One of the biggest segments of CES 2020 was all the car manufacturers that were there and the cars they were showing off. I’d also like to say up front that I’m a decent “car guy” at heart. I’ve never cared much for the building/repairing/fixing of them but do very much appreciate their beauty and engineering.

That being said I also have zero tolerance for lazy companies that try and sell the same BS products over and over again with trivially small “updates” to them. Unfortunately this has been what most car makers have been doing over the past decade or more.

So when you read my opinions and experiences below do know that I don’t have anything personal against these companies, in fact I want them to succeed! The more and better cars we have in the world the better. The more competition the better. This just isn’t what I see though so I have to call them out on it.

Audi Even Further Behind Than I Thought
CES 2020 Audi Q4 e tron Concept
Q4 e-tron Concept

Audi has recently released their famed e-tron EV SUV that for some reason still isn’t available to buy here in Australia. So I was rather confused to be taking photos of an e-tron car in their booth… only to then see “concept” written on the back of it.

CES 2020 Audi Q4 e tron Concept Rear
Q4 e-tron Concept Rear

How can the e-tron be a concept? Aren’t they already selling it??

It turned out that this was actually a different e-tron, the Q4 e-tron where as the other, already launched one is their Q5 e-tron. Makes sense. However the rep continued to talk about the two cars and revealed something that was very interesting at least to me.

It turns out that the e-tron Q5, the one they’re launching right now, hasn’t actually be built from the ground up to be all EV. The motors and drive train obviously have been built a new to power the car, but the chassis is just a basic copy/paste over from their existing ICE models.

This new Q4 e-tron concept though was the real deal. It has been designed both motors and chassis from the ground up to be all EV. This information really shocked me as it showed to me at least, just how hugely behind Audi seems to be!

Here they are, in 2020 and they have no car that has been designed and built from the ground up to be electric. The best they have is a concept that if we’re lucky, will be released for sale in 3-4+ years time around 2024. That is bonkers!

CES 2020 Audi Q4 e tron Concept Interior
Q4 e-tron Concept Interior

Now some might think this is just a moot point I’m making here. Who cares if the chassis is copied from their ICE line up or built from scratch? But to me it shows two things. One, having a combustion engine chassis design makes their cars less efficient, less roomy, less safe and just worse than an all EV designed chassis. You’re paying premium bucks for a fundamentally worse car.

Second it shows the companies true commitment – or lack there of – to EV’s once again. This full, ground up EV design should have already been done years ago! As an example look at the Jaguar I-PACE. It’s already released and on sale here in Australia and was built from the get go as an EV just how it should be. Audi is frankly so far behind it’s absurd.

They aren’t just years behind the cutting edge Tesla or Rivian “start ups”, they’re years behind legacy auto makers! Audi will be where Jag is now in 2024. Tesla was already making ground up EV’s back in 2012. They’re roughly 12 years behind Tesla and 4+ years behind legacy car makers. Insane.

Nissan Still Twiddling Its Thumbs
CES 2020 Nissan Ariya Concept

Moving onto the Nissan booth I wasn’t expecting too much but was still disappointed. They had what looked to be a fantastic looking all electric SUV on the centre stage. The Nissan Ariya SUV was its name and it took up essentially 80% of their booth with a huge 360 degree wall screen promoting it.

The disappointment came though when it was made clear it was of course, a concept. Now Nissan may eventually make this into a real car one day, I mostly sort “concepts” into two categories now. Ones like this that could very much be seen as a real car being sold soon, typically within 3-4 years time or so. The other type we’ll cover later on in this piece in more detail, but which I just refer to now as Concept Trash.

So while it was good to see a really compelling EV design by Nissan, the fact that it won’t be on sale for a good 3+ years – if at all – made it a bit of a snore moment.

They also were talking up their Nissan Pro Pilot 2.0 system which is their assisted driving system similar to Tesla’s Autopilot. This 2.0 version has just been launched in July 2019 so I thought I’d dig into a bit to see how it compares to Tesla which I have a fair amount of experience with now.

After talking to the rep for a while it seemed clear Tesla’s was quite a bit further ahead even if you took where they were a full year ago into account. For example Tesla’s with Navigate on Autopilot have been able to make hands free lane changes for ages now. This new system of Nissan’s, even with 3D HD maps, cameras, sonar and radar plus an extra year of development can’t.

Ford Mustang Mach E GT
CES 2020 Ford Mustang Mach E Rear

One shinning ray of hope in all these legacy manufacturers though was definitely Ford with their Mustang Mach E. I was super looking forward to getting up close and personal with this car and Ford didn’t disappoint.

