The FT Future of the Car summit took place last week in London, and as headline sponsor, we had a ringside seat on all three days. With well over 60 interviews and panel sessions there was an enormous amount and variety of content to absorb. But, never ones to shy away from a challenge, we’ve had a go. Read on to find out our top 12 takeaways from this remarkable event...
⚡️ EVs are fast becoming mainstream and the number of new models and derivatives coming to market is huge. Interviews with bosses from three of the greatest car brands revealed the supercar and luxury markets are no exception. Ferrari’s CEO Benedetto Vigna confirmed the first all-electric Ferrari will launch in 2025, while Aston Martin’s Lawrence Stroll committed to a similar timeframe. But Michael Leiters stated McLaren’s product line up will remain hybrid for the foreseeable future: he argues full EV does not yet meet the emotional and dynamic needs of his brand’s customers.  
⛽️ Do synthetic fuels offer a lifeline to the internal combustion engine? This was perhaps the hot topic of day one. The European Commission’s recent concession for carbon-neutral fuels indicates the rapid pace of development in this area. Ineos CEO Lynn Calder made the case for choice: “Electrification is not the best solution for all markets and use cases,” she said. Benedetto Vigna said he was motivated by the pace of e-fuel innovation while Chevron’s President of Americas Products Andy Walz said we must give scientists and engineers the opportunity to find a solution. Renault CEO Luca de Meo welcomed the EC’s decision and reported that it offers a new perspective for Renault’s Dacia brand. 
🔋 The sector is laser-focused on sustainable EV battery development and the investment, scale of innovation and ambition is huge. The to-do list includes decreasing cost, reducing charge times and alleviating supply chain limitations. Rohitesh Dhawan, ICMM CEO, warned of an impending raw materials crunch, saying: “We’ve invited 20 people to a dinner party with only enough food to feed eight. Someone’s going home hungry.” Despite the engineering complexity involved, next generation solid state batteries are moving towards commercial reality. Nissan’s CEO Makota Uchida called them a “game changer” and insisted that his company will have an SSB in production by 2028. Pam Thomas, CEO of the Faraday Institution, shared Makota’s enthusiasm.  She pointedly described  SSBs as “the Holy Grail”.  
🪫 It’s not just battery manufacturing under scrutiny but also in-life and end-of-life. Martin Forbes, President of Cox Automotive International, reminded delegates that globally, just 5% of lithium-ion batteries (used outside of automotive) are currently recycled, something we cannot let happen when it comes to the EV variety. Glencore’s Global Head of Recycling Kunal Sinha said:“You have to design for full circularity if circularity is what you want.” Battery design, he maintained, dictates whether the battery can be repaired, remanufactured or recycled. Irene Feige, BMW Group’s Head of Climate Strategy and Circular Economy agrees. She said “We are looking at how we design cars so we can take out materials [at end of life] in a better way.” 
🇨🇳 The Chinese aren’t coming, they’re already here. Nissan CEO Makota Uchida admitted that Chinese EV manufacturers are moving much faster than expected. Polestar CEO Thomas Ingenlath welcomed the competition. “It’s fun to be competitive,” he said. “It’s a better situation than being lonely out there… having more new car companies in the mix is very healthy.” Fiona Howarth of Octopus EV reported healthy interest in new Chinese brands from its customers while Niels Dau of McKinsey supported this: “Two thirds of EV buyers are happy to switch brands versus just one in three ICE car buyers.” 
💼 Many leaders present were clearly of the view that more needs to be done by governments, both here in the UK and elsewhere, to support the migration to electric. Bentley’s CEO Adrian Hallmark expressed his frustration at the UK’s failure to attract gigafactory investment. Kunal Sinha of Glencore warned investment in battery recycling facilities was inextricably linked to gigafactory investment and that the UK was at risk of missing out. Ineos’ Lynn Calder said: “If the government wanted to incentivise EVs, they would invest in the charging infrastructure.” Cox Automotive’s Martin Forbes asserted his belief that designing for circularity is essential and we may need government interventions on a global level to force standards that allow for economically attractive in-life and end-of-life battery management. 
🛒 The consumer journey continues to evolve. Kia’s Carlos Pardo said customers want flexibility and convenience. Stephanie Booth, EMEA sales lead for Tesla, reminded delegates “It’s all about choice… we must cater for those who want to buy in person.” Tesla said it is trialling different avenues for the sales journey, including remote test drives. The agency model brings a new dimension to the customer journey. Cox Automotive’s Karoline Baumann explained why, when it comes to agency, there isn’t a one-size–fits-all answer. She said: “While agency is focused on the customer journey, we must remember at the centre of all of this is a car that needs to be handled. This is a complexity and cost that can't be overlooked.” 
📑 Owners continue to migrate away from ownership and towards usership. Giacomo Carellia from CA Auto Bank reckoned the subscription model will make up 10-15% of new car sales soon. ALD’s CCO Annie Pinn said 50% of private lease business will be subscription or pay-per-use within the next few years. She thinks consumers like it as it reduces their commitment and helps them try new EV products without risk.  
💶 The affordability of EVs remains a priority for car makers. Consensus across the board is that the entry cost remains too high for many consumers. Ginny Buckley of summed it up: “EV affordability is a blocker for adoption.” Linda Jackson, CEO of Peugeot, thinks it’s about accessibility, not affordability. Her focus is not just cost reduction but also innovative finance solutions. Renault’s Luca de Meo believes the European market needs a sub £20k EV and it’s possible to achieve. He believes the Japanese Kei car segment warrants should inspire European design. Henrick Fisker, founder and CEO of EV start-up Fisker, shared how his firm’s philosophy is to design cost out of the equation altogether. Its new Ocean model has zero internal moving parts and no opening bonnet, contributing to a 25% reduction in parts vs an equivalent model. 
🥤 And finally… asked a tongue-in-cheek question about cup holders, Polestar CEO Thomas Ingenlath explained that it’s actually a serious design consideration. In fact, he said, the enormous variety of cup and bottle types make designing the optimum cup holder a headache that compromises cabin architecture.