If you want to know what trends the motor industry has in stock for the coming years, then visiting one of the Top 5 international automobile exhibitions in the world is the thing to do. If you look carefully, the trends are laid there out at your feet .
On March 5th the 83rd edition of the Geneva International Motor Show will open its doors. This show is the only Top 5 car event at the European mainland which is held every year. In the fall the second European top tier motor show is always organized. In the even years it is the Mondial de l’automobile in Paris and in the odd years the IAA in Frankfurt.
At these shows car manufacturers show their newest models, new design strategies, concept car and new technologies. The trend at the 2012 Mondial de l’automobile in Paris was undisputedly the electrification of cars. Hybrids, plug-in hybrids and full electric cars were shown by a majority of brands. There were even new brands showing up with only an electric car as their product. The main reason for brands to show these new electric technologies is that this is their way to get a hinge whether or not European consumers are inclined to switch to electric cars.
Here are some examples of the electric vehicles that were at display:
What this list tells is that electric cars are entering a new phase. In recent years an electric car was still something for innovators. Innovators are willing to take risks and find pleasure in owning or experiencing the newest products. If you look at the list, a majority of the models are considered premium vehicles. If these models were conceived a couple of years ago they probably would have been proposed with 6 or 8 cylinder engines and large displacement. The cars in the list all have electric engines and almost all are assisted by a small 3 or 4 cylinder engine. The fossil fuel engine either serves as a range extender or as the basic power plant.
In the past months the envisioned penetration of electric vehicles has taken its first steps. Just some facts that indicate this development: In the Netherlands, one of the leading markets for electric vehicles in Europe, the number of registered electric cars grew to a mere 8000 units (Source: Agentschap NL). Nissan announced that its Leaf broke the threshold of 50.000 units sold globally. And the European Committee launched a plan which states that by 2020 almost 800.000 chargepoints should be available throughout Europe.
Although these remarkable figures might suggest otherwise, electric cars are still something for innovators and are definitely far from being a mainstream product. How rapidly will they become mainstrain?
That will largely depend on the sales and profit expectations car manufacturers have of electric cars.
Economic crisis in Europe
The European economy is in a crisis and it does not leave European car makers unaffected. Brands are laying off workers, closing factories or send employees on an extended summer leave. They are all doing this to reduce losses or anxiously hold on to being profitable. In such an economic pressured situation car makers tend to focus on their models that bring profit. They are inclined to spend less or no money on developing cars which serve small segments. Such as electric cars are currently.
That brings us to the question what the near future will hold for electric cars. Will it become even quicker a mainstream technology then expected? Or will it remain something that car makers will reserve for primarily premium products, such as the concepts at the 2012 Mondial de l’automobile in Paris suggested? Or.. will the economic down turn even pressure car makers to fall back on cheap fossil fuel technology?
When the Geneva International Motor Show opens its door for the press on March 5th, we will know by the concepts, whether or not car manufacturers foresee that making a profit with an electric car in their model lineup is a feasible objective in the near future.