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Jon LeSage

Jon LeSage

Jon LeSage is a California-based journalist covering clean vehicles, alternative energy, and economic and regulatory trends shaping the automotive, transportation, and mobility sectors.

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Can European Car Giants Dethrone Tesla?

European automakers are using the Geneva auto show as a platform to take on Tesla. The Swiss motor show has been heightened in importance in the wake of the Model S electric sedan beating classic German luxury cars in sales.

The Geneva International Motor Show, which started this week and runs through March 18, will be a showcase for automakers to take on Tesla for futuristic, high performance electric vehicles. Two German automakers felt the sting early this year when sales figures came in showing that the Tesla Model S had beat the Mercedes-Benz S class and BMW 7 series in Europe for the first time.

The pressure is on as the Tesla Model 3 rolls out this year in much higher numbers than the Model S and Model X.

The Geneva Motor Show will be even more significant than usual. The Frankfurt Motor Show is considered the biggest auto show in the world, but it only takes place every two years. Held at Germany’s financial hub, the Frankfurt show won’t be held again until 2019. In Geneva, automakers are using this influential European car show to showcase electric vehicles, along with advanced features and self-driving car technology that will soon become the norm. 

The U.S. market is also feeling the pinch from Tesla. In this major global luxury market, the Model S beat the Mercedes-Benz S-Class, BMW 7 Series, Volvo S90, Porsche Panamera, Audi A8 / S8, and Jaguar XJ, 2,721 gasoline-engine models in 2017 sales. Luxury electric cars like the BMW i3 and i8 were far behind the Tesla Model S and Model X in U.S. sales last year.

Electric cars being displayed in Geneva by Volkswagen, Audi, Jaguar, and Mercedes-Benz are gaining a lot of attention. Other automakers, including Nissan, Hyundai, and Bentley, are using the motor show to tease crowds on upcoming electric car models. Related: IEA Does Not Believe Steel Tariffs Will Affect Global Oil Trade

Volkswagen unveiled the I.D. Vizzion concept car, an all-electric midsize sedan scheduled to launch in 2022. It may be branded with the same name as the Vizzion concept car and is expected to be a smaller replacement version of the classic VW Phaeton flagship sedan. It will be the fourth member of the I.D. family, and will be sold as the “top of the range sedan” in the I.D. sub brand.

It all started in September 2016 at the Paris Motor Show with the introduction of the I.D. midsize sedan, built on the German automaker’s first dedicated electric car platform. That was one year after the diesel car emissions scandal broke in the U.S., with intense pressure put on the automaker to adopt EVs as part of its restitution.

VW brand CEO Herbert Diess said the company plans to build about one million all-electric vehicles a year by 2025.

The German automaker will also be using the I.D. Vizzion as the platform for what a fully self-driving car will look like in the near future. 

VW’s Audi subsidiary will be showing off its E-tron Sportback, an electric vehicle revealed last year in Shanghai. Audi said that it will have a 95-kWh battery pack to enable about 310 miles of range to be Tesla competitive. It will be the first dedicated EV to roll out from the VW Group.

Jaguar has been touting its I-Pace all-electric crossover for some time, and it will be arriving this year - with Geneva serving as a springboard. At $70,495, including delivery charges, it will be a good deal compared to the Tesla Model X, which starts at $79,500, excluding shipping.

Tesla will still have the British performance luxury SUV beat. The Model X can go from 0 to 60 mph in just 2.9 seconds, while the I-Pace can do so in 4.5 seconds.

Jaguar will begin I-Pace deliveries this year, with U.S. arrivals scheduled for the second half of 2018. All of Jaguar’s I-Pace models will be built with all-wheel drive to increase performance and utility.

Mercedes-Benz is showing its first production battery-electric vehicle. The EQC electric SUV will be the first of its all-electric vehicles under the new EQ sub brand.

The German performance brand has also been touting the Mercedes-Benz G63 SUV, the most powerful version of its gasoline-powered G-Class. Another attention getter in Geneva has been a four-door version of the Mercedes-AMG GT Coupe, adding two more doors while honoring the styling of the original version.

Nissan showed off a color scheme for its all-electric ABB FIA Formula E Championship electric race car. Last year in Tokyo, the Japanese automaker announced it would debut its Formula E for season five, which is expected to begin in December for Nissan. In Geneva, the company showed the new look that includes striking new aerodynamics and an entirely new battery and powertrain package.

Related: IEA Predicts Nightmare Scenario For OPEC

Formula E has become a showcase for high performance electric race cars, with German automakers taking pride in their presence and victory laps.

Hyundai gave the first public preview of its Santa Fe crossover, which is getting several new drivetrains, including diesel and hybrid variations. The Hyundai Kona all-electric SUV is also gaining attention in Geneva, along with the Nexo, a next-generation fuel cell vehicle. The Korean automaker says that the Kona can travel up to 300 miles on a full charge, and that the Nexo will go 400 miles on a full tank of hydrogen.

British luxury carmaker Bentley is joining the electrified vehicle competition by unveiling its Bentayga Hybrid at the Geneva Motor Show.

It’s a plug-in hybrid model that combines an advanced electric motor with a powerful and efficient new-generation V6 gasoline engine. The hybrid version will be the company’s most efficient model with CO2 emissions of 75 g/km, based on the European continent’s NEDC standards. 

Bentley’s new Chairman and CEO, Adrian Hallmark, said in Geneva that it’s the world’s first luxury plug-in hybrid model.

By Jon LeSage for Oilprice.com

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