Detroit Auto Show 2019: Will Any Big Automakers Unveil an Electric Car?

Is this the year one of the country's largest annual car shows embraces electrification?

The 2019 Detroit Auto Show kicks off on Sunday with an unveiling from Cadillac, just days after news broke that it would be the first face of General Motors’ new electrification push. Reuters reported on Friday that the first vehicle rolled out as part of the company’s BEV3 platform, an initiative to introduce a luxury EV concept to rival Tesla, will be a Cadillac. But with other big players in electric cars — including Jaguar, Mercedes-Benz, and Audi — sitting the event out, it begs the question of just how much of a presence EVs will have at the year’s signature auto show.

During GM’s keynote speech at the Detroit Auto Show on Sunday, the first of the conference, the country’s largest auto manufacturer is expected to introduce a luxury SUV concept called the XT6 SUV. But this announcement would come on the heels of a massive EV-minded restructuring within GM, which included the discontinuation of one of their signature hybrids, the Chevy Volt, as the company pushes toward fully electric models. It’s not clear yet whether the company will mention this restructuring during its keynote, though, and the teaser the company dropped on Friday appeared to focus on the XT6.

Of course, most of the action will kick off on Monday. On Monday, both VW and Ford are giving keynotes as well, and they also may have electrification news to share. The two automakers have been in talks for over a year to partner on an EV platform originated by Volkswagen, utilizing Ford’s AV technology, in what would function as a money-saving, global alliance. Reuters reported that the pair will give an update about how this partnership will take shape on Tuesday.

Other companies are expected to emphasize electric cars even more. The Chinese automaker GAC is expected to unveil an electric concept at the conference as the company continues extending its presence in the United States. Nissan also seems like a likely prospect, they speak on Monday too, and also dropped a teaser on Friday that looked like it could point to an EV. It’s a little vague, as you can see in the below video, but it declares that “the future is here.”

Nissan also teased what seems to be an EV concept ahead of the auto show. 

This could be a shift from the auto-show’s big stories from the last two years, particularly 2018, when gasoline-fueled trucks from Mercedes-Benz, Ram, Ford and Chevrolet stole the spotlight in Detroit. But consumer tastes are changing fast, a study that hit headlines last May showed one in five Americans planned to purchase - or at least hoped to purchase - an electric car for their next vehicle. Range anxiety remains the main obstacle.

But with batteries improving and charging networks becoming more commonplace, 2019 could be the year that range anxiety becomes a thing of the past. Tesla will see new competitors in 2019, whether we’re able to catch a glimpse of them this week in Detroit, however, remains to be seen.