Nearly every auto company will quickly tell you that electric vehicles are the way of the future and that they have begun investment to bring new products to the market in a few years. While the EV market segment is still small with not many offerings, it is hard to ignore the fact that while there are a few affordable offerings on the road, Tesla is dominating EV sales despite demand for these types of vehicles remaining relatively low.
Looking at EV sales for 2018 tells a big story, and it is clear that Tesla is doing something that no other manufacturer has yet to hit the marks on. Of the 240,000 electric vehicles sold last year, Tesla sold nearly 200,000 of these vehicles (or 82%). Breaking it down further, Model 3 sales were about 140,000 units, or 58% of the total sales. At the same time though, electric vehicles are not in high demand in comparison to the regular internal combustion engine sales figures, well into the millions. So, what exactly is going on? Every auto manufacturer says the future is electric, but clearly with a small market demand, Tesla is reigning supreme, beating out traditional luxury manufacturers in sales numbers even, such as Audi. The fast answer you may seek: Tesla has made the electric car cool, and no other manufacturer is yet to match this with their offerings.
Elon Musk is a very wild, out of the box thinker. Big on experimenting on odd projects outside of the automotive world, such as the Boring Company’s “Not a Flamethrower” and Hyperloop tunnels, in addition to tweeting random and humorous things has gained him a huge reputation and following. He is unlike any other CEO in the business, and he wants to have fun and not follow regular business patterns as other manufacturers. He takes risks and does things that may not look as though it may make much money on paper, but by exciting and delighting people with his quirky ideas and thinking, such ideas are big successes. This ultimately flows down into Tesla, a company of Elon’s creating. While the company relies on many employees outside of Elon himself, he stays very involved and lets his enthusiasm and creativity flow throughout his company.
Scale down to the individual models Tesla produces, all oozing with a special “Elon touch.” All Tesla models have timeless styling and simple, yet elegant curves. Its hard to imagine that the Model S first came out way back in 2012, yet it seems as though it hasn’t aged a day. Inside, the design remains simple, but with lots of technology for drivers and passengers to interact with on the largest touchscreens available in the industry. The touchscreens control everything the vehicles does, inside and out. With over the air software updates, bugs can be fixed and new features can become available to customers, giving them new experiences and amenities throughout the year. While Tesla started as a luxury electric vehicles manufacturer, seeing the execution in the Model 3 goes to show, Tesla can take their great features and amenities and pack it into a cheaper, more affordable vehicle, without too many sacrifices. Material quality and design is still executed effectively, and there more than enough easter eggs and technology to please the average tech geek. Not to mention, Tesla took things further by making all their vehicles rear wheel drive biased, allowing them to be sporty too. Given their high torque ratings, Tesla has grabbed car enthusiasts purely off vehicle performance, as certain models can easily show up a supercar that costs a few hundred thousand dollars more.
It really is something extraordinary what Tesla has done. In the process, Tesla not only made electric vehicles cool, they stole the segment because people don’t always buy their vehicles because they are electric, they buy them because they are TESLAS! No other manufacturer is yet to execute a vehicle with this stature in the same categories as Tesla. Yeah, the Chevy Bolt and Nissan Leaf are good electric vehicles, but they aren’t oozing with technology on the same level as a Tesla. They have bland styling, their interiors are cheap, and while they are punchy, none could take on a Tesla due to front wheel drive architectures.
To do what Tesla has done now is not easy, given all manufacturers have to work hard to steal Tesla’s customers, as they've created their own demand in the EV marketplace. They truly have become the “Apple of Cars.” If manufacturers, such as GM, Nissan, Ford, and others want to attract buyers into the electric segment, they need to think further out of the box as Tesla has. The ideas are there, they just need to execute it properly: sportier, more distinct styling, even more technology on the interior (that can be updated over the cloud), performance offerings that take advantage of the electric drivetrains for improved driving dynamics. We’ve seen great concepts that could do great in the marketplace, such as the Chevy FNR-X concept or Buick Enspire Concept, its just that such vehicles have not been brought into market in the EV segment yet. It won’t be easy, not by a long shot, but with the right creativity and risk taking, manufacturers have a shot. The final question is, are manufacturers are willing to take some of the same risks as Tesla to compete against them? Odds are probably not.