At last year’s Geneva Motor Show, one message was clear: the world’s biggest automakers are going electric. Marquee names like Porsche, Audi, BMW, Jaguar, and Hyundai showed up with or teased all-electric cars, while others arrived with hybrids. It was one of the biggest showcases of electrified drivetrains ever. That made it easy to wonder what the future held for Tesla, which at the time held a firm grip on the EV market.
But instead of fighting for market share, Tesla’s grip only grew tighter across the rest of 2018. By the end of the year, Tesla’s Model 3 was the best-selling EV in the world.
With the 2019 Geneva Motor Show kicking off this week, a whole new slate of EVs is scheduled to hit the show floor. So it feels like a good time to look back at last year’s bunch. Because while it looked like an electric wave was bearing down on us, last year’s show might wind up serving as a good reminder that looks can be deceiving.
First teased in 2016, Jaguar brought the final production version of the I-Pace to the 2018 Geneva Motor Show and announced it would cost about $10,000 less than the base Model X at the time. That seemed like a fairly good deal considering the I-Pace matched up favorably to the base Model X, with 394 horsepower, the ability to go 0–60 miles per hour in 4.5 seconds, and 240 miles of range.
After a few months of what looked like potential delays, the I-Pace finally went into production in the second half of 2018. The electric SUV got off to a decent start, with worldwide deliveries eclipsing 2,000 in December — accounting for something like 10 percent of the automaker’s total sales.
Most of those sales, though, came from overseas. The I-Pace has seen a much slower debut in the US, to the point that Jaguar has started offering 0 percent financing as a way to entice buyers. Meanwhile, Jaguar Land Rover posted a multibillion-dollar loss for 2018, laid off some workers, and parent company Tata Motors is reportedly considering selling part of its stake in the British automaker.
Porsche Taycan Cross Turismo
Porsche’s big reveal at last year’s Geneva Motor Show was the Mission E Cross Turismo, a crossover-ish version of the all-electric Mission E sedan the company has spent the last few years teasing. Since the reveal, Porsche announced both cars would be given the new “Taycan” branding. The German automaker confirmed late last year that it would put the wagon-style crossover into production, though that likely won’t happen until 2020, and there have been no big updates from Porsche since.
Instead, Porsche is currently focused on the more straightforward Taycan, which is due later this year. That car has turned so many heads in the run-up to production that Porsche has reportedly doubled the number it plans to make.
However many eventually come off the line, the car could be a major competitor in the luxury EV segment. It’s expected to have a range of over 250 miles, offer fast charging that can bring the battery from dead to 80 percent in 15 minutes, and come in three variants. The price will be steep, though, with the Taycan starting around $90,000.
Audi continued its long tease of the E-Tron at last year’s Geneva Motor Show, but it finally revealed the final version in September 2018. The electric SUV went into production around the same time, too. The E-Tron has a range of around 240 miles and starts at $74,800, with more premium options taking the price as high as $86,700.
Audi racked up north of 10,000 preorders for the E-Tron shortly after the reveal. But the automaker decided to go with a curious rollout strategy. The E-Tron won’t show up in Audi dealerships, and so customers have to place orders online for the car, sight unseen.
A change to some of the E-Tron’s software shortly after the September reveal caused a delay in the rollout of the electric SUV. Deliveries are expected to slowly increase as we head further into 2019, though EV blog CleanTechnica reports that a few hundred E-Trons have already been registered in Europe.
Audi is following a similar playbook at this year’s Geneva Motor Show by toting around a prototype version of the E-Tron’s Sportback sister model ahead of a full reveal and release date later this year.
The Mercedes-Benz EQC wasn’t technically at the 2018 Geneva Motor Show, but the German automaker teased images of its first serious EV drifting through the snow as a sort of reminder to the competition.
Last September, the EQC got treated to a proper reveal. The electric SUV features more than 200 miles of range — though there’s still some contention as to exactly how much more — and seems to have a nice blend of performance (402 horsepower) and technology (the company’s voice-activated MBUX infotainment system).
Full production was supposed to start this year, with US deliveries coming in 2020, but reported troubles with battery production have pushed back that window. Mercedes-Benz is now expected to deliver the first EQCs closer to the end of this year, meaning rival Audi will surely beat Mercedes-Benz to market.
BMW was early to the EV game with the all-electric i3, which was released in 2013. But the automaker has been mostly quiet since. The company teased an i4 electric sedan in a press release during last year’s Geneva Motor Show, and a few weeks later it shown off an iX3 electric SUV that will be built in China in 2020.
