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  • Toby Hagon

Next big things

A slew of upstart brands is upending the traditional automotive hierarchy. From urban all-electrics to off-roaders, here’s the lowdown on the cars to covet next. Words Toby Hagon
The all-electric 2022 Cupra Born in Aurora Blue. Photography courtesy Cupra.

Another week, another new car brand. OK, not quite, although globally it’s not far off reality, such is the pace of change within the automotive market as it embraces new technologies and a shift towards electric. Rules are being bent, long-held traditions fading. From fledgling EV brands hoping to change our roads, to established players adding to their stables, there are fleets of newcomers hoping to smash the status quo. Even the DeLorean brand made famous by “Back to the Future” is set to make a comeback — as an EV.

While Australians might not be exposed to the global madness in its entirety, we still have plenty of choice, with more than 60 car brands now available and more on the way. At least five newcomers are set to hit the Australian market over the next 12 months: BYD, Cupra, Ora, Tank and Ineos. Most people have never heard of them. But then, they may not have heard of Tesla a decade ago.

BYD’s Han sedan comes in three electric versions and one hybrid. Photography courtesy BYD.

Similarly, only a few would have been familiar with the brand Polestar until recently. From a modest launch at the end of 2021, the Swedish newcomer — which is effectively the EV offshoot of Volvo — is now telling customers they face a six-month wait for a new car. The head of Polestar Australia, Samantha Johnson, says the timing for the entry of the brand was “perfect”.

“There’s definitely a shift in mentality [towards EVs],” Johnson says. “We’re at an advantage being an EV brand.” Her reasoning is that even if the broader market slumps, sales of EVs are growing healthily, albeit from a low base. Australians, it seems, are welcoming of fresh options — provided they innovate and offer something new. Social media has helped with the acceptance of newcomers; word travels fast and real customer opinions are valued.

GWM’s Ora Good Cat hatchback is pitched as an affordable EV. Photography courtesy GWM.

Tesla and Polestar will not have the EV market to themselves, with other luxury marques. As well as playing up its Spanish heritage, it foregrounds driving excitement and design, the latter reinforced with bronze highlights inside and out. Given the love affair Australians have with performance cars, there’s every chance Cupra could settle on a handy niche as the market continues to splinter.

“Cupra’s conventional and PHEV [plug in hybrid electric vehicle] range will be unique in this country, the perfect line-up for a new brand to challenge the established order,” says Cupra Australia director Ben Wilks.

GWM’s Tank is poised to hit the dirt in Australia. Photography courtesy GWM.

And it’s only the start. All manner of brands are eyeing the Australian market for coming years. They include startups such as Rivian, Atlis and VinFast, and also familiar names including Cadillac and Sony, the latter one of the many tech companies exploring carmaking.

For years now there have been persistent rumours and leaks that tech giants such as Apple will expand into the automotive space. If they turn out to be true, we could be driving (or being driven by) very different machines in the not-too-distant future. Buckle up.

This is an extract from an article that appears in print in our fifth edition, Page 122 of Winning Magazine with the headline: “Next big thing”. Subscribe to Winning Magazine today.


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