Asia’s luxury marques are looking to challenge the Germans in the premium electric car segment, with Lexus, Genesis, Acura and Infiniti hinting at plans to launch EVs in the near future.
In a new report by industry journal Automotive News, executives from each company said they are all weighing electric vehicle offerings in response to a wave of new models coming from brands like Tesla, Mercedes-Benz, Audi, BMW and Porsche.
“In Genesis, we absolutely need that kind of luxury electric vehicle,” said Lee Ki-sang, senior vice-president at Hyundai Motor Group’s Eco Technology Centre.
Lee added the Genesis EVs will be based on a dedicated electric platform that is currently under development.
Above: Infiniti QX50 concept, Top: Hyundai Genesis/Genesis G80
Meanwhile, Genesis’s global boss, Manfred Fitzgerald said electrified vehicles are an opportunity to change brand perception.
“Anybody who has driven an electrified vehicle knows that it has definitely some excitement in it,” he said.
While acknowledging the hurdles of range anxiety and development costs, Fitzgerald added: “Once those [challenges] are taken away, I think you will see a swift adoption”.
Last month Infiniti’s president, Roland Krueger, told Automotive News the company was considering “very concrete” concepts for an EV though wouldn’t go into further detail.
Above: Honda NSX
General manager Jon Ikeda said the company is looking at EVs “from an overall brand standpoint”, and while there are no firm plans to release such a model just yet, “anything innovative and unique is what [Acura is] looking for”.
Lexus on the other hand – a longtime sceptic of fully-electric vehicles despite offering hybrid options for years – appears to be on the road to full EVs after last year’s Paris motor show, where their German competitors launched an electric offensive.
Jeff Bracken, general manager for Lexus International, said: “Subsequent to that show, we began conversations with our product planners”.
Parent company Toyota has been reluctant to invest in all-electric models, preferring its proven hybrid drivetrains, though a report last year by Japanese newspaper Nikkei claims the company plans to mass-produce EVs by 2020.
The Japanese automotive giant killed off its EV program in 2014 which saw the demise of the eQ micro car offered overseas and a fully-electric version of its RAV4 SUV co-built with Tesla.
Above: 2018 Lexus LS
However, Bracken said while nothing has been confirmed at this stage, it would be foolish to not consider EVs.
“I think we’d have our heads buried in the sand if we didn’t thoroughly study all-electric [cars],” he said.
Maybe this would explain the lack of a hybrid offering in the all-new Lexus LS range revealed in Detroit – it’s possible the company is working on an EV version.
Japan’s S-Class competitor will be powered solely by a new twin-turbo 310kW/600Nm twin-turbo V6 in the US at launch – though a lot could change between now and the LS’s Australian arrival which isn’t likely to happen until 2018.
MORE: Electric cars coverage