While you weren’t allowed to get in the car and play with the infotainment system they are clearly much further along than almost every other legacy car maker from what I can see. The Mach E, despite its ridiculously long name, has a great range, great look, great features and a decently proper modern infotainment setup.

CES 2020 Ford Mustang Mach E Wheel

They’ve also got a lot of the key, important details right such as a high 150 kW charging rate, great phone integration for control over the car and even the ability to use your phone as the car key like with the Model 3.

Giving the car a solid look over everything really seemed to be super on point which is great. Ford can’t bring this car out fast enough and I’d really love to see it also come to Australia but I doubt that’ll be happening any time in the next 1-2 years unfortunately.

CES 2020 Ford Mustang Mach E Front

Pricing seems to be around $5,000 USD more expensive than the Model 3 equivalent, however Ford still gets the full $7,500 USD Federal tax credit in America which means it would be cheaper in the end.

Whether people will want to pay slightly less for a potentially worse (but still quite good) EV should be interesting to see. I think many will simply buy it over the Tesla Model 3 because it’s a Ford and they trust the older name more. Either way, the more EV’s the more competition and more people driving EV’s so bring it on Ford and congratulations!

BMW Booth Was Utter Garbage
CES 2020 BMW Chair

I’m sorry BMW but it just was. I don’t even know why they really even bothered as there was literally just one single thing they had on display as far as I could see.

This was the “seat” shown in the above picture. Now it was a very nice seat don’t get me wrong but that’s all it was. A seat. They had two of them but they were the same thing and that was basically it. The rest of the space was taken up with a bunch of people handing out coffee’s and nuts along with seating.

Outside they were giving rides in their existing cars but in terms of new technologies they had on display it was honestly just a seat.

Concept Trash
CES 2020 Audi AI Me

As discussed earlier I now put concept designs into two broad categories. While the first represents a car design that should actually go into production within a few years the second is what I now coin Concept Trash.

These are far fetched “future” concepts done by traditional car companies for who knows what reasons. Whatever may have started the trend they essentially now all look the same and have the same features and designs that will never be seen on the actual road.

CES 2020 Mercedes Vision EOS

Concept Trash was on show by all the big wigs such as Audi, Fiat and Mercedes as you can see in the pictures. They all feature open, airy designs with huge screens and RGB lights and stupidly huge wheels.

They’re also always fully electric and are fully self driving because obviously that’s where the entire industry is heading even though these car manufacturers are hugely behind the curve ball when it comes to actually selling fully electric, self driving cars.

CES 2020 Fiat Airflow Vision

While I can get behind the idea of creating future concepts to explore new design trends and capabilities, it seems to not really be working given they’re all kind of looking the same.

Furthermore it seems to just be detracting from what they really should be focusing on, moving their entire business to full EV design and manufacturing as fast as physically possible. Stop wasting time and resources on designing future concepts that will never even be made and instead put those hours into fixing your current line up.

Latest Legacy Car Interiors Still Utter Trash
CES 2020 Audi e tron Interior
Audi e-tron interior

Another major theme that I noticed as I went around to each and every car manufacturers booth was how utter trash their interior infotainment and controls systems still were.

Having mostly used and owned more lower tier cars over my life like the Mazda 2, Peugeot 206 etc I never really expected amazing interior experiences. After moving up to our new Model 3 however I wanted to see what other premium luxury brands had on offer.

Where their systems just as bad as Mazda or Hyundai’s? Or did their much higher price tags mean much more modern and capable systems? Well it turns out price isn’t everything it seems.

CES 2020 Mercedes EQC Interior
Mercedes EQC Interior

The brand new Mercedes EQC and Audi e-tron where two cars on show that you could get in and poke around with so that’s what I and many others did. My first reaction was just “wow” holy crap why are there so many buttons but even after getting over that things just got worse.

Far from them being newer, next generation systems they were instead just amped up versions of the same old garbage. Most of the buttons made no sense. You had no idea what they did. There were screens and dozens of buttons everywhere on every possible surface.

The menu systems were clumsy and not intuitive. All the menus, animations and programs loaded slowly and kept reporting errors and problems constantly. Searching for the very convention centre the cars were sitting in on the GPS systems came up blank.

They were just all abysmal.

The icing on the cake was actually the Audi e-tron as it’s “screen” required you to physically push down on it in order to click something. This abomination of a system wasn’t a physical button with tactile feedback but also wasn’t a quick and easy touch screen either. It’s like they spent millions developing a new, Frankenstein design that combined the worst aspects of both things together.

Even More Coverage Still To Come!

That’s it for all the car coverage of CES but there’s still a few more pieces to come, specifically this week we’ll be going right through all the TV’s and what was on show surrounding that so stay tuned and subscribe if you haven’t already so you don’t miss it!

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