As we enter the first year of a brand-new decade, electric vehicles’ manufacturers like Tesla and Polestar are making waves even as the incumbents like Ford, General Motors, Audi, Toyota – to name a few – come out with promising hybrids/ EVs and set ambitious targets for themselves to hybridize existing model lineups. This follows a decade of major shifts and evolving trends in the automobile industry.
It’s a no-brainer to say that the new decade will be anything less than dramatic with ‘smart’ technologies getting smarter coupled with 5G that will enable all these smart vehicles and devices as well as ‘connected’ networks that speak between themselves. Already tech giants like Google, Microsoft and even Amazon are entering strategic partnerships with leading automakers to develop in-car navigation systems and user interfaces.
“Automobile industry is most likely to appear way different in 10 years’ time than we currently anticipate – thanks mainly to big disruptions like self-driving and ‘connected’ cars or even with a possible demise of the conventional internal combustion engine as we know it – thanks largely to government policies and evolving market forces,” says Benoit LaForce, General Manager – TRFFK.
Consumer interests are already seeing sweeping changes and there’s a huge willingness among car buyers to head into a more sustainable and greener future. If today’s demand-supply trends are anything to go by, hybrid and electric vehicles are expected to reach a critical point of buyer interest latest by mid-decade and become mass market finally.
According to a recent TD Bank report, substantial enhancements in battery technology have helped lower electric vehicle prices considerably in recent years and as this trend continues, price parity can potentially be reached by as early as 2022/23.
But is the EV domination over-hyped? If we were to look at the automobile trends that dominated Canada’s online search engine landscape over the previous five years, it’s clear that pickup trucks still remain the most popular vehicle choice. There’s been a consistently higher interest in this vehicle category over the others, according to Google Trends. Pickups dominated new vehicle sales throughout 2019 and then again in 2020.
The report does point to the potential of electric truck market in coming years as projected increases in battery efficiency will help reduce the cost differential and big automakers like Ford and General Motors will shift focus from EV car production to SUVs and crossovers making more choices available for environmentally-conscious buyers.
And rightly so, as GM Canada recently announced a tentative deal for $1 billion electric vehicle plant in Ontario while Ford Canada had announced investment of $1.8 billion in its Ontario plants including retooling of the Oakville plant to build battery EVs in the fall of 2020.
In November 2020, Quebec announced that it will be devoting $6.7 billion over the next five years to deal with climate change with the bulk of that money going into subsidies towards the purchase of EVs and a ban on sale of new gas-powered vehicles from 2035.
Going back to Google Trends, Tesla had seen a huge spike in November 2019 – right around the time the company showcased a prototype of its new Cybertruck. There was a spike in related searches even in the more truck-dominated markets in the Prairies, Yukon and Ontario. So much so that this forced other automakers to announce their upcoming electric pickups.
“At a time when the Canadian buyers’ love for pickups is peaking, giving them the option of a hybrid or electric truck appears to be a move OEMs are betting on big time. And it’s not just Tesla, even incumbents like Ford and GM as well as new startups like Rivian, Nikola and others are coming up with their own hybrid and electric trucks with more new models to follow,” adds LaForce.
This would be one of the most interesting developments to watch out for, in the automobile industry. While time will reveal its truths in due course, I wonder if our roads will be dominated by self-driving, electric and ‘connected’ vehicles – some of which appear like a futuristic rover for humans on Mars or as if they’re coming out of a sci-fi movie set. Let’s wait until we circle back in 2031. Until then, let’s enjoy this joyride!!
— Sparsh Sharma – Digital Strategist Manager, TRFFK