LA Auto Show: the technology, EVs and cars that caught our attention

The 2023 Los Angeles Auto Show is a wrap — for the press, anyway. That means it’s time to recap the big launches, amazing specs, featured cars and weird misses we’ve noticed this year.

Highlights include the SUV that will make or break Lucid, Amazon’s auto fixation, a pickup that calls to mind Tesla’s Cybertruck and a rocket-powered Pontiac Fiero that two gearheads somehow launched into orbit (not at all).

The floor of the LA Auto Show was overrun this year, thanks in no small part to the loss of Stellantis, which owns Fiat, Jeep, Chrysler and many other brands. As I type this, while leaning against a wall on the floor of the convention center, a passer-by says unconvinced that the turnout that day was “still good.” The comment seemed to capture the auto industry’s shift toward standalone and online events, and how fashion has left auto shows looking for ways to fill its halls. And yet, there’s a lot more to chew on this year, so let’s dig in.

Lucid Gravity: handsome and high priced

lucid gravity ceo designer

Lucid CEO Peter Rawlinson and head designer Derek Jenkins sit at the helm of the new Lucid Gravity. Image Credits: Harri Weber for TechCrunch.

Lucid has the biggest show story, as far as EVs go.

The company debuted its relatively low but spacious Gravity SUV, which boasts a “projected range” of 440 miles and a price tag of around $80,000.

It certainly looks like a luxury SUV, but I can’t say how it feels; Lucid, sadly, I will not sit in the frunk. CEO Peter Rawlinson said in his presentation that a Lucid is more achievable than you think. (As I stopped to fix the bent tire on my estimated $10,000 used Smart ForTwo (2013), I pondered, “what planet does this guy live on?”)

Don’t call it Cybertruck

The new AITEKX pickup

Image credits: Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

A once under-the-radar company called Aitekx debuted his RoboTruck in a small booth at the auto show in the west hall.

You tell me – does this sound like a Tesla to you? When I asked someone at the booth if the car was inspired by Cybertruck, he said “no.”

Fiction

A fictional rocket-powered Fiero from the Fast and Furious franchise.

A fictional rocket-powered Fiero from the Fast and Furious franchise. Image Credits: Harry Weber for TechCrunch

Some of the show’s more memorable cars are works of fiction. A Fast and Furious exhibit features several vehicles from the long-running franchise, including an orbital Fiero and Vin Diesel’s Charger, both of which appear in F9: The Fast Saga.

Charger by Vin Diesel. Image Credits: Harry Weber for TechCrunch

Films are not about realism. They are about cars. And family.

Auto fixation on Amazon

amazon hyundai

Image Credits: Screenshot/Kirsten Korosec

Another highlight of the show is Hyundai’s tie-up with Amazon.

The online retailer said it will begin selling Hyundai vehicles in its US store late next year, adding that other brands will follow. This is not a surprising move, because the e-commerce giant already sells everything, including complete prefabricated houses.

Is the spotlight on EVs dim?

A combustion-engine Subaru Forester

A combustion-engine Subaru Forester. Image Credits: Harri Weber for TechCrunch.

I thought this myself going into the show, and to be clear: The spotlight is still on electrification.

Almost every automaker in attendance had a hybrid or all-electric vehicle on display – Chevrolet flashed the letters “ev” in its logo to bluntly drive home this point. (Like, OK Chevy, we get it.) And yet, during Subaru and Hyundai’s presentations, battery-electric cars seemed to take a back seat. Their presentations pay more attention to gas-guzzlers and hybrids. In doing so, they show an industry that recognizes the internal combustion engine’s destiny, but still depends on them for profit.

Beyond Electrification

A sea foam-green Kia concept EV.

A sea foam-green Kia concept EV. Image Credits: Harri Weber for TechCrunch.

Beyond electrification, other important environmental considerations – such as building with recycled materials and powering factories with renewable energy – seemed to be absent during the presentations. Last year, Fiat showed off some one-off vehicles that featured recycled gold and reclaimed ocean waste. The move seems to be more about the spectacle of it all, but at least it means that “recycled materials” take the stage.

This year, as Subaru of America President Jeff Walters took the stage, TechCrunch asked if he could talk about any environmental or sustainability considerations the company might have, such as using recycled materials, in new Forester. “Not off the top of my head,” he replied.

Lucid didn’t say anything on stage, but Lucid design boss Derek Jenkins offstage told TechCrunch that the automaker has leather alternatives, burl wood and recycled yarn inside its SUV. Jenkins also emphasized that renewables make up a portion of the energy that powers its production facility.

On the contrary, Kia stood out this year when it comes to sustainability talking points. The company showed two concept EVs, and said they show an alternative leather based on mushrooms, hemp fibers, recycled fabrics, natural dyes and bio-plastics. However, take this with a grain of salt – these are not production vehicles.

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