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Honda, Ford, Subaru, Mitsubishi and the other big car brands with no confirmed electric car plans

Honda offers its e hatchback in Europe, but there are no confirmed plans to bring it to Australia.

Toyota became the latest brand to confirm its electric future this week with the striking new bZ4X that is headed our way in 2022.

Even as the market sales leader and a front-runner with hybrids, without the arrival of the bZ4X Toyota risked falling behind as more and more major car brands introduce electric vehicles (EVs) to the Australian market.

In 2021 we’ve already seen the unveiling of the potentially ground-breaking Hyundai Ioniq 5, Kia EV6 and Nissan Leaf e+, plus premium options including the Mercedes EQS and Audi A6 e-tron.

In other words, the automotive world is accelerating towards an electric future… but not all car makers have jumped on the movement yet. Some of the best-selling brands in Australia are yet to publicly commit to introducing electric models in Australia.

In some respects, it’s understandable, with only limited market demand at present and a lack of incentives (and possibly new state-based taxes) making EVs expensive. But with so many brands committing anyway, it makes those who haven’t stand out even more.

Here then, are some of the most notable names that risk getting left behind in the EV race.

Honda

In the Japanese brand’s defence, it has been busy reorganising the way it sells petrol cars, so it’s understandable that future models, particularly niche EVs, have taken a back seat. They’ll need to come though, and quickly, if Honda is to reach its stated target of having two-thirds of its global sales be EVs by 2030.

The really disappointing part of Honda’s lack of action in the EV market is it already has a really exciting model we’d love to see locally – the Honda e. This retro-styled city car looks like just the right combination of technology and desirability that could help boost EV sales in this country.

The brand also unveiled the creatively-named SUV ePrototype at the Shanghai Motor Show this week. It’s, as the name spells out, an electric-powered SUV that looks like it’s been designed to go head-to-head with the Toyota bZX4. Competition has always been a driving force in the progression of automobiles, so perhaps the arrival of the new Toyota will accelerate the arrival of both the SUV and the little ‘e’.

Ford

Ford in the USA has introduced the Mustang Mach-E, while Ford of Europe has committed to an all-electric future by 2030, but Ford Australia looks set to continue with internal combustion engines for the foreseeable future.

Like every brand on this list, just because Ford hasn’t made any public statement doesn’t mean plans aren’t afoot behind the scenes to introduce an EV Down Under, but with no official commitment in the face of the overseas operations’ major changes, it doesn’t look good.

Demand for the Mustang Mach-E is so high in the US that there’s simply no reason for the brand to invest in a right-hand-drive version. Instead, Ford Australia must hope that the new range of European Ford EVs will produce suitable models for local consumption – most likely the next-generation Puma and Escape.

Mitsubishi

Ironically Mitsubishi was the first major car brand with an EV on sale in Australia, but it was the short-lived i-MiEV. The tiny electric city car arrived in 2010, but with its high-price and limited range, it struggled to find buyers and the brand stopped offering it by 2012.

There’s no word yet on a potential replacement in whatever form that may take – be it city car or SUV – so Mitsubishi risks losing its EV standing in the long-term. There have been some EV concepts, including the sporty-looking e-Evolution and bold PX MiEV, but none have been locked in for production and sale in Australia.

And while Mitsubishi can point to the Outlander PHEV as a major electrified offering for the brand, it's a hybrid, not a full battery EV.

Subaru

The recent introduction of the ‘e-Boxer’ hybrid powertrains in the XV and Forester was the company’s first steps towards electrification, but there’s still no confirmation if and when a fully-electric Subaru will hit local showrooms.

But there is hope…

While Subaru Australia is staying silent, it’s noteworthy that the Toyota bZ4X has been developed in collaboration with its fellow Japanese car maker. So, much like the two company’s 86/BRZ joint-venture, expect to see a very similar Subaru-badged version of the bZ4X in the near future. Leaks from Japan suggest a name has already been chosen – Evoltis – but until it’s revealed don’t expect any confirmation it’s headed our way.

Skoda

While parent-brand Volkswagen has made it clear that the ID.3 small hatch and ID.4 mid-size SUV are a top priority, Skoda Australia looks set to wait for its first EV. The Czech brand took the wraps off its first battery-powered model late in 2020 – the Enyaq iV crossover.

Unfortunately, there’s no concrete plans to introduce it here, although the local operation hasn’t ruled it out completely. It’s a surprising move, given Skoda has carved a niche for itself in the Australian market appealing to a more premium audience who enjoy the latest technology.

Jeep

The American off-road brand may seem an unlikely candidate for EVs but as the biggest seller for the Stellantis conglomerate in Australia, it needs to lead the way. Internationally the company has big EV plans, starting with a roll-out of plug-in hybrids (which will effectively replace diesel engines across the range) before EV models begin arriving.

It showed off what the future could look like with the recent unveiling of the Wrangler Magneto concept, which swapped the regular V6 engine for a 212kW electric motor and 800-volt battery pack. But don’t expect to see any likely production version in Australia anytime soon, with Jeep’s global boss on record saying Australia’s lack of EV incentives is a barrier to entering the local market.