Pre-production i4s were recently spotted out in the real world, so the sedan is still coming. But it won’t enter production or go on sale until 2021. BMW is pouring more than $200 million into its factory in Munich to get ready for manufacturing EVs, so the i4 and any other electric cars not named iX3 will have to wait.
Hyundai Kona (and Kia Niro)
One of the more affordable EVs to show up at the Geneva Motor Show last year was the Hyundai Kona. Or that was the guess at least, since Hyundai didn’t announce official pricing until the very end of 2018. It turned out the Kona will start at $36,450 in the US, which is pretty dead even with the average sale price of a car in this country. And with an estimated range of 258 miles, Hyundai seems to be serving up a pretty decent deal.
Hyundai has already sold north of 10,000 Kona EVs in its home country of South Korea, and it just delivered the first one to the US ahead of a more full rollout here in 2019. That’s a good start, though Hyundai appears to be running into the same kind of problem it experienced with its Ioniq EV: it can’t make enough to keep up with demand. While the company works out the kinks, there are reports that some Hyundai dealers are taking advantage of the supply shortage by price gouging the Kona.
Sister company Kia is experiencing similar problems with the Niro EV, which is built on the same technological platform as the Kona. Some customers are even reporting they’ve been told they’re in for a year-long wait to take delivery of the electric SUV, which starts around the same price as (and offers similar mileage to) the Kona.
Then there were the hybrids, which are electric, just not fully electric. Still, they present a form of competition to Tesla or anyone else selling zero-emission vehicles. At the very high end was the Bentley Bentayga hybrid, which hit the road in the US and Canada late last year, and is scheduled to start deliveries — as few as they might be — worldwide during the first half of this year.
Volvo brought its V60 hybrid station wagons to last year’s show, with one variant boasting a very out-of-character 390 horsepower. But the company’s plans to bring the hybrid wagon stateside were vague. Turns out, that’s because it doesn’t plan to bring either of them to the US at all. That may be just fine — judging by the Roadshow team’s reviews, Volvo’s hybrid powertrains could still use a lot of tweaking.
Volvo subsidiary Polestar also brought a hybrid to Geneva last year in the form of its first car. The Polestar 1 dazzled with its design and performance specs, though we found out later in 2018 that this car would cost a cool $155,000, and that Polestar only plans to make about 500 per year.
That’s not going to take a chunk out of any automaker’s bottom line, but the company’s second car — the fully electric Polestar 2, which was announced just a few days ago — might actually do just that when it hits the road in 2020. It offers a starting price ($45,000) and specs (275 miles, 408 horsepower) that match up well with something like Tesla’s Model 3.
Looking forward, again
The 2018 Geneva Motor Show felt like a watershed moment. The automotive industry has been talking a big game about switching to electric cars for a few years now, but we had never seen a car show with so many on display. At the same time, Tesla was struggling to make its most important car: the Model 3. If there was ever a time to consider the Silicon Valley automaker’s looming competition, last year’s show felt like it.
But by the end of 2018, that dynamic had reversed. Tesla shipped around 140,000 Model 3s, while most of the automakers who showed up at Geneva were still dragging their feet trying to get their first serious EVs out the door.
Weirdly, though, the 2019 Geneva Motor Show will likely spark similar thoughts as last year’s. Tesla once again finds itself in a somewhat tough spot. The company finally announced the arrival of the $35,000 Model 3, but that came caveated with the news that Tesla will close most of its stores and switch to an online-only sales model — which means layoffs.
Tesla also faces questions about demand for the Model 3 in the US, though it has recently begun deliveries in Europe and China, which could theoretically offset a sag in sales here. (There are some worrying signs in those markets, too.) After reaching profitability in back-to-back quarters for the first time ever at the end of 2018, CEO Elon Musk now says Tesla is likely to dip back into the red in the first quarter of this year.
Meanwhile, this year’s show in Geneva will once again feature an impressive lineup of direct competition that stretches beyond the aforementioned Audi E-Tron Sportback and Polestar 2. Honda will be back with a more production-ready version of its adorable e Prototype EV (née Urban EV). Spanish Volkswagen subsidiary Seat has already showed off the el-Born, a crossover EV that looks a lot like the kind of car Tesla might reveal at next week’s Model Y event. Škoda — another Volkswagen subsidiary — will also be there with a few different EVs. Volkswagen itself will show off an electric dune buggy built on the same platform that will power its massive forthcoming lineup of EVs.
Many of these cars are slated to go on sale in the next two to five years. If and when they do, Tesla (as well as the bevy of EV startups) could face a wholly new set of challenges in the market. But looking back to the electric cars announced at last year’s show is enough to make it obvious just how much can happen between the show floor and the road.