Italy is known for supercars from companies such as Ferrari, Maserati, Lamborghini, and Pagani. Those companies are plugging in—or at least thinking about it—but Italy now has an upscale fully electric startup. Aehra, based in Milan, calls itself “a new global ultra-premium electric automotive brand.” It launched an SUV last December and, with a first showing at the Milano Monza Motor Show this month, a sedan—both riding on the same battery platform.
The cars are known simply as the Sedan and the SUV, and they will hit the market in 2026, with pre-orders starting next year. They look sensational and promise high performance, in part because the company’s chief design officer, Felipe Perini, came from Lamborghini, Audi, and Italdesign, and its chief engineer, Franco Cimatti, is ex-Ferrari and Lotus.
The car shown in Milan will be virtually identical to the 2026 production model, Perini said in a statement.
“At Aehra, we do not believe in creating unrepresentative concept cars,” he said, citing “classic Italian design principles and the world of nature” as inspirations.
The Aehra vehicles will be priced between US$175,000 and US$197,000. They will use recyclable carbon-fiber composite for a lightweight structure. High-premium and luxury buyers are being targeted.
“When it comes to that segment, people are not ready for Chinese and American brands,” CEO and co-founder Hazim Nada told Reuters. “Europe is still the reference.”
The international success of Tesla may challenge that assumption, but there’s no question that people all over the world love Italian design. Aehra plans to sell to North America, Europe, China, and the Middle East.
Both the sedan and SUV will be very fast, with a top speed of 164 miles per hour. Each will have a range of an impressive 500 miles, courtesy of a 120-kilowatt-hour battery sourced from Austria’s Miba Battery Systems. The cars might be produced by a contract manufacturer somewhere in Europe, at least initially, Nada said. The company could also buy an existing plant or build a new one, he said.
The sedan sports four uplifting gullwing doors and is a striking cab-forward design, with the windshield extending over the front wheels, and no visible door handles. The limited overhangs imply a spacious cabin.
What can be seen of the interior is in conceptual images, with a rectangular steering wheel, a flat floor (common in EVs), a center console and a door-to-door display like Mercedes’ Hyperscreen. But there’s a major difference. Aehra’s screen can be extended upward when the vehicle is parked, “instantly transforming the [car] into a home theater or an office environment,” the company says. “With the screen fully extended, the occupants can relax and enjoy a movie or transform the interior into your personal office, ideal for video conferencing.”
The edges of the screen will function like exterior mirrors, relaying visual information from twin cameras. There’s also a second, oblong display mounted in the middle of the leather dashboard, controlling such functions as navigation, heating and cooling, and infotainment.
The SUV, with an aerodynamic design that’s almost as sleek as the sedan, will be offered in four- and five-seat versions. It features a steeply raked front windshield, and a fastback rear roof. Like the sedan to some extent, it will accommodate home theater, meeting room, and lounge configurations. The carbon-fiber-framed seats will be in Italian hand-stitched leather, and “airline first-class comfort” is promised with accommodations for “four full-sized NBA players.” Rear seats can be reclined.
There’s much about the Aehra vehicles still to be revealed, including details on the powertrain. The only thing certain at this point is that both of the two initial models will be attractive.
Chris Dixon, a partner who led the charge, says he has a ‘very long-term horizon’
Concern about electric vehicles’ appeal is mounting as some customers show a reluctance to switch
Auto dealers across many parts of the country say electric vehicles are becoming too hard a sell for buyers worried about the range, reliability and price of these models.
When Paul LaRochelle heard Ford Motor was coming out with an electric pickup truck, the dealer was excited about the prospects for his business.
“We thought we could build a million of them and sell them,” said LaRochelle, a vice president at Sheehy Auto Stores, which sells vehicles from a dozen brands in Virginia, Maryland and Washington, D.C.
The reality has been less positive. On Sheehy’s car lots, LaRochelle says there is a six- to 12-month supply of EVs, compared with a month of gasoline-powered vehicles.
With automakers set to release a barrage of new electric models in the coming years, concerns are mounting among auto retailers about whether the technology will have broader appeal given that many customers are still reluctant to make the switch.
Battery-powered models have been piling up on car lots, dealers say, as EV sales growth has slowed in the U.S. this year. Car companies have been offering a combination of discounts and lower interest-rate deals in an effort to juice demand. But it hasn’t been enough, because buyer reticence extends beyond the price tag, dealers say.
“I’m not hearing the consumer confidence in the technology,” said Mary Rice, dealer principal at Toyota of Greensboro in North Carolina. “People aren’t beating down the door to buy these things, and they all have a different excuse why they aren’t buying one.”
