Roped off on the Volkswagen Group stand at the IAA Mobility auto show in Germany was perhaps the sexiest car present, the Porsche Mission X concept. The supercar is aimed at being the fastest road-legal vehicle at the Nürburgring race track’s Nordschleife loop. The inspiration, on Porsche’s 75th anniversary, was the legendary 1985 959, the fastest series-production car of its time, capable of traveling 196 miles per hour. A more modern ancestor was the 918 Spyder of 2013.
Of late, Porsche, Rimac, and Tesla have been battling back and forth over the electric record at the German track. Rimac took the title Aug. 18 via its Nevera, but the Tesla Model S Plaid Edition with Track Pack has also been a contender, beating Porsche’s Taycan Turbo S.
Despite its racing mission, the Mission X will be a production car and appears totally ready for road work, with a luxurious leather-clad interior. The steering wheel looks like a video game controller, though, and the passenger-side stopwatch is for timing events—with both an analog and digital display. The road version seems likely to become a limited-edition special edition, and if so it should sell out quickly—even at what is likely to be a pretty high price.
Over at the Tesla booth was the revamped Model 3, which now has a much kinder and more aerodynamic built-to-be-electric nose. It no longer appears to be missing its grille.
Other Model 3 improvements in 2023 include new head and tail lamps, new wheels, fresh aluminium, and textile trim on the interior, customisable ambient lighting and ventilated seats, a quieter cabin thanks to sound-deadening materials and acoustic glass, dual wireless phone charging, available 17-speaker audio and, a somewhat dubious achievement, delete of the turn-signal stalk. Instead, in the name of decluttering the interior, there are a pair of touch-sensitive buttons on the steering wheel. Unfortunately, the wheel turns around so the buttons are not always in the same place. It seems confusing and unnecessary.
BMW’s most striking exhibit was the Vision Neue Klasse sedan, reviving a name the company used to introduce its winning line of cars in the 1960s. The car sits on a new EV platform that will support six or seven Neue Klasse models between 2025 and 2027. Combining that platform with the sixth-generation BMW eDrive powertrain and more efficient batteries is said to yield a 30% range and 25% efficiency gain over previous models. The concept shown is striking and uncluttered, managing to be futuristic and slightly retro at the same time. The cabin on view was very airy, with large windows and a panoramic sunroof, an interior-dominating central screen, and seats with avocado inserts.
From Audi came the 2025 Q6 e-tron, which is slotted between the Q4 and Q8, and has been tested in 373 and 479 horsepower variants.
Volkswagen itself showcased another electric, the ID. GTI “hot hatch” concept based on the ID.2 (an entry-level EV we didn’t get in the U.S.) The GTI model has always been welcomed by American buyers, so this one could be too. The European price when it goes on sale in 2026 will be approximately US$32,000. VW also displayed the ID.7, a larger EV sedan aimed at executives with a 77-kilowatt-hour battery and a US$67,000 price as shown.
Chinese brands haven’t penetrated the American market yet, but they were out in force in Munich. BYD, the best0selling brand in China, has a large dealer network in Germany already, and showed off its marine mammal-themed Dolphin and Seal models. The Seal is an electric sedan, and its new Seal U variant is a small SUV that uses its technology. The Seal U will have both 71- and 87-kilowatt-hour battery options, and 218 horsepower. That’s not hugely impressive, but the affordable price ($48,000 in Europe) will be a convincer for many buyers. Both Seals had impressive fit and finish, auguring that—if the road performance matches the appearance—BYD is probably ready for U.S. competition.
The venerable British sports car brand MG (an abbreviation of “Morris Garages”) is now Chinese-owned, like Volvo and Polestar. MG has been selling gas, hybrid, and electric SUVs in Europe (16 countries), but at Munich it showed the new Cyberster, a pretty two-seat roadster concept with an electric powertrain. It resembles a beefier Miata more than it does a classic MGB, but it’s definitely attractive. U.S. sales of what was once a popular brand could happen in five to eight years.
Many suppliers were at the show hoping to catch the attention of major automakers. Rimac, which makes its Nevera supercar in tiny numbers, had a stand offering its cutting-edge electric components to other manufacturers. Michigan-based Gentech, a leading maker of the world’s rear-view mirrors, was there showing how technology—from cameras to driver monitoring systems and back-seat kid detection—can be embedded in what was once a simple device. Gentech announced a stake in Israel’s Adasky, which makes tiny thermal cameras that fit just about anywhere.
