Good morning to all, except for the wildfire smog currently blanketing the great state of New York. Yes, it’s as bad as you’ve heard. If I wanted to get this level of exposure to toxic particulate matter, I would borrow one of David’s cars. (Okay, maybe not the i3.)
Since today’s a good day to stay inside, keep your windows closed and read The Autopian, our morning news roundup will cover the new Volvo EX30‘s important business proposition; the latest with the Detroit Auto Show; and yet more news in and out of China’s auto industry. Strap on your respirators and let’s go for a ride.
Volvo Gets It: The New EVs Are Too Damn Expensive
I may need to apologize in advance for how hyped up we all are for the new Volvo EX30, which made its global debut at an event in Milan this morning. It’s small! It looks great! It seems like it’ll have good electric range! It comes in yellow! And Volvo pulled the rare move of announcing its $34,950 (before destination and such) price tag right out of the gate. We’re still waiting on a price for the Volkswagen ID.Buzz and that thing feels old enough to buy its own cigarettes.
Make sure to read Thomas’ deeper dive into the EX30 and its specs. But you should know there’s an important business case Volvo is trying to pull off here: making EVs that are aimed at younger buyers, first-time buyers and those who aren’t the mega-rich.
Price creep is a trend we cover all the time here. Thanks to pandemic-related supply chain issues, our collective desire for bigger cars, the need to juice profits to fund the electric transition and just outright greed, the average new car price is almost $50,000 these days and electric vehicles go even higher. The EX30 is meant to be an antidote to that, reports the Wall Street Journal:
Volvo hopes that the bigger [EX90], starting at more than $109,000, will compete with vehicles from Tesla and German premium brands Mercedes-Benz, BMW and Audi for well-heeled suburbanite buyers.
The smaller EX30, meanwhile, is aimed at more cost-conscious consumers, such as college grads shopping for their first new car. Volvo hasn’t yet revealed the price tag for the smaller vehicle, but Chief Executive Jim Rowan said during an earnings call in April that the model would take Volvo “into a lower price point than we’ve ever been” for SUVs.
The company hopes the new SUV can help it address one of the biggest challenges conventional carmakers face in their electric shift: To meet ambitious EV goals over the next few years, they have to offer more affordable cars.
Emphasis mine there, because thank you. More affordable cars! Imagine that. The plan isn’t without its risks, of course; Volvo’s Rowan is worried about a price war spurred by Tesla or EV sales taking off so fast they cut into already-low profit margins for these things. (I think that last fear is a bit unfounded; the charging network still has a ways to go here for these things to reach scale.)
But I am hoping more automakers join Volvo in offering compelling cars that don’t have to be $65,000. They’re going to have to if they want these EVs, in particular, to catch on. [Editor’s Note: I’m particularly excited about the ~$30,000 Chevy Equinox EV. -DT]
The Tesla Model 3 Is Also Now Dirt-Cheap
You know what is incredibly cheap these days? The Tesla Model 3. As of this week, it finally qualifies for all, and not just half, of the $7,500 EV tax credits. And if you live in California, with that state’s discounts you could get a Model 3 in the mid-$20,000 range, reports Reuters:
New battery rules went into effect in April that lowered the credit of the Model 3 Standard Range Rear Wheel Drive and Long Range All-Wheel Drive to $3,750. Tesla last week on its website said that all versions of the Model 3 again qualify for the full credit. The government confirmed the change on its fueleconomy.gov website.
A Model 3 starts at $40,240 and the price may fall to $25,240 when the $7,500 federal tax credit and another $7,500 from the California tax rebate kick in, depending on income and other requirements. Toyota’s Camry is listed at $26,320 and higher.
The subsidy change, along with aggressive discounts, should help Tesla prop up sales of its mainstay Model 3, whose demand has been weighed down by a major revamp this year, economic uncertainty and increasing competition.
Good Lord, that’s tempting, isn’t it? The Model 3’s been around a while but it’s still a great drive with the best charging network there is. I still think Tesla’s vulnerable by having such an aging lineup, but for now, consumers are the winners with these aggressive price cuts.
The Detroit Auto Show Attempts A Comeback, Again
Auto shows were struggling even before COVID-19 hit with automakers focusing their energies on standalone events and online debuts so they didn’t have to literally share a stage with the competition. But that struggle was especially acute for the poor North American International Auto Show, once the biggest news event of the year for folks like your hardworking Autopian staff. (We used to wear suits and ties to the thing! Unfathomable today.)
