They started off as specialty vehicles, sports cars and luxury models.
But electric vehicles are now coming to the automotive segment nearest you: family-oriented SUVs.
That much is obvious at the 2021 Los Angeles Auto Show, which begins Wednesday with media conferences and continues Nov. 19-28 with public days.
Nissan, Hyundai, Subaru and multiple start-ups are among the automakers poised to feature or reveal electric SUVs during the show, signaling the budding technology’s bid to take on the most popular body style in the marketplace.
“In order to get American consumers to transition to electric vehicles, you have to make vehicles that fit their lifestyle,” said Stephanie Brinley, principal automotive analyst at research firm IHS Markit. “And that means utility vehicles.”
Some automakers have already taken steps in that direction.
Tesla’s Model Y, a small electric SUV, is its most popular model. Ford has gained traction with an electric Mustang crossover, the Mach-E. And General Motors has pivoted its Bolt electric car to a crossover body style.
Medicare Part B costs are soaring:Here’s what you’ll pay in 2022.
‘Genes of a race car’:Porsche unveils a new model of sports car
But the onslaught of electric SUVs at the LA Auto Show amounts to a critical mass:
► Hyundai is debuting the SEVEN, an electric SUV with space for, yes, seven passengers. Meanwhile, Hyundai’s sibling automaker Kia is debuting the EV9, also a seven-passenger electric SUV.
► Nissan is featuring the Ariya, an electric SUV first announced in 2020 that the automaker hopes will help it recapture the EV stage after its initial success with the electric Nissan Leaf.
► Subaru is showing off its first major EV, the 2023 Subaru Solterra EV, which will share a platform with the recently introduced Toyota bZ4X — Toyota’s first significant battery-powered vehicle.
► American start-up Fisker and Vietnamese start-up VinFast are debuting electric SUVs.
SUV market burgeoning
The SUV market accounts for about half of new-vehicle sales, according to analysts.
Automakers’ new attitude is “let’s give the people what they want,” said Ivan Drury, senior manager of insights at car-research site Edmunds.
Hyundai has a strong case to make that it’s already been doing so. The Korean automaker has been selling multiple electric models, including the Kona SUV and the Ioniq sedan.
.“I think the Kona EV is one of the most desirable EVs out there,” said Karl Brauer, executive analyst at car-shopping site iSeeCars.com.
The SEVEN has futuristic characteristics, including swiveling lounge-style seats, a built-in mini refrigerator, and what Hyundai called “shoe-care compartments.”
Hyundai said it’s shooting for a battery range of more than 300 miles with the ability to charge from 10% to 80% in about 20 minutes.
The SEVEN is technically a concept vehicle, meaning it’s not poised for production as it stands. But automakers have largely gotten away from the days when they introduced concept vehicles that they had no intent of turning into a reality in some respect.
The Nissan Ariya, on the other hand, is ready for production next year. It will make its debut as a 2023 model, the automaker said Tuesday in an announcement tied to an off-site event in L.A.
The company said it’s now accepting reservations for the vehicle, which starts at nearly $46,000 for the Ariya Venture+ with range of up to 300 miles.
Nissan has billed the Ariya as a major factor in its EV ambitions. The company was once the largest EV seller in the world with the Leaf, but it eventually lost that post to Tesla after it failed to deliver a succession of new models.
The Ariya is off to a disappointing start, if only because it’s not yet available, Brinley said. It has been delayed by the global shortage of semiconductor chips.
When Nissan first announced the Ariya in July 2020, it was set to arrive in the second half of 2021 at a price point of $40,000.
EV start-ups aim for momentum at L.A. Auto Show
In recent years, Tesla and a range of start-ups, including Rivian and Lucid Motors, have been capturing attention for their EV efforts. Two more are bidding to do so at the LA Auto Show.
Fisker, the brainchild of renowned automobile designer Henrik Fisker, is his second namesake EV start-up. The first one flamed out nearly a decade ago after its ultra-luxury vehicle, the Karma, failed to keep pace with Tesla at a time when EVs were still a new concept to most consumers.
Now, Fisker says he’s learned from his mistakes. The Fisker Ocean, which is debuting in L.A., will reportedly carry a starting price of $37,499. That’s considerably less than October’s average price of more than $46,000 for a new vehicle, according to Cox Automotive. If that price is realistic, it could gain traction.
But analysts are taking a wait-and-see approach.
“They’re tenacious and they’re persistent,” Brinley said. “The challenge is that they’re really competing against everyone, even Lucid.”
Skepticism is even more resonant with a Vietnamese automaker, VinFast, that’s set to debut two electric SUVs called the VF e35 and VF e36. The company called the announcement “an important milestone in VinFast’s global expansion plan.”
“They’re claiming that they’re going to be in production and for sale soon – 2022 is their claim,” Brauer said. “Which seems awfully quick and awfully ambitious. We shall see.”
The EV market is so hot that it’s even drawing new, fictitious entries.
Toy maker Mattel’s Barbie brand is holding a press conference at the L.A. Auto Show to debut Barbie’s Extra Convertible, complete with a pool for Barbie’s pets at the rear of the vehicle.
“Cars have always been an important part of the Barbie brand – Barbie got her first car in 1962 and since then has had everything from convertibles to campers, beach buggies, and more,” Barbie said in a statement.
Naturally, it’s an EV. Even Barbie is moving on from the internal combustion engine.
You can follow USA TODAY reporter Nathan Bomey on Twitter @NathanBomey and subscribe to our free Daily Money newsletter here for personal finance tips and business news every Monday through Friday morning.