug-in models include the Kia Soul EV, Kia Optima PHEV, Kia Niro EV, Kia Niro PHEV, Hyundai Kona EV, Hyundai Kona PHEV, Hyundai Ioniq EV, Hyundai Ioniq PHEV, and Hyundai Sonata PHEV. Hyundai is also pushing into fuel cells.
NISSAN RENAULT MITSUBISHI ALLIANCE
EV domination odds (2030): 4-1:
Vision: The alliance has sold more than 750,000 EVs worldwide, led by the Nissan LEAF. But the arrest of former CEO Carlos Ghosn is deeply unsettling.
Product: The alliance plans to launch 12 pure electric vehicle models by 2022. Thirty per cent of alliance volumes will be electrified by 2022.
Company resources: Adequate, but leadership turmoil is draining.
EV domination odds (2030): 5-1.
Vision: GM is making an $8 billion direct investment in EVs and self-driving technologies. Chief executive Mary Barra says the Detroit automaker will make money selling electric cars by 2021.
Product: GM says more than 20 new electric vehicles are scheduled to go on sale by 2023. A next-generation EV platform due in 2021. GM is aiming for global sales of at least one million EVs beginning in 2026.
Company resources: Adequate. GM needs to pick up its game, however.
TATA OR JAGUAR LAND ROVER
EV domination odds (2030): 5-1:
Vision: Every Jaguar and Land Rover launched form 2020 will be electrified.
Product: Jag’s first fully electric performance SUV, the I-PACE, is a star. An all-electric Jag brand strategy within 10 years is possible and Land Rover will get electrified, too.
Resources: Can’t afford mistakes.
FORD MOTOR CO.
EV domination odds (2030): 7-1.
Vision: Increase EV investments to $11 billion by 2022 and have 40 hybrid and fully electric vehicles — 16 will be fully electric, the rest plug-in hybrids.
Product: Every new Ford utility to be offered as a hybrid, plug-in hybrid, or both. The first electric performance utility coming in 2020. An electrified pickup is due, too.
Resources: Adequate if perhaps slightly stretched. Look for Ford to partner with others, including VW.
EV domination odds (2030): 8-1.
Vision: Tesla co-founder and CEO Elon Musk says the plan has always been to bring “compelling, mass-market electric cars to market.”
Product: The Model 3 has been disappointing. Perhaps the next-generation Roadster due next year will help. The Tesla brand is very strong.
Resources: Tesla earlier this year launched a $2.7 billion fundraising but it won’t be enough without cuts and further fundraising. Tesla’s Supercharger Network is a HUGE asset.
EV domination odds (2030): 8-1.
Vision: Honda favors hybrids and hydrogen fuel cells over battery cars. By 2030, two-thirds of global sales to be electrified. EVs and fuel cells will comprise 15 per cent of sales, with hybrids and plug-in hybrids accounting for the rest.
Product: Honda has already introduced plug-in hybrids, such as the Clarity and a Clarity fuel cell car.
Resources: Adequate. But like Toyota, Honda has dragged its electrification feet.
FIAT CHRYSLER (FCA):
EV domination odds (2030): 20-1.
Vision: FCA’s plan starts with four new Jeep plug-in hybrids. The challenge: electrify vehicles in a way that will please Jeep and Ram buyers.
Product: Future Jeeps will have a plug-in hybrid option and will accommodate full electric. FCA is playing catch-up, however.
Resources: Money is very, very tight. FCA will need to partner with others, no question.
A final note: In handicapping this race, I focused on global and publicly traded companies, as a general rule. Chinese automakers, I must note, are difficult to judge in this context. Indeed, the Chinese economy is managed by the government and auto companies succeed and fail in large part based on government assistance and approval, and broader Chinese government policy.
BYD, for example, is on the surface a publicly traded company in which billionaire investor Warren Buffet has long been committed. But as is widely known, nothing happens in Chinese industry without government involvement, most especially initiatives that support the government’s high-tech push, one intended to establish China as the dominant economic power in the world.
If China continues to support the electrification effort vigorously, it’s quite conceivable that its car companies – already collectively on top of the EV world in terms of new registrations – will significantly out-pace all others.
That said, rival countries have begun seriously to recognize the threat China poses economically and technologically. Thus, it’s possible, perhaps even likely, that the world will see various governments, in particular Germany, become more involved in supporting the EV movement while also working hard to tamp down China’s ambitious and, according to many, unfair trade and industry practices.