"About 18 months ago, the EV discussions among a lot of OEMs were about compliance — CO2 compliance," said Andy Goss, head of global sales for Jaguar Land Rover. "But what's happened in the interim period is that has turned into consumer pull, without a shadow of doubt.
"We see it already on the I-Pace," Goss added, referring to Jaguar's electric crossover coming next year. "We've got already 35,000 people who are shown as serious intenders.
"You can see it in other brands, and there are certain mature EV markets," Goss said. "One in Europe in particular is Norway — 36 percent EV — and you look at the telescope through either end and you see all the urban myths disappear. Not just range anxiety, but how the customer actually deals with EVs, providing governmental authorities are also prepared to do their part with infrastructure, public charging and so forth."
The tide seemed to turn about 18 months ago.
"I think to some degree it was the proliferation of products and, of course, there is diesel tension in the marketplace. I think things have come together at the same time," Goss said.
There's also the Tesla factor.
"The obvious answer is Tesla has helped pave the way," he said. "That's the truth of the matter. They tested the market and became very credible, and that's a fact. But now what's coming over the hill is an armada of EVs."
Daimler is investing more than $11 billion to bring its Mercedes-Benz EQ subbrand and more than 10 new electric cars to market by 2022. Mercedes showed the EQA concept in Frankfurt, a compact EV that will go to market in 2020.
The company says EVs could account for up to 25 percent of global sales by 2025.
But the effort will hurt short-term profits, as traditional combustion engines deliver higher margins.
Once its family of EQ battery electric vehicles start selling in large quantities come early next decade, Daimler's Mercedes-Benz passenger car division could see two full percentage points knocked off its operating margin. Daimler is launching a $4.8 billion cost-cutting program to offset that pressure.
BMW Group plans 25 electrified vehicles, including 12 fully electric models, by 2025. BMW unveiled the BMW i Vision Dynamics electric concept in Frankfurt. A production version of the coupe-style sedan will launch by 2021.
While BMW CEO Harald Krueger told reporters in Frankfurt that electric cars generally won't be as profitable as vehicles with combustion engines, he said there was no need for BMW to set a specific savings target. BMW is sticking to a goal of 8 to 10 percent return on sales on the auto side.