Electrification, the auto industry’s big “reset” button
A few weeks ago, I was chatting with a friend. He asked my opinion on the Toyota bZ4X. I replied that it was a new electric car that needed to prove itself, but on paper it wasn’t very good or bad. It performs well enough, but doesn’t necessarily succeed in doing better than some of its competitors, like the Hyundai IONIQ 5 and Kia EV6 twins, in particular.
This is where he refuted the famous “Yes, but Hyundai, it’s not like Toyota!” »
In fact, this is a person who is loyal to Toyota products. This love for the brand was, of course, revealed after he owned several models from this manufacturer. These vehicles have become loyal to him thanks to their high long-term reliability and low operating costs. So we understand this woman who wants to accept loyalty to this brand, even though, in fact, Toyota has almost no experience with pure electric vehicles, apart from hybrids and plug-in hybrids. It’s the opposite for Hyundai, which is on its third generation of electric models.
That’s when I realized how big the electric switch was. It all starts at the beginning, acting like a gigantic button reset for the entire automotive industry.
What does luxury mean in electric?
I had a similar realization when I drove the 2022 Mercedes-Benz EQS 580 4MATIC. I wondered why it cost $40,000 more than the Tesla Model S. It’s a real prestige model, while the Tesla is poorly built and clearly not luxurious!
But is it really like this? Because honestly, the finish isn’t all that bad in a Model S. Granted, it doesn’t have the same level of flamboyance as an EQS’s bright and airy interior, but at least it has a comfortable back seat if you’re tall. I can’t say the same for an EQS.
Is the Mercedes really worth $40,000 more? However, technically, a Model S is clearly more advanced than an EQS. It completes the sprint from 0 to 100 kilometers per hour in just 3.2 seconds (compared to 3.7 seconds for the EQS) and can travel up to 652 kilometers on a full charge. Mercedes finished in the 547th range, according to data from Natural Resources Canada.
So that begs the question. What does luxury mean in an electric world? Does this mean having a higher interior, or offering more advanced technology? In the past, we had two. In fact, if we compare a Tesla Model S with a Mercedes-Benz EQS, we can see that now one does not necessarily go with the other.
If we go back 20 years, we’d buy a BMW instead of a Kia because it certainly offers a more luxurious cabin and a more thoughtful design approach, but also because it has clearly more advanced engines. . However, today an Audi e-tron is hardly more technologically advanced than a Kia EV6. However there is a difference of over $30,000 between these two models!
Even reliability takes the edge
Even our notions of reliable cars have now changed. If, in the past, the Ford Mustang could be described as a reliable model, it is clear that this is not the same observation for its electric version, the Mach-E, whose reliability record is pitiful.
The same can be said about the identity of some builders. Take Mazda, for example. Although small, this Japanese manufacturer has long been associated with the quality of its engineering and the driving dynamics of these vehicles. However, with the electric MX-30, Mazda has been embarrassed in the public square by the car’s poor energy efficiency and its intoxicating road behavior. You will be told that, in electrics, other brands are better than Mazda. This finding is quite sad when you consider that Mazda has been around since 1920!
So we noticed that, with the advent of electrification, our notion of a “good car” completely changes. We can no longer trust the reputation of reliability of a car manufacturer because this manufacturer does not really use the same method to achieve its goals. And we would think twice before signing up for a so-called luxury model that offers less autonomy than a generalist model sold for half the price.
When Honda uses technologies from General Motors for its electric cars like the Prologue, or even the Acura ZDX, can we always say “Honda, it’s not going to die, because I’ve already driven a Civic in more than 300,000 kilometers”? I do not believe.
It’s also the realization that completely changes the nature of our work as automotive journalists. If, during our program on the Best electric cars in 2022, we put the brakes on the recommendation of almost all new electric cars on the market, it is because we have very little data about the longevity of the this model. Unlike thermal models where we can count on any expertise, in the case of electric, everyone is too young to decide. This forces us to step back before recommending a model.
In fact, if I go back to my friend’s original question about the Toyota bZ4X, I would probably tell him that Toyota has not yet done any proof of electrics, while Tesla sells models in our territory from in 2012. Even some of them have more than 300,000 kilometers on the odometer and are still powered by their original battery. At this moment, if I had to bet on a reliable electric model, I would trust a Tesla more than a Toyota. In fact, the automotive industry has changed a lot.