Below are 2023 LA Auto Show highlights from the companies that have the potential to make a difference, including Lucid, Hyundai/Kia, Chevrolet, and Toyota. A surprise was a roundtable on Chinese cars in Mexico.
The biggest news and the only significant new vehicle unveiling from my perspective was the unveiling of the Lucid Gravity SUV! It got by far the most attention, and even 4 hours after the announcement, the area was swarming with people taking pictures and asking questions of the representatives. Kyle Field of our team wrote an excellent piece explaining the announcement here. I’ll post his conclusion below and add a few comments.
Lucid is pushing boldly into the SUV space with the Gravity and has delivered what looks to be an extremely functional luxury SUV. Most luxury SUVs these days are 5-seater builds, and that’s doubly true for the ultra premium segment where owners buy the car with plans to have a driver up front taking them from place to place. In this configuration, the third row of seats can just be folded down out of sight and out of mind.
The world is in need of more 7-seater fully electric options, and it’s great to see the Gravity filling in this gap. With its sales of the Air already dipping, the company might be pinning its future viability on the success of the Gravity itself. Whether or not there is sufficient demand for an ultra premium 7-seater SUV like the Gravity remains to be seen, but it feels like a stretch at price tags that will range from the low $80k range for a rear-wheel drive build up to north of $250k for a fully loaded Lucid Gravity Sapphire.
I agree we need more 3-row SUVs that can seat adults in the 3rd row, and think it is key to have a model under $80,000 to take advantage of the US tax credit for electric SUVs. The technology is truly impressive and I think the vehicle will be more successful than the Lucid Air sedan — because we all know sedans are less popular today than SUVs, and 3-row gas SUVs are very popular. Even the Tesla Model X (which is now available under $80,000) has the issue that its 3rd row isn’t very big.
I have to mention that this company is losing a lot of money on every car. This means Lucid needs to do some combination of 4 things:
- Reduce costs.
- Scale production to spread fixed costs over more units.
- Get more cash from their investors.
- Maybe merge with a competitor that has deep pockets but needs Lucid’s technology.
The next biggest news of the show is the Kia EV9, also a large 3-row SUV. I could argue it will have a bigger impact since it starts at $25,000 less than the Gravity ($54,900) and ships a year earlier (expected in the next month). I got to sit in the car, and although I am 6 foot 2 inches tall on a good day, I could sit comfortably in all 3 rows. I adjusted the seats to be comfortable for 7 large adults. Jennifer Sensiba wrote a great article covering all the important bits here.
I saw it in both the 7-seat configuration and a more luxurious 6-seat configuration with two captain’s seats in the second row instead of a 3-person bench seat. I got the chance to discuss the tax credit with a Kia executive and he explained that they were able to quickly shift most of their electric vehicle sales to leases this year, since that allows them to get the $7,500 credit even though their EVs are made in South Korea. He also mentioned the EV9 will be made in Georgia starting in just 6 months (second quarter of 2024).
Hyundai is expected to soon release a similar vehicle based on the same platform called the Ioniq 7. Unfortunately (and it seemed strange to me), they didn’t bring this vehicle to the auto show.
The LA auto show also has a few fun vehicles on display. Who doesn’t like Scooby-Doo and the van that transported those meddling kids?
I got a chance to see the ID Buzz in person. It wasn’t as roomy, comfortable, or refined as the Kia EV9. It seemed rather spartan. We have written a whole article on the vehicle here. My impression is it will sell well as a niche vehicle as long as it isn’t overpriced. (We don’t know the price yet.) As I repeat, we love our 3-row vehicles! Even if you only have two kids, everyone likes their own row.
I got to see the Equinox at the show, but I wasn’t allowed to touch it. The salesperson didn’t seem too excited, and as we all know, GM has a history of overpromising and under-delivering. It certainly looks like it could be a nice compact crossover if GM delivers it in volume starting at the promised $35,000, but I’m not holding my breath. Steve Hanley has written more on this vehicle here.
Toyota recently announced it was coming out with the new 2025 Toyota Camry. Usually, this doesn’t really mean anything. Toyota restyles it and it gets 2% more power and 2% better mileage. But this time, they made a significant change to the best selling sedan. They decided to drop the V6 and the normal 4-cylinder engines and power all Camry vehicles with a slightly enhanced hybrid engine. Toyota hasn’t yet announced the new fuel economy, but here is the info from the previous model:
As you can see, the hybrid has double the mileage of the V6 and 62.5% better mileage than the base 4-cylinder engine. I have read that last year only 18% of the Camrys sold were hybrids, so this a a big deal. Toyota sold 295,201 cars last year according to this article. I’m working on a new article on Toyota, but I wrote this article about the company 2 years ago. Basically, a hybrid is a gateway vehicle to a plug-in vehicle that introduces the joys of electrification to a large number of consumers who are afraid to buy an EV or even a plug-in hybrid.
Lastly, I attended a roundtable by Motor Tread on Chinese vehicle manufacturers entering Mexico and hoping to use that as a base to enter other North and South American markets. Below I have pasted a link to Motor Trend‘s documentary. I plan to write more on this subject in the future.
All images by Paul Fosse unless stated otherwise.
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