They were all named to Time magazine's inaugural list of the world's 100 most influential companies. GM CEO Mary Barra got special treatment. She was one of the five executives profiled on regional covers. Not bad for an industry that has garnered little respect from the mass media over the years.
All four companies earned shoutouts for their investments in electric vehicles. Tesla and BYD got extra credit for their commitments to renewable energy.
Which is all good. We've got no time to spare in the battle against climate change.
And those four companies, as you know, are not alone. In recent months, Jaguar and Honda have joined the list of automakers that have pledged an all-electric future. Most others are investing heavily.
To be sure, part of this effort stems from an ability to read the regulatory writing on the wall. Just look at the number of countries that have committed to zero-emission futures by 2050 or before.
Yet automakers are also taking charge in ways that have not been typical for an industry that has resisted regulation more than it has led on environmental and safety fronts over the decades.
Still, marking destinations is one thing. Getting there is another.
If you think we'll all soon be gliding along paths glittered with charging stations, think again. Just listen to our April 19 "Daily Drive" podcast with Gary Silberg, automotive chief for KPMG, the consulting firm. Or read the report that's the focus of the discussion. It's called "Place Your Billion-Dollar Bets Wisely." And it spends little time on comfort talk.
A battery-electric vehicle future "is clearly the current conventional wisdom," the report begins. "We believe that the coming years will be far more complicated and unpredictable than the conventional wisdom suggests."
For starters, forget about an all-electric landscape, despite the fact that EVs are the focus of a staggering $200 billion in investments from the top 10 global automakers and Tesla alone and another $60 billion from startups. Look instead for what KPMG calls a mosaic of powertrains — including much-cleaner internal combustion engines.