Predicting the future is always hazardous, but for the auto industry, this is a particularly uncertain time.
Four trends—electrification, connectivity, autonomy, and sharing—are coming together in a whirlwind that could rearrange the industry and its businesses within a decade or two.
That's a relatively short timeframe in an industry that spends $1 billion per platform and plans its products for seven-year lives.
The relatively rapid growth expected for plug-in electric cars, in particular, has combined with more recent moves—notably by China—to discuss a time in the future when sales of vehicles with combustion engines will no longer be allowed.
So we were curious to find out which second-tier makers might prove adept and agile in dealing with the uncertain future.
It's already clear that General Motors, Nissan, and Tesla are at the forefront of designing and selling electric cars in various formats and segments.
Which company's electric-car success will surprise us?— Green Car Reports (@GreenCarReports) September 5, 2017
We asked our Twitter followers which of four other makers might surprise us with their success in electric cars.
The four choices were Hyundai-Kia, Mercedes-Benz, Toyota, and Volkswagen Group.
Four out of 10 respondents chose the Korean maker Hyundai-Kia, perhaps reflecting a recent adjustment in its future product portfolio to add more electric cars.
Second, earning 27 percent of the votes, was the VW Group, including not only core brand Volkswagen, but also Bentley, Bugatti, Lamborghini, and various other brands not sold in North America.
Mercedes-Benz EQA concept, 2017 Frankfurt auto show
Third, surprisingly, was Toyota, which has been a naysayer on the prospects of affordable, mass-produced battery-electric vehicles for more than a decade, and has placed its bets instead on hydrogen fuel-cell technology.
It got 19 percent of the votes.
Coming in last, at 14 percent of respondents, was Mercedes-Benz, which also recently advanced its schedule for launching electric cars.
Parent company Daimler is still playing both sides of the aisle, however: at the Frankfurt motor show on Tuesday, it displayed both an electric-car concept for the Mercedes EQA compact hatchback, and also a production version of a GLC F-Cell fuel-cell crossover.
As always, the results of our Twitter poll aren't statistically valid—for a variety of reasons having to do with who saw the survey and who chose to respond—and should be viewed as discussion fodder, not a representative scientific survey.