What Tesla Needs to Dominate the Market (Part 1)

Many of us here at Clean Technica have friends and family members looking to buy an electric car, and this discussion has become more varied and interesting over the past year. An interesting piece of information came out in our “Tesla News” chat when Benni Schulz wrote: “Most people I know are now buying an EV, and none of them are buying a Tesla.” With one exception (my friend Matt, who is expecting a Tesla Model Y), I’m in the same boat as Benni. With massive sales, irrepressible hype, and the best high-speed charging network in the country, you’d think Tesla would be right at the top of everyone’s EV shopping list. So what gives?


Editor’s Note: Despite the anecdote above, and the arguments and ideas below notwithstanding, Tesla sells as many vehicles as it builds and in fact has a long waiting list because there are so many more demand than production capacity. Despite its rapid production growth, this apparently can never keep up with growing consumer demand for the Model 3 and Model Y. And this mismatch between production and demand mostly comes down to battery availability. Nevertheless, to become a truly dominant automaker in terms of market share, the ideas below are probably good ones. —Zach Shahan


Is Elon the problem?

Look, Elon Musk is a polarizing figure, who many would like to see step back from his role at Tesla – there’s no doubt about it. Are the high-profile antics and sketchy interpersonal behavior of Tesla Technoking really causing people to overlook the brand?

That doesn’t seem to be the case for traditional buyers (read: “non-valets”) who don’t follow Musk as eagerly as one might think. Most of these people don’t care about Elon. Instead, “they care about the options that exist,” as Benni put it. “(They find them) boring.”

Stepping back and looking at the Tesla lineup as a collection of cars, not a collection of electric cars, I have to agree.

Same sausage, different lengths

For many years – a few decades, in fact – BMW has been accused of selling “the same sausage in different lengths”. This was superficially true, as the early 1990s E36 3-Series looked a lot like the 5-Series, which (in turn) looked a lot like the 7-Series (shown above). Under the skin too, many of these cars could be fitted with different versions of the same inline-6 ​​engine, with similar suspension tuning and built-in RWD driving dynamics to give them all that “ultimate driving machine” feel. .

BMW broke free of this mold in the early 2000s with the launch of the (opinion entering 3…2…1…) positively hideous, Chris Bangle-designed, ‘flame-surfaced’ E65 7-series that was launched in 2001. Despite the unfortunate rear (and side and front) of this car, it took BMW from what it was to what it is, and it took all its sense, aesthetically, in a way that can’t really be said of other brands. A BMW looks like a BMW, no matter what you think of angry space beavers.

Tesla, however? Tesla seems to be stuck in this quagmire of the “same sausage” that trapped BMW once upon a time. I know I had trouble telling a Y pattern from an X pattern when another object wasn’t there to give me a sense of visual scale. I’m sure a lot of people feel the same – and anyone who doesn’t think the Model 3 doesn’t look like the Model S’s baby is kidding themselves.

Is this style bad? Not really. Most people seem to think that Tesla styling ranges from “harmless” (me) to downright beautiful (pretty much everyone with a Clean Technica byline), but if you don’t like the look of the Model X, you probably don’t like the look of the Model Y, you know? And, with no other sausages currently available, that means you’re probably shopping elsewhere.

More choice is good for consumers, bad for $TSLA

Opposed to the “same sausage, different length” ideology is Hyundai, which has rolled out concepts and production cars that offer visually distinct styling cues that might appeal to a wider audience – if only that because it doesn’t like the IONIQ 5 (above) doesn’t necessarily mean you don’t like the IONIQ 6.

Likewise, the expansion of viable electric vehicles from manufacturers other than Tesla has brought more than just stylistic differences, but also functional differences. Even though we claim that the Tesla Cybertruck (a revolutionary concept if there ever was one) was a real thing you could buy today, it’s just not as practical or functional a work vehicle as the Ford F -150 Lightning, which has the advantage of being compatible with just about every F-150 accessory on the market – from ladder racks to bed boxes to RV shells, lighting and more Again. It’s certain High of the advantage of being a real thing that you can buy.

Volkswagen also sells its ID. Buzz electric minivans, while, at the other end of the practical spectrum, boutique brands like Pininfarina deliver on the promise of an electric hypercar. Meanwhile, Tesla’s efforts to get its 2.0 Roadster into production continue to stall roughly five years after its initial reveal.

I think – and you might agree – that what Tesla needs to continue its rapid growth is not more of the same sausage, but expansion into more automotive product niches. And those are the ones I think he needs to pursue.

An electric delivery truck

Amazon has Rivian. Walmart has Canoo. All the others? I hate to tell the $TSLA faithful, but hundreds of fleets are out there with order forms ready for Ford’s E-Transit and Mercedes’ E-Vito vans.

You’re here ? Tesla has nothing like it (to my knowledge) in its product portfolio – and even if it did, the fact remains that the company is probably still years away from entering this $990 billion global market.

A sporty and affordable off-roader

Even if you could go out and buy a brand new Tesla Cybertruck today, that doesn’t guarantee it would have the same kind of mass appeal as the Jeep Wrangler (above), Mercedes G-Wagen or Ford Bronco. We will see.

A reconstructed Model Y with a bit of lift and off-road tires, with a little more square “edge” in its styling and a $40,000(ish) price tag, could do a lot to get Tesla back on the lists of races for people who don’t want something that blends in as much as the current Tesla Model Y.

The $25,000 Tesla

It should be noted that Benni and I strongly disagree on this one. I don’t think a low-cost Tesla is a fit for the brand, which has become known for holding the highest margins in the industry — and low cost, almost by definition, means low margins.

That said, if a brand-conscious buyer found themselves buying a $25,000 Chevy Bolt, Nissan LEAF, and Tesla Model C, I imagine they’d pick the Tesla every time – even if it didn’t offer not the range or practicality (read: seating) of either of the other two offerings. Think Honda CRX instead of Honda Civic and you’ll know where I’m coming from.

But that’s not all …

Tesla is winning the future, despite what sometimes looks like a deliberate effort by its Technoking to derail the whole thing. Yet it will take more than new models to take on and beat Toyota, GM and Honda (which historically have turned late entry into a given market into a tactical advantage).

If you’re curious about that, check back for the second half of this particular rant, where I’ll argue that what Tesla really needs to be successful… is the dealers.

 

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