By Wolfgang Philipp

Published in March 2024

1-Minute Automotive Product Strategy

Ignition On: The Role of Petrol Cars in the Electric Era

Ignition On: The Role of Petrol Cars in the Electric Era
© Photo by Carlo D'Agnolo / Unsplash

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Fossil fuels have powered the 20th century. Electricity will advance the 21st century toward sustainability. Yet the fascination for petrol cars remains unbroken.
What role will the combustion engine play in the future?

The gasoline car is planned to go extinct by 2035. If it wasn’t for the buyers. The recent slump in EV sales shows that the transition to electric vehicles will take longer than projected.

OEMs start to rethink their visions of an all-electric future.

Price cuts for BEVs to increase demand will decrease their already low margins. In a cutthroat market, they can’t afford to miss out on profits.

After all, e-fuels are another way to achieve sustainable mobility. Yes, efficiency is significantly lower when considered from a tank-to-wheel perspective. From a well-to-wheel or even cradle-to-cradle perspective, the knockout arguments become less obvious.

But the greatest flaw in this heated debate is the fallacy that individual mobility is all about efficiency and costs.

In an essentially electric future, the gasoline car will become an attraction—and one of the most profitable segments.

Cars are not mere vessels to commute. Cars exude personality.

The Swiss watch industry offers a future scenario for the combustion engine that contrasts with the often-quoted Nokia moment dreaded by traditional OEMs.

In the 1970s, quartz technology revolutionized the watch. More precise, substantially smaller, and at a fraction of the cost of a mechanical movement, it became apparent that the next Moonwatch will be digital.

Half a decade later, Haute Horlogerie is a booming segment, selling the very same models of the past at unprecedented prices. The mechanical watch has transcended the rat race of continuous improvement and become a timeless piece of art.

The gasoline car has similar potential. In an essentially electric future, it will become an attraction—and one of the most profitable segments.

Electricity makes mobility easy, effortless, and efficient. And there will be scores of thrilling electric cars. But the combustion engine won’t stall. After decades of ubiquity, its allure is refueled sustainably.

Thank you for reading 1-Minute Automotive Product Strategy!

If you want to learn more on this topic, read our article Car Brand Positioning in a New Era of Mobility.

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