Is CES 2022 an Omen that COVID Still Rules or Will EV Tech Triumph & Define the Year
We’re only three days into 2022 (which means I’m two days late with this intro message), but I think we’re already facing a strange crossroads that means we’re in for another memorable (and I’m afraid I don’t mean that in a good way) year. Here are two big automotive EV news items from the first days of 2022—and a guess at what they might mean.
- CES (the Consumer Electronics Show) was supposed to be the big coming out party as tech vendors and a growing automotive contingent were set to descend on Las Vegas with a return-to-normal show with massive displays, extravagant media shows and outrageous demonstrations of future technology. Well, the show goes live tomorrow although media announcements have been trickling out for weeks. More than a dozen major companies cancelled plans to attend and display due to the resurgence of COVID-19 variants. Keynoters will be giving their speeches via remote technology and introducing new vehicles the same way they have primarily for the past two years—from a distance. Some in-person activities will take place, but organizers told media if they have 50 percent of normal attendance they would consider it a success.
- Two years into 2022, while stories of the expected new EVs for the year were being published, Tesla announced it has delivered 308,600 vehicles worldwide in the fourth quarter, besting its own record for quarterly EV production. In addition, that meant Tesla had sold more than 936,000 vehicles for the year, an 87 percent increase compared to 2020. This was done in a year when almost all other automakers posted drops in sales. That also portends another substantially profitable quarter for the company.
What’s all this mean?
I propose there are two EV scenarios for this year, although of course a variety of alternatives could end up intruded. Can you say worldwide pandemic? Can you say worldwide supply chain disruption?
Scenario No. 1
The latest scare from a fast-moving new variant of the coronavirus that’s disrupted the world for the past two years plus may mean things will really have to change. There may be no more “return to normal” or even a semi-normal. Mass events may become a thing of memory. Masks may become everyday wear and precautions will be permanent.
The impact on the auto industry, particularly the still growing electric sector, could be profound. A shift to online car buying is already underway. Carvana was the number two used car chain last year according to one report, and Tesla’s direct sales model doesn’t seem to be slowing down.
A bigger concern for industry is the impact of the pandemic on the supply chain, which has throttled back the capability of building modern cars. Again, Tesla has fared better than most, and that may point to a path where others can follow. Even if the pandemic does wane, it’s not clear supply chain issues will quickly follow, so there will be challenges in 2022.
Scenario No. 2
Tesla’s ongoing robust numbers, which are finally starting to see some followers from other companies, may mean that 2022 is that breakthrough year for EVs that was predicted back in 2020, then bumped to 2021. Tesla’s continued cash inflow means it will be able to continue to fund new plants and new models, which portend the extension of Elon Musk’s reign as the king of the EV.
But if 2022 really is the Year of the EV what will that mean? The billions major OEMs have begun spending on EV and EV component production is only just beginning to be seen in hardware. So far the signs are good. Following the Tesla example, companies are designing and building cars that stand out not only as great EVs, but great, aspirational cars. The Ford Mustang Mach-E is finding a welcome market (and Ford is already bumping up production), and the F-150 Lightning appears to be one of those decade-defining vehicles that’s a hit before the first one’s sold.
With more new EVs scheduled to come this year from Cadillac, Chevrolet, Rivian, Jeep, Fisker, BMW, Audi, Kia, Hyundai, GMC Hummer, Polestar, Volvo, Toyota, Subaru and Genesis (as well as Ford and Tesla and other big and small automakers), it’s hard to imagine 2022 not being a monster year that pushes electrification well beyond the relatively small space it currently occupies. Even if a significant chunk of these models don’t make it to market or only make it in small numbers, the automotive landscape will have changed forever. Virtually every car dealer—and a growing number of used car lots—will have full EV or plug-in hybrid offerings. The look and content of this new contingent of EVs also promises to broaden the conversation about how an electric car operates and what the shift away from the internal combustion engine means.
Infrastructure is scrambling to catch up with this explosion, but the money being spent there, along with new entrants and new approaches, point to this soon becoming one of those “old” issues being left behind.
I for one can’t wait to find out what kind of year this will be. I’d love to hear what you think we can expect out of 2022. You can bet you’ll read about it here.
Story by Michael Coates. Photos from Mercedes & Clean Fleet Report archives.
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