Customers cite concerns about vehicles burning through a battery charge faster in cold weather or not being able to travel as far as they expected on a single charge, dealers say. Potential buyers also worry that chargers aren’t as readily accessible as gas stations or might be broken.
Franchise dealerships fear that the push to roll out new models will inundate them with hard-to-sell vehicles. Research firm S&P Global Mobility said there are 56 EV models for sale in the U.S. this year, and the number is expected to nearly double to 100 next year.
“I start to think, you know maybe we should just all pump the brakes a little bit,” Rice said.
A group of dealers expressed their concerns about the government’s role in pushing electric vehicles in a letter last month to President Biden.
A Toyota Motor spokesman said the majority of dealers have become “increasingly more confident in their ability to sell Toyota EV products.”
At Ford, the company’s electric-vehicle sales are rising, including for its F-150 Lightning pickup, but demand isn’t evenly spread across the country, according to a spokesman.
Dealers say that after selling an EV, they sometimes hear complaints about charging and the vehicles not always meeting their advertised range. In some cases, customers seek to return them to the dealer shortly after buying them.
“We have a steady number of clients that have attempted to or flat out returned their car,” said Sheehy’s LaRochelle.
While EVs remain a small but rapidly expanding part of the new-car market, the pace of growth has slowed this year. Electric-vehicle sales increased 48% in the first 11 months, compared with a 69% jump during the same period in 2022, according to Motor Intelligence. Sales remain concentrated in a few states, with California accounting for the largest chunk, S&P Global Mobility data found.
The cooling growth has raised broader questions in the industry about whether car companies face a temporary hurdle or a longer-term demand challenge. Automakers have invested billions of dollars to bring more EV models to the market, and many analysts and car executives say they remain optimistic that sales will continue to expand.
“Although the rate of growth has slowed recently, EV demand is clearly moving in the right direction,” said General Motors Chief Executive Mary Barra on a recent conference call with analysts. A combination of more affordable model options and better charging infrastructure would help encourage more people to buy electric vehicles, she said.
There are also varying views within the dealer community about how quickly buyers will adopt the technology.In hot spots for electric-vehicle demand, such as Los Angeles, dealers say their battery-powered models are some of their top sellers. Those popular EV markets also tend to have more mature public charging networks.
Selling an electric car or truck outside of those demand centres is proving more difficult.
Longtime EV owner Carmella Roehrig thought she was ready to go full-electric and sold her backup gasoline vehicle. But after the 62-year-old North Carolina resident found herself stranded last year in a rural area of South Carolina, she changed her mind. Roehrig’s Tesla Model S got a flat tire, but none of the stores in the area carried tires for a Tesla. She ended up paying a worker at a nearby shop to drive her home.
Roehrig still has her Tesla but bought a pickup truck for long road trips.
Tesla didn’t respond to a request for comment.
“I have these conversations with people who say we’ll all be in EVs in 15 years. I say: ‘I’m not so sure. I’ve tried to do it,’” Roehrig said. “I think you need a gas backup.”
Customers who want to ditch their gas vehicle for environmental reasons are sometimes hesitant, said Mickey Anderson, president of Baxter Auto Group, which owns dealerships in Kansas, Nebraska and Colorado.
“We’re in the Colorado Springs market. If this is your sole mode of transportation, and you’re in a market in extremes of elevation and temperature, the actual range is very limited,” Anderson said. “It makes it extremely impractical.”
Dealers representing around 4,000 stores across the U.S. signed the letter in November addressed to Biden, saying the administration’s proposed auto-emissions regulations designed to promote electric-vehicle sales are unrealistic. The signatories ranged from stores owned by family businesses to publicly held giants such as AutoNation and Lithia Motors.
“Some customers are in the market for electric vehicles, and we are thrilled to sell them. But the majority of customers are simply not ready to make the change,” the letter said.
Some carmakers are pushing back EV-rollout plans. GM said in mid-October that it would delay the opening of an electric pickup plant by a year to late 2025. In response to weaker-than-expected consumer demand, Ford said in late October that it would defer $12 billion of planned spending on electric-vehicle investment.
Since September, dealers on average took more than two months to sell an EV, compared with 40 days for all vehicles, according to car-shopping website Edmunds.
While discounts have helped boost sales of some electric vehicles, they also have led to repercussions for some current owners because it reduces the value of their vehicles, dealers say.
“Most people don’t have the confidence to buy an EV and know what it will be worth in 10-15 years,” said Rice from the Toyota dealership.
It may take some time for the industry to adjust because it is still in an early stage of switching to electric vehicles, Sheehy’s LaRochelle said.
“We’re asking for this market to grow organically,” he said.
Chris Dixon, a partner who led the charge, says he has a ‘very long-term horizon’