How are American Automotive Brands Coping with the Future of Electric Vehicles?

As the grip of the electric vehicle (EV) era begins to tighten over the automotive world, evidence of drastic change within the industry is becoming apparent, with Moody’s Investor Service estimating that electric vehicles will make up 20% of global light-vehicle sales by 2030. Conversely, SUVs, crossover, and trucks are experiencing a spike in popularity within the American automotive industry, accounting for 63% of total automotive sales in 2017. We are witnessing the formation of entirely new automotive competitors racing to grasp at the rapidly expanding EV market, while gas-guzzling SUVs and trucks are selling at all-time highs. Industry stalwarts like Ford and GM are carefully plotting their next steps, weighing the scales between these two polar opposites: can these major American brands continue to ride out the SUV craze, or will they be forced to capitulate to the rise of EVs?

The Rise of EVs

The EV market has long relied upon compact cars and sedans as the source model upon which manufacturers base their brand models (i.e. Toyota Prius, Nissan LEAF, Chevy Bolt, BMW i3) leaving many to wonder if EVs would ever grow out of this narrow model archetype. Then, as Tesla began to hit the mass market, consumers clung to the futuristic self-driving claims and forward-facing design, bringing life into a relatively stagnant automotive category. As Elon Musk’s dream continues to push the industry into new stages of EV development, what kind of revelations can we expect to follow?

As we move into 2019, we can now see the next major EV milestone materializing: full-size electric trucks and SUVs. A growing list of automakers have released their plans for varying types of fully electric truck and SUV models, with production dates arriving in a few years time. What makes this situation particularly interesting is the crop of start-up brands that are vying for a spot in this relatively untapped market space.

Electric Trucks & SUVs

Previously unheard of companies like Atlis, Bollinger Motors, Rivian, and Workhorse Group (amongst others) have announced the details of their proposed full-size truck and SUV models, receiving plenty of attention in the process. Of these three brands, Rivian has recently made waves by securing a $700 million investment from Amazon, while also broadcasting plans for a new factory in Normal, Illinois. Bollinger, Atlis, and Workhorse Group have remained quieter about their strategies, aside from approximating their production line start date around 2020 and debuting concept models at various car shows and events. Nonetheless, each of these companies has received tens of thousands of pre-orders, with consumers showing obvious interest and desire for the electric future of trucks and SUVs.

What does the future hold?

Interestingly enough, no major American manufacturers have publicized any electric truck concepts, aside from Ford releasing plans for an F-150 hybrid and Jeep announcing plans to build hybrid and electric models in the future. As of 2018, GM has shut down several of its factories and model lines (including the hybrid-electric Chevy Volt), in order to push capital towards the design, development, and production of new EVs and gas-powered SUVs. Outside of the US, German manufacturers are in the process of rolling out electric SUV models: Audi with the Q4 e-tron, and BMW with the X3 xDrive30e.

The lack of interest from American brands has perplexed many, as truck and SUV sales have been dominating the US market for quite some time. While it is still uncertain how well electric trucks and full-size SUVs will be received in en masse, it’s painfully clear that the future does not belong with fossil fuels. With the EV market beginning to diversify its model selection, will major American automakers arrive too late to the party? Or are mainstream electric trucks and SUVs a more distant reality than some may think? As 2020 is quickly approaching, these questions will be answered sooner than later.

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