A high-ranking German government minister has taken aim at the heads of BMW, Mercedes-Benz and the Volkswagen Group, telling the three CEOs that their electric cars aren’t even “half as sexy” as those offered by US firm Tesla.

Peter Altmaier, Germany’s federal minister for economic affairs and energy, said the following to the automotive chiefs during a panel discussion on artificial intelligence.

"I really wonder when you, Mr. Zetsche , or you, Mr. Diess , or Mr. Krüger of BMW will be able to get an electric car built which is only half as sexy as one by Tesla," Altmaier asked, according to German newspaper Spiegel.

"As far as the attractiveness of your e-cars is concerned, you could actually come up with some fresh ideas," he bluntly added.

All three German automotive groups have big electric plans, with the Volkswagen Group preparing to offer vehicles such as the Audi e-tron, Porsche Taycan and various Volkswagen ID derivatives. BMW, meanwhile, already sells the i3 with an iX3 on the way soon. Mercedes-Benz, too, earlier this year revealed its EQC.