As Chinese EV brands expand their European footprint, Michael Mauer, Porsche, and Volkswagens chief designer, is taking note. Mauer says with the ability to “do things completely different,” Chinese EVs are forcing German automakers to be more open-minded.
The luxury sports car maker is facing a new type of competition. After nearly 20 years of dominating the industry with iconic designs like the 911 and Cayenne, Maurer says new rivals are forcing automakers to get bold.
“These startups, with no heritage, they can do things completely different,” Mauer explained in an interview with Bloomberg.
Chinese EVs are making their presence known in Europe as they expand out of the world’s largest EV market. Established automakers like SAIC (through MG), BYD, and Geely are quickly expanding, while startups like NIO, XPeng, and others are already rolling out new EVs tailored to the region.
The expansion was clear at this year’s IAA Mobility show in Munich. Chinese EV makers doubled their presence compared to 2021, with leaders like BYD and MG revealing new models.
BYD presented six models, including the SEAL electric sedan and SEAL U, designed specifically for European customers. The SEAL EV starts at 45,000 euros (roughly $48,000) with up to 570 km (354 mi) range.
Chinese EVs force Porsche, VW to be more open-minded
Although the competition is rapidly evolving with new Chinese EVs, Porsche’s chief designer considers it a good thing. Mauer explained, “I consider it a positive thing actually, as a designer, because that makes the decision-makers — i.e., the management board — more open-minded.”
Porsche and Volkswagen are known for classic designs that even the non-auto enthusiast can point out. However, we are in a new electric era. Automakers that have long dominated the industry are losing market share to new entrants like Tesla and Chinese EVs.
BYD surpassed Volkswagen as China’s top-selling passenger automaker earlier this year (its most important market) and has since widened the gap.
Oliver Blume, CEO of Porsche and VW, admitted in August, “Porsche has only remained Porsche by constantly changing.” The premium car maker unveiled its all-electric Mission X hypercar concept in June, a “technology beacon for the sports car of the future,” as Blume described.
Blume said the Mission X “picks up the torch of iconic sports cars of decades past, like the 959, the Carrera GT, and the 918 Spyder before it.”
Mauer stressed new designs need to reflect a more connected vehicle through software and apps. However, finding the balance is key. “I believe the German auto industry in particular has potential to be better.”
Volkswagen and Porsche are not the only ones taking notice of Chinese EVs. Ford’s CEO Jim Farley has been stressing this all year.
After a visit to China earlier this year sparked an “epiphany” for Ford’s leadership team, Farley said, “It’s interesting to see how customers are no longer just attracted to traditional luxury brands with EVs or even hardware design anymore.”
Those things are given in the EV era. Instead, he explained, “The best new brands are offering integrated digital, retail, lifestyle and experience that are software-defined.”
Volkswagen has struggled with software issues leading to delayed EV launches like the electric Porsche Macan and Audi Q6 e-tron.
The company recently hired Sanjay Lal, a former Tesla and Rivian executive, to help the automaker catch up. Lal will lead a new software design hub at Cariad to advance the automaker’s next-gen software platform.
FTC: We use income earning auto affiliate links. More.