A Sony car, a bold German concept, and a green Fisker comeback all took center stage at CES 2020, which dubs itself as “the world’s gathering place for all who thrive on the business of consumer technologies.”
Not too many saw this one coming. Sony unveiled not just a new automotive infotainment system, but the entire car that surrounds it. Of course, more than a few wondered if the entertainment company might jump into the vehicle manufacturing business just like its rival Apple had threatened to do. But Apple’s finance folks took a look at the big investments and skinny returns in auto-making and decided to stick with CarPlay. Sony will surely arrive at the same conclusion. However, the clean, quiet, electric Sony Vision is just the right vehicle to showcase the company’s entertainment portfolio of hi-res audio and video while providing safety enhancements with Sony cameras surrounding the car to create a protective cocoon.
Mercedes-Benz Vision AVTR
The model name Vision is too obvious for concept cars, but it still gets a real workout this year. Mercedes should have settled with just the AVTR appellation since its bold concept was inspired by Hollywood’s Avatar movie franchise. I’d have hired the Blue Man Group for the introduction in Las Vegas, but they didn’t ask me.
The flamboyant AVTR is so planet-saving organic, it could be sold at Whole Foods. The 110 kWh battery promises 435-mile range without the use of rare earth materials. Instead, graphene-based organic cells are not only earth-friendly to produce, but recyclable by composting. Mercedes even asserts a 15-minute recharge. But remember, that’s why they call these cars concepts.
This Audi has not only taken over driving chores with its powerful machine learning AI system, it wants to be your new friend. Perhaps we should name it Hal. Chatting with a machine is either a wonderful new future or your worst nightmare, depending on your point of view. But while it was the stuff of science fiction not too long ago, there are many new car systems that seem eager to strike up a conversation, and if the view is urban ugly outside, the AI:ME’s VR goggles will provide an alternative scenic view as you’re taken down the twisty road. I have family members who wouldn’t last 60 seconds in that scenario.
Serial entrepreneur is an overworked euphemism but car designer Henrik Fisker might hold a firm grip on that title. His extended range Fisker Karma appeared a decade ago to great fanfare and some taxpayer money, then just as quickly ended production. But Karma’s death wasn’t fatal. A Chinese firm picked up the remains to soldier on under the Karma name.
Meantime, Fisker is launching a new SUV that he claims is the “world’s greenest car,” and you can own one in 2022 for just under $30,000 after EV tax credits, or just $379 per month after a $2,999 “subscription.” That’s the base price of course, but it’s a pure EV with an estimated 250- to 300-mile range. Almost sounds too good to be true, but even if this venture were to implode, used 2012 Fisker Karma models fetch near $40,000, about twice the resale of big German luxury cars of the same vintage. It may be an orphan with edgy reliability issues, but it still looks great.