Which automakers are unexpectedly competitive in the high-stakes race towards electric vehicles?

In the race towards a zero-tailpipe-emissions future, the traditional hierarchy among light-duty vehicle (LDV) manufacturers is set for a reshuffle. A recent report titled “The Global Automaker Rating 2022: Who is Leading the Transition to Electric Vehicles?” provides surprising insights into automaker progress in this transition.

The report focused on the 20 largest LDV manufacturers by sales and evaluated them based on three pillars: market dominance, technology performance, and strategic vision. The findings challenge common assumptions and shed light on the leading players in the industry.

One unexpected frontrunner is BYD, a relatively new player in the automobile market that has been manufacturing cars since 1995. BYD ranked second in the rating, just behind Tesla. The company made a significant leap forward in March 2022 by committing to manufacturing exclusively battery electric vehicles (BEVs) and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs). In 2022, BYD witnessed a 26 percentage point increase in the share of EVs in its total LDV sales, reaching 99%. However, it is important to note that about half of the EVs sold by BYD were PHEVs, which still generate tailpipe pollution. BYD has not fully transitioned to zero-emission vehicles (ZEVs) at the tailpipe.

Interestingly, neither GM nor Ford secured the top spot among US automakers. Stellantis, the parent company of Chrysler, outperformed both GM and Ford. While Stellantis exhibited below-average technology performance, its executive compensation package stood out. Unlike other automakers, Stellantis tied its executive compensation structure to EV progress, focusing on milestones related to EVs and other technology targets.

GM managed to edge past Ford, primarily due to its stronger strategic vision. Both automakers showcased similar performance in the ZEV transition, with low EV sales shares and a limited variety of ZEV models. Both companies have room for improvement, particularly in vehicle performance, upstream decarbonization, and battery recycling.

In terms of China’s automakers, SAIC showcased the strongest-selling EV in the country, the Wuling Hongguang. Despite this achievement, SAIC was rated below two other Chinese automakers. SAIC demonstrated a strong ZEV market share, offered ZEV models across all LDV classes, and showed commitment to ZEV investment. However, its overall score reflected lagging vehicle performance, primarily because of its focus on less expensive BEVs designed for urban commutes.

Makers of esteemed BEV models, such as the IONIQ by Hyundai-Kia and the Leaf by Nissan, lagged behind with low overall scores. Both automakers struggled with market dominance, low ZEV sales shares, and limited variety in their ZEV offerings. Hyundai-Kia and Nissan also lacked ambitious strategies and had weaker strategic visions compared to their competitors.

Toyota, the world’s largest automaker, was rated as a “laggard” and fell behind in strategic vision. Although Toyota announced a goal to sell 1.5 million EVs annually by 2026, this target only aligns with its previously set target of 3.5 million BEV sales annually by 2030. Toyota’s ZEV target placed it in the bottom five among automakers. The company also exhibited poor technology performance, despite its pioneering role in hybrid vehicle technology.

India’s Tata Motors, which dominates the country’s EV market, received an overall score indicating it was among the laggards. While Tata’s subsidiaries, Jaguar and Land Rover, set ambitious ZEV targets, the primary Tata brand only aimed for a modest ZEV share of 30% by 2030. Tata Motors has room for improvement in terms of ZEV sales share and the variety of ZEV models it offers.

Overall, the report highlights the considerable opportunity for industry-wide improvement. Out of the 20 automakers analyzed, 15 scored below 50, indicating ample room for progress. The report’s 10 metrics offer valuable insights into different aspects of leadership in the transition to electric vehicles. As better data becomes available, future editions of the Global Automaker Rating will refine these metrics and monitor automaker commitments.

By providing timely insights, these ratings equip consumers, investors, and manufacturers with a better understanding of the leading automakers and the reasons behind their progress in the electric vehicle transition.
Which Automakers are Unexpectedly Competitive in the High-Stakes Race towards Electric Vehicles?

The ongoing shift towards sustainable transportation has widely accelerated the race towards electric vehicles (EVs). While traditional automotive giants like Tesla, Nissan, and Chevrolet have long dominated the EV market, unexpected competitors have recently entered the scene, significantly challenging the established players. Several automakers, once dismissed as simply peddlers of combustion engines, have made remarkable strides in the EV industry and are unexpectedly competitive in this high-stakes race.

One such automaker is Volkswagen AG, the German automotive behemoth primarily known for its iconic Beetle and Golf models. In the wake of the 2015 “dieselgate” scandal, Volkswagen committed to a bold transformation and embraced electrification. Launching its dedicated electric brand, Volkswagen ID, the company aims to become the world’s largest EV manufacturer. Volkswagen has invested heavily in building a comprehensive EV infrastructure, and its ID.3 and ID.4 models have already gained considerable popularity. With ambitious plans to launch 70 EV models by 2030, Volkswagen is, undoubtedly, an unexpected contender in the EV race.

Another surprising competitor is Hyundai Motor Group, a South Korean automaker that has rapidly elevated its EV game. Hyundai’s sub-brand, Kia, released the all-electric Kia Soul EV earlier than many other established manufacturers, capturing significant market attention. Moreover, Hyundai recently unveiled its electric brand, Ioniq, which plans to launch three electric models by 2024, including Ioniq 5, 6, and 7. Hyundai aims to sell one million EVs annually by 2025, cementing its place as an unanticipated frontrunner in the race towards electric mobility.

BMW, the German luxury car manufacturer, has also stepped up its EV efforts. While BMW has long been associated with high-performance internal combustion engines, it burst onto the electric scene with its i3 and i8 models. Despite initial skepticism, BMW has demonstrated its determination to electrify its entire vehicle lineup. The recently launched BMW i4 and BMW iX models rival those of Tesla and other established EV makers. With its commitment to sustainability and the upcoming release of multiple EV models, BMW has unexpectedly become a prominent player in the electric vehicle market.

General Motors (GM), an American giant known for producing conventional cars and trucks, has surprisingly embraced electric mobility as well. GM recently made headlines by announcing its ambition to sell only zero-emission vehicles by 2035 and become carbon-neutral by 2040. The company’s flagship electric vehicle, the Chevrolet Bolt EV, has been well-received and has garnered considerable market share. Additionally, GM plans to launch numerous electric models under its new Ultium battery platform, aiming to challenge industry leaders in the EV segment.

These unexpected entrants into the EV market underscore the evolving dynamics in the global automotive landscape. While traditional automakers are accustomed to intense competition in the combustion engine realm, the shift towards electric vehicles has leveled the playing field. Contenders like Volkswagen, Hyundai, BMW, and GM have embraced electrification and devoted significant resources to transforming their businesses.

These companies have capitalized on their experience, manufacturing capabilities, and established brand recognition to become formidable players in the high-stakes race towards electric vehicles. As the world increasingly prioritizes sustainability and environmental consciousness, the ability to pivot towards EVs has become a crucial determiner of an automaker’s success.

While established EV leaders like Tesla maintain their competitive edge due to pioneering innovation and a dedicated customer base, unexpected contenders are emerging. Automakers previously dismissed as laggards in the race have made impressive strides, proving that the path to electrification is open to all determined players. In this rapidly evolving industry, the winners will be those who can overcome challenges, adapt to changing consumer demands, and deliver compelling EV offerings.

As the automotive landscape continues to transform, it is essential to monitor the progress of these unexpected competitors. They serve as a testament to the industry’s ability to adapt and innovate, ensuring the growth of the electric vehicle market and a more sustainable future for transportation.