Israel-based Mobileye and Canadian parts supplier Magna International demonstrated their technology for automated driving. Massachusetts-based Nodar revealed its stereo cameras’ ability to see objects in the road at great distances. New York-based J.P. Morgan Chase’s offering was an all-in-one plan for mobility payments—loans, car subscriptions, parking, tolling, and electric vehicle charging. It debuts later this year. And SAE, the standards agency, announced a move into Europe and work on a Battery Passport that will trace the origins of minerals used in their production. “Just as we don’t want blood diamonds, we don’t want blood batteries,” said Fabian Koark, chief operating officer of SAE Europe.
Chris Dixon, a partner who led the charge, says he has a ‘very long-term horizon’
Designers are charging more for their most recognisable bags to maintain the appearance of exclusivity as the industry balloons
The price of a basic Hermès Birkin handbag has jumped $1,000. This first-world problem for fashionistas is a sign that luxury brands are playing harder to get with their most sought-after products.
Hermès recently raised the cost of a basic Birkin 25-centimeter handbag in its U.S. stores by 10% to $11,400 before sales tax, according to data from luxury handbag forum PurseBop. Rarer Birkins made with exotic skins such as crocodile have jumped more than 20%. The Paris brand says it only increases prices to offset higher manufacturing costs, but this year’s increase is its largest in at least a decade.
The brand may feel under pressure to defend its reputation as the maker of the world’s most expensive handbags. The “Birkin premium”—the price difference between the Hermès bag and its closest competitor , the Chanel Classic Flap in medium—shrank from 70% in 2019 to 2% last year, according to PurseBop founder Monika Arora. Privately owned Chanel has jacked up the price of its most popular handbag by 75% since before the pandemic.
Eye-watering price increases on luxury brands’ benchmark products are a wider trend. Prada ’s Galleria bag will set shoppers back a cool $4,600—85% more than in 2019, according to the Wayback Machine internet archive. Christian Dior ’s Lady Dior bag and the Louis Vuitton Neverfull are both 45% more expensive, PurseBop data show.
With the U.S. consumer-price index up a fifth since 2019, luxury brands do need to offset higher wage and materials costs. But the inflation-beating increases are also a way to manage the challenge presented by their own success: how to maintain an aura of exclusivity at the same time as strong sales.
Luxury brands have grown enormously in recent years, helped by the Covid-19 lockdowns, when consumers had fewer outlets for spending. LVMH ’s fashion and leather goods division alone has almost doubled in size since 2019, with €42.2 billion in sales last year, equivalent to $45.8 billion at current exchange rates. Gucci, Chanel and Hermès all make more than $10 billion in sales a year. One way to avoid overexposure is to sell fewer items at much higher prices.
Many aspirational shoppers can no longer afford the handbags, but luxury brands can’t risk alienating them altogether. This may explain why labels such as Hermès and Prada have launched makeup lines and Gucci’s owner Kering is pushing deeper into eyewear. These cheaper categories can be a kind of consolation prize. They can also be sold in the tens of millions without saturating the market.
“Cosmetics are invisible—unless you catch someone applying lipstick and see the logo, you can’t tell the brand,” says Luca Solca, luxury analyst at Bernstein.
Most of the luxury industry’s growth in 2024 will come from price increases. Sales are expected to rise by 7% this year, according to Bernstein estimates, even as brands only sell 1% to 2% more stuff.
Limiting volume growth this way only works if a brand is so popular that shoppers won’t balk at climbing prices and defect to another label. Some companies may have pushed prices beyond what consumers think they are worth. Sales of Prada’s handbags rose a meagre 1% in its last quarter and the group’s cheaper sister label Miu Miu is growing faster.
Ramping up prices can invite unflattering comparisons. At more than $2,000, Burberry ’s small Lola bag is around 40% more expensive today than it was a few years ago. Luxury shoppers may decide that tried and tested styles such as Louis Vuitton’s Neverfull bag, which is now a little cheaper than the Burberry bag, are a better buy—especially as Louis Vuitton bags hold their value better in the resale market.
Aggressive price increases can also drive shoppers to secondhand websites. If a barely used Prada Galleria bag in excellent condition can be picked up for $1,500 on luxury resale website The Real Real, it is less appealing to pay three times that amount for the bag brand new.
The strategy won’t help everyone, but for the best luxury brands, stretching the price spectrum can keep the risks of growth in check.
Chris Dixon, a partner who led the charge, says he has a ‘very long-term horizon’