No other car company can