The Detroit show in recent years had suffered from a loss of attendance from European and luxury automakers, and post-pandemic, it moved around the calendar quite a bit from its former commanding perch right at the beginning of the year. Granted, nobody loved being in Detroit in January anyway, but the show did lose some impact by switching to a warmer month.
It’s still on for September this year. And while 2023 has already meant something of a comeback for live events in general, this Detroit show also means more auto brands are coming. From Automotive News:
The Detroit Auto Dealers Association, which runs the show, said Wednesday that it expects more than double the 13 brands that participated in last year’s show. General Motors, Ford Motor Co. and Stellantis were the primary automakers featuring brands in the show, with many European and Asian brands absent.
This year’s show schedule includes media days on Sept. 13-14, the charity preview Sept. 15 and public event Sept. 16-24.
Other additions this year will in include an indoor EV test track for attendees and a global mobility forum for executives, which will run concurrently with media days.
Ford, GM and Stellantis will feature their full brand portfolios this year, organizers said. The show expects “multiple” vehicle debuts, but did not give a figure for how many had committed to the show so far.
[…] “This year’s show represents the next step in its evolution and in the evolution of the industry itself,” said Detroit Auto Show Chairman Thad Szott. “Automotive technology is changing so rapidly; how do we make people comfortable with it? We’re planning for a show that not only embraces and educates about this new technology but offers an immersion into it. And with twice the number of brands participating, there’ll be no shortage of engaging with it.”
If there’s news to be had, you know we’ll be on it. I do miss this event kicking off the new year like it used to, but I do not miss chiseling snow and ice off my car’s door handles to get around.
BYD Has Everything It Wants, Except America
It’s no secret that China’s BYD is starting to take over the world—except here in America, where 27.5% tariffs on Chinese-made cars and general political tensions keep it at bay. For now. But the company’s growth trajectory in 2023 is really stunning, Bloomberg reports in a new deep-dive that I recommend reading in full. That story says BYD cars are taking over “from Sydney to Delhi and even Montevideo, Uruguay.”
The Shenzhen-based company has been on a tear in China, dethroning Volkswagen AG as the nation’s biggest-selling car brand during this year’s first quarter—a remarkable disruption of Volkswagen’s dominance there since at least 2008, when data from the China Automotive Technology and Research Center became available. One reason for the turnabout: In that quarter, BYD accounted for 39% of the sales of new-energy vehicles (electrics or hybrids)—or 12% of all passenger-car sales—in China, the world’s largest auto market, based on data from the China Passenger Car Association.
BYD continues to expand internationally at a blistering pace. Although the US remains off-limits for political reasons, the Chinese company recently entered Mexico, Spain and the UK. This month it plans to try its luck in Italy, kicking off with a launch party in Turin, the birthplace of Fiat. After first exporting new-energy vehicles to Norway in 2021, the company is now selling such cars from Singapore to Sweden—a real feat for a Chinese consumer brand.
Now, three-quarters of BYD’s revenue still comes from its own home market, which is very high. And growth in China is starting to slow a bit. But it’s moving overseas quickly and not just with sales but with potential factories as well in places like Thailand, France and Vietnam.
But as much as BYD’s blowing up, I have been wondering: are the cars any good? According to Western market owners getting into them for the first time, the answer seems to be… yeah, actually.
Michael Barnden, a retired teacher living in Adelaide, Australia, made the switch in November to a BYD Atto 3, a five-seat family-friendly electric SUV. The 74-year-old is no stranger to cleaner cars, having bought a Hyundai Ioniq plug-in hybrid about four years ago. When he read the features of the Atto 3, including heated seats and a 480km driving range, he snapped one up. “It feels so welcoming to drive,” he says. “I actually look for excuses to get in the car.”
In New Zealand, the Atto 3 was named the Motoring Writers’ Guild’s Car of the Year in 2022. This was the first time a Chinese brand won, according to guild President Richard Bosselman. BYD’s car beat 11 finalists, including Tesla’s Model Y, Kia’s EV6 and the Polestar 2.
“BYD was probably the last to release into the market, but it made quite a strong, immediate impact,” Bosselman says.
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