Tesla’s mission has always been to get more people driving EVs, even if it’s not the one selling them. Elon Musk has said many times that he welcomes competition from the major automakers.
Musk and his crusading carmakers have had some success in this regard. Former GM exec Bob Lutz has acknowledged that Tesla was a major inspiration for the Chevy Volt. More recently, the German luxury brands have been showing a keen interest in plugging in, and Tesla is widely believed to be a role model.
However, so far we’ve seen nothing that could really be called competition for Tesla, much less any sign that the majors envision a truly mass-market EV in the near future. Now that Model 3 has garnered more orders in a week than most legacy models sell in a year, is this about to change?
“The Model 3’s huge reservation list should serve as a big wake-up call for the rest of the industry,” said Kelley Blue Book Analyst Tony Lim. “Now is the time for competitive manufacturers to begin leveraging this momentum that Tesla created and building awareness of their electric vehicles.”
Are the men and women in the corner offices going to move their EVs out of the R&D department, and start producing them in volume, and advertising them as they do all their other models?
Journalists have been asking the question, but most of the answers they’ve been getting are fairly non-committal.
“We’re certainly pleased to see such strong demand for affordable long-range EVs,” GM spokesman Fred Ligouri told the Washington Post. “We trust that the initial interest from consumers will continue when the Bolt begins production later this year.”
In an interview with The Verge (yes, after the Model 3 unveiling), Ford CEO Mark Fields said, “Tesla has done a very nice job of raising awareness of electrified vehicles. They cater to a high-end consumer, where the Tesla is usually their second, third, or fourth vehicle. It’s not their only vehicle. Our approach has been to give consumers the power of choice, whether plug-in hybrids or overall electrified vehicles.”
Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn sounded a more positive note. “The fact that so many people are willing to pay a down payment to get this car is a good sign,” he told Automotive News. The new awareness of EVs will push Nissan to improve its own electrified vehicles, said Ghosn. “We welcome competition because it can expand the market. It’s going to stimulate demand.”