The first Los Angeles Auto Show since the onset of the pandemic has just kicked off. It also marks the first major auto show in the US since 2020. When contrasted with previous events, there are some stark changes, not least mandatory proof of vaccination. But one theme is unchanged as, once again, electric vehicles (EVs) outnumber their conventional counterparts on the showroom floor.
Not only is LA the second-largest vehicle market in the US, but Southern California is the biggest EV market in the country, and the state sets its own emissions rules – all of which make the show an ideal opportunity to showcase this technology.
We were, of course, expecting to see EV offerings from the traditional OEMs. Hyundai, for example, unveiled a new Midsize SUV called the Seven. This 3-door concept has futuristic interior styling and is being marketed as both a ‘man cave’ and a child-friendly family vehicle. It sits alongside sister brand Kia’s version, dubbed EV9. Subaru, meanwhile, introduced its first ever EV, the Solterra. The model is the twin of the Toyota bZ4X, which is also on display. The two vehicles are essentially the same, but Subaru has developed its own AWD system.
Joining the traditional players are several new startups hoping to convince the public of their ability to compete against the likes of Tesla and the established brands with electrified line-ups. One of the most compelling amongst them is, perhaps, Mullen. Having gone public on 5 November, the company has acquired a factory in Mississippi to build a new SUV called the Five, with deliveries slated to start in late 2024. The most affordable version will be priced at US$55,000, but incentives could be higher by the time it reaches the market, depending on Congressional approval.
Also noteworthy is the fact that automakers are beginning to market EVs as eco-friendly and not simply as technologically innovative. Fisker, for instance, has already revealed many key aspects of the Ocean, but has now confirmed that the SUV will use recycled fishing nets in its construction. Consumers who lease the Ocean can return their vehicle at any time. Fisker will continue to lease these returned models for a period of 12 years from their original lease date to ensure that they go through a full period of recycling.
Another startup, Edison Future, has added solar panels to its Van and Pickup models. The panels can provide 1.35 kWh of power, allowing for a maximum range of 35 miles, thus making refuelling virtually free in sunny locations like LA. The vehicles are promised by 2025 and are likely to be built by a third party in the US.
Trying to make its way in the US market is Vietnamese brand VinFast, which showcased two new SUV models: the VF e35 and VF e36. Initial units will be imported from Vietnam, but the OEM is eyeing production in the US in the second half of 2024, having already taken a first crucial step by investing US$200 million in setting up US headquarters in LA. It remains to be seen, however, whether VinFast will fare better than the many Chinese brands that have failed to gain traction, despite showing models at previous auto shows and promising cheaper vehicles to dealers, none of which have, so far, materialised.
One thing is undeniable from this year’s LA Auto Show: the age of the EV is well and truly upon us.