Late EV Makers Are Hoping for Redemption in Tesla’s 9-Year-Old Playbook
Tesla competitors are fighting the last war and missing the hot middle market
The coming two or three years will finally bring rich pickings for anyone interested in checking out an electric vehicle. If announced debuts go as planned, there will be the $75,000 Rivian R1T pickup, the $70,000 Jaguar E-Pace SUV, and the $66,000 Audi e-tron, not to mention the $77,000 Lucid Air and the $150,000 Porsche Taycan.
Setting aside the relative virtues of each vehicle, the thread running through the group is their eye-popping sticker price, a stratum of the market where sales are typically in the hundreds or low single-digit thousands per year. Which is to say that, nine years after EV gargantuan Tesla captured the heart and soul of the American market with the luxury-priced Model S sedan, late-to-the-game rivals are seeking to make their own mark by trodding the very same ground. Tesla itself, meanwhile, is nowhere there to be found — it is instead concentrating on EVs selling at a mid-priced $45,000 to $55,000 and is engineering a new battery and body with hopes of a truly mass-appeal $25,000 model.
For several years, EV wannabes have watched at turns with contempt, envy, and finally, despair as Tesla has come largely from nowhere to create the modern EV era. EVs were just 3% of new vehicles sold globally last year, but the industry now estimates that the number will rise to 10% by 2025 and 28% by 2030.
If such sales pan out, this amounts to a paradigm shift and, out of fear of being made obsolete, virtually all the big automakers, in addition to numerous startups, have rushed to create an EV lineup and debut at least one model by the first half of the 2020s. But what they have largely come up with reflects that desperation, more or less precisely copying CEO Elon Musk’s 2006 playbook, nine years late.
“We believe the high end of the market is important, but ultimately Porsche and others are missing the boat and hearts and lungs of the EV consumer explosion of growth,” Dan Ives, an EV analyst with Wedbush, told me in an email. That explosion, Ives said, will be in the middle-priced market.