The “Polishness” of new electric car is not enough to appeal to buyers: expert

Electromobility Poland’s Izera electric car, for which prototypes were unveiled earlier this week, will need a very distinctive design or special features to compete in a very crowded market, according to the assessment of Maciej Mazur of The Polish Alternative Fuels Association in Dziennik Gazeta Prawna daily.

The sleek prototype designs of the Izera, looking like a cross between a Range Rover Velar and a Lexus RX, were unveiled this week to general approbation. The question of what happens next, however has divided analysts.

Will the cars still look as attractive when they are produced?

“Will the compromises on the sleek prototype design which production requires still leave the cars looking as attractive,” eco-motoring expert Maciej Mazur wonders. To bring a car to production it will need a chassis, which would most likely be bought in from an existing global producer, possibly Volkswagen or Renault Nissan, which may mean the design will need alteration.

Who will invest in its production?

“Who will invest PLN 5 bn (EUR 1.15 bn) in an unknown brand, when the market is full of all kinds of famous manufacturers?” commentator Łukasz Warzecha ponders in an article on the Onet website, expressing cynicism about the whole project.

Electromobility, which was set up with government backing in 2016 by four state-run power generation firms, Enea, Energa, Tauron and PGE has already spent PLN 30 mln (PLN 6.9 mln) on the Torino Design prototype, overseen by Polish car stylist Tadeusz Jelec.

Electromobility CEO Piotr Zaremba said that the car will be produced at a plant which will likely be built at a location in the Lower Silesian region. However, during lockdown the PGE boss said his company would not be investing in the venture. Energa has been taken over by Orlen, who have said that they will invest in the electromobility sector, but did not mention the project specifically.

Who will buy it?

“Why would anyone even in Poland choose an Izera, when they have a whole range of other brands to choose from?” asks Warzecha.

“The only company that has succeeded in taking on the auto manufacturing giants is Tesla,” Mr Mazur says, but it did so by being the first company to offer a car that was not only ecological but stylish and offered features like self-drive. Even so, Elon Musk’s car venture is still unprofitable. Others, such as Byton, Nio, Faraday and Lucid have either gone bust or not come up with the goods.

The Polish electric car market

One aspect which the Izera has in its favour is the possibility of appealing to a Polish market. With a domestic playing field of 38 million people, a country with the 5th highest number of car owners in Europe with a fleet which averages fourteen years old. PKO Bank Polski analyst Wojciech Matysiak suggests that the market presents a perfect opportunity for marketers of new cars. The COVID-19 stimulus given to German consumers to buy electric cars may lead to a selloff of their old cars on the Polish market, as happened in 2009. The subsidies offered by the Polish government for electric cars have so far only led to 10,000 motorists switching to mains powered vehicles.

Nevertheless, the domestic market alone would not be enough to support large-scale manufacture of vehicles at a reasonable price. The Polishness argument would not convince Czechs or Hungarians or Japanese to buy a Polish car.

Competition

Another company on Polish soil is further ahead in the race to build an electric car. Building on the cult name of classic Polish motoring, the Vosco EV II FSO Syrena, built in Kutno in Central Poland, is testing cars and refining design techniques.

The company has an investor in the form of pharmaceuticals bigwig, Mieczysław Wośko, the Chairman of Polfarmex. Even so, the car, which was based on the design of one of the winners of an Electromobility Poland competition, is likely to be more of a niche player.

They have built five models, which are being tested and modified. The cars have 115 kilowatt engines with around 156 hp, with a sports tuning option with 175 kilowatts of power and 240 kw. The engineers are aiming at the cars having a charging range of 250 km.

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