Payne: EV startups steal the New York International Auto Show

Posted by Talbot Payne on April 15, 2022

New York — Shoot virtual zombies while driving through New York! Get a full battery replacement from your electric-vehicle manufacturer! Launch zero-60 in a face-flattening 1.9 seconds!

Auto shows in recent years have been launch pads for new EV companies including Lucid, Fisker, Byton, Qiantu and Rivian. This year’s New York International Auto Show is no different, showcasing three new EV players spanning the breadth of the auto market from the gaming-focused INDI EV’s SUV to the VinFast VF 9’s innovative battery subscription to the insane performance of the Deus Vayanne hypercar.

Whether another tech bubble or a genuine revolution, the sky-high valuations of electric vehicle makers are attracting more startups than the auto industry has seen in a century. Some, like China’s Byton and Qiantu, have yet to realize their promise in the U.S. market, where Lucid and Rivian have completed initial public offerings and started deliveries to customers.

Hoping to follow the latter examples, the three startups made a big splash at the New York show’s media day on Wednesday. Armed with industry-savvy personnel and mature partners, they hope to be the next big thing.

The INDI One emphasizes computing power as well as drivetrain power. It's expected to start around $45,000, competitive with other compact battery-electric SUVs.

INDI EV. Short for Independent EV, the Los Angles-based startup showed off its INDI One here — a compact SUV starting at $45,000 and swimming in the same shark tank as other $45K utes like the Tesla Model Y, Ford Mustang Mach-E, Volkswagen ID.4, Toyota bZ4X, Subaru Solterra and so on. So what makes the INDI One different?

“Gaming,” says chief designer Andre Hudson.

At the 250,000-square-foot EV Test Track in Javits Convention Center, I was a passenger in the backseat of the INDI One — wearing a virtual reality helmet. While being chauffeured around the track, I played the first-person shooter game Z-Crew from Snail Games, adapted for use in the car (which in the VR looked like the interior of a military vehicle) with zombies coming at me from all directions. The ones I couldn’t shoot, the car ran over.

Detroit News Auto Critics Henry Payne goes VR gaming in the backseat of the INDI One EV during a test ride Wednesday at the New York International Auto Show.

The INDI One performs this trick compliments of founder and Chinese entrepreneur Shi Hai, who also founded Snail Games. Three of its games have been adapted for use in the SUV with more to come. Processing power comes compliments of “the VIC” (Vehicle Integrated Computer), a Windows-based computer in the front of the car (visible beneath a transparent hood) running a state-of the-art Nvidia GeForce RTX 2080 graphics card.

The hood tease is meant to be reminiscent of gas-engine hood scoops — think the Shaker protruding from the Dodge Challenger Hemi V-8.

“The future auto standard is not going to be engine power, it’s going to be processing power,” says Hudson, a 25-year industry design veteran who has penned such notable cars as the Saturn Sky Roadster, 2011 Hyundai Sonata and Genesis G90. He adds that the INDI One will still have plenty of drivetrain power with 475 horsepower and standard all-wheel drive.

Doing a simple, clean sheet EV design on top of a skateboard chassis intrigued Hudson, but the real focus is inside, where the INDI One Premium trim ($69,000) boasts three big screens: one behind the wheel, and two 15-inch displays for driver and passenger. With the dedicated computer behind them, INDI One promises a mobile office where owners have a digital toolbox for work, programming and gaming.

The interior of the INDI One features multiple screens for driver and passenger.

INDI EV opened orders at the New York show with deliveries expected in the second quarter of 2023. Note to customers: the VR headsets only come with the Premium model.

VinFast. Backed by the Vietnamese industrial conglomerate Vingroup, VinFast is en route to fulfill its ambitious plans: bring four SUVs — VF and a North Carolina manufacturing plant to the U.S. in the next couple of years.

The VinFast VF 8, on the test track at the New York auto show, will be sold sans battery, which will be available separately through a monthly subscription.

But it’s an unconventional route compared to previous, U.S.-bound Asian transplants. Whereas Hyundai and Toyota got a foothold in America with affordable, entry-level cars like Elantra and Corolla, VinFast will debut as an affordable luxury carmaker targeting powerful brands like BMW and Audi.

“We’re coming into the U.S. market focused on offering premium quality at a reasonable price, and with outstanding customer service,” said Deputy CEO of Global Marketing Emmanuel Bret. It’s a sector that Bret knows well as former managing director for BMW Norway.

“I saw the future when I was in Norway,” said Bret. “The majority of new cars there are EV, and we saw tremendous customer satisfaction with EVs. Ninety percent of owners said they would buy an EV again as their next car.” Norway has pushed the adoption of EVs by subsidizing 50% of sticker price by waiving import taxes and fees.

Emmanuel Bret, VinFast's deputy CEO of global marketing, with the VF 9 SUV on the floor of the New York International Auto Show.

VinFast manufactured its first domestic car in 2019, a modified version of the BMW X5 SUV, and begins production on its three-row VF 9 and compact VF 8 later this year with planned delivery to the U.S. market in 2023. Emmanuel said the the company is exploring a U.S. IPO to finance its North Carolina manufacturing facility.

VinFast is highly visible at the New York show, with a large stand neighboring Toyota, Kia and Subaru. The VinFast VF 8 sports a twin-line graphic grille similar to a French Citroën — interrupted by a V for VinFast. Exterior styling is conventional, but the interior is right out of the Tesla design book with a single console screen running the car.

VinFast is targeting 30 dealerships in EV-crazed California by year’s end with more planned for the rest of the country. Like INDI EV, it will rely on home and third-party superchargers — announcing a partnership with Electrify America at the show.

Deus (pronounced Day-oos).

The Deus Vayanne EV hypercar is built for speed, topping out at 248 mph and rocketing to 60 mph in under 2 seconds.

The first hypercar to sport (ahem) 2,200 horsepower, the Vayanne is a carbon-fiber missile and also has 1,475 pound-feet of torque to go 0-60 mph in 1.9 seconds. Top speed? 248 mph. The Vayanne EV aims to eclipse the gaudy numbers put up by the 1,241-horse Rimac EV hypercar that debuted in New York in 2017 — and which Top Gear personality Jeremy Clarkson famously said “is faster than anything else I’ve ever driven by a huge, huge margin.”

Vayanne aims to be faster when production models arrive in 2025. “We are focused on delivering a new, vibrant driving experience for the EV segment,” deadpanned managing director Dierk Schroeder at the media unveiling.

To infinity and beyond: This is the view you'll get of the Deus Vayanne as it speeds away.

The Austrian brand is a collaboration of two icons of speed: Italdesign and Williams Advanced Engineering — an offshoot of the Williams Formula One team that also supports Jaguar Formula E racing. With the battery located amidships like its mid-engine hypercar peers, the Vayanne has distinctive styling punctuated by its infinity symbol-shaped front and rear fascias.

With only 99 copies planned, its price will be as stratospheric as its top speed.

Henry Payne is auto critic for The Detroit News. Find him at hpayne@detroitnews.com or Twitter @HenryEPayne.

Comments are closed.