It's harder than ever to know what car makers will do next

Rimac Nevera Matt Prior opinion
Rimac Nevera Matt Prior opinion

I think it has finally happened: I can’t keep up with the car world. Sorry. I just suddenly feel overwhelmed.

Where to start? Well, Land Rover announced that it was dropping its straight-six petrol engine from the Defender, which from memory it introduced only about 30 minutes ago, in favour of a V8. Now, don’t misunderstand me: I don’t mind this idea at all. But the V8 in question is JLR’s own supercharged 5.0-litre one, which I thought it had replaced with BMW’s twin-turbocharged 4.4-litre one.

Then Mate Rimac, of electric hypercar fame and sometimes dubbed ‘Europe’s Elon Musk’ by the press (I think I would sue if anyone called me that…), told the Financial Times’ Future of the Car conference that the next Rimac is unlikely to be an EV. Which is weird, because that’s what he’s famous for. But Rimac has sold only 50 of its planned 150 Neveras, see. Which makes me wonder how many Nevera derived Pininfarina Battistas (new special edition out this week) haven’t been sold.


Rimac, who we like a lot here, is also against regulators’ measures to make all cars electric, telling conference attendees that he was “always against” what he called “forced adoption”.

It was quite the week for alarming quotes on this theme. If Ford doesn’t meet zero-emissions sales ratios in the UK, it will restrict supply of ICE vehicles and “sell these vehicles somewhere else”, said Martin Sander, Ford of Europe’s EV chief.

“We can’t push EVs into the market against demand,” said Sander, ruling out paying fines for not meeting minimum zero-emissions car sales quantities (they would be £15,000 per car) or selling off EVs cheaply to make up the numbers.

As we reported recently, Stellantis chief Carlos Tavares has called the UK policy of enforcing a certain percentage of EV sales “terrible”.

Both viewpoints come against a backdrop of China being expected to start dumping EVs here even more cheaply than they are now, which would put the wind up me as a car executive too.

Meanwhile, selling cars in China is giving car makers another headache, because they can’t keep up with the market’s price wars. Nissan has called it “a survival game”, and I’m not sure it will win it when Chinese car makers instruct workers that “a small mistake is not allowed in 2024!” while they’re at the urinals.

Apparently surviving for longer than expected, though, will be the Volkswagen Polo. A relaxation of the proposed Euro 7 emissions regulations, which would have spelled the end of profitability for the Polo, and presumably other affordable cars, should enable it to stay on sale until 2030. The Euro 7 regs have become softer Euro 6e ones, which Volkswagen CEO Thomas Schäfer called “not as crazy”.

However, added Schäfer, what will still “add costs tremendously” are the EU’s General Safety Regulations 2, which mandate monitoring systems – which get turned off, because they’re deeply irritating. “They’re expensive and people don’t want them,” one engineer recently told me.

Whether you’ll be able to buy the Polo you’d like to in the UK, though, of course depends on whether Volkswagen will manage to sell enough EVs alongside them. Fifteen grand per car for not meeting the ZEV mandate is a bit of a burden – unless you’re buying a Bugatti, whose next car will have some electrification but apparently also a new metre-long naturally aspirated V16 engine.

I mean, that sounds great, but blimey, really? It’s 8.3 litres, they say. This is the sort of news that would once have knocked me sideways for a week but which is now barely a passing thought, because a Land Rover gets an old V8, a Chinese factory worker can’t take a leak in peace and it might not be unrealistic to think that, when trying to buy the car they want, people will soon decide “fine, I’ll pay another 15 grand”.

The wild thing is that somehow car makers, stronger of mind and character than me, will navigate all of this and in the midst of it all still manage to produce cars that we want.