Tesla Motors and the Model S are obvious leaders in the electric car segment now, even taking a bite out of Lexus sales with the fast-selling electric sedan proving popular despite reliability woes. Other automakers, including Audi, are now playing catch up with Tesla, though not all of them are going the pure-electric route. The Audi A3 e-tron is the vanguard of the German brand’s ambitions to add plug-in hybrid and electric versions of every model in its lineup, with a stretched Audi A6 e-tron following up in China. A pure electric Audi Q8 e-tron is said to take aim at the upcoming Tesla Model X as well.
Meanwhile the Mercedes S 500 Hybrid has launched with an exorbitant price tag, but performance nearly as impressive as its fuel economy. The Porsche Panamera E-Hybrid is equally impressive and even more expensive if you can believe it, and some of the most expensive cars in the world (LaFerrari, lookin’ at you) are hybrid vehicles.
In other words, automakers have woken up to the fact that buyers will pay a premium for a well-built electric or hybrid car, and the next 15 or so years should see the market flooded by them. Audi’s prediction of 40% of luxury cars being somewhat electrified may seem optimistic, but if anything it sounds conservative to me. Europe, the U.S., and China are all imposing stricter emissions standards, and most automakers seem to think combustion engine efficiency isn’t worth the diminishing gains. Then again, there will always be those buyers willing to pay a hefty premium to have their V8-powered muscle cars and opulent SUVs, so the market for combustion engines isn’t going to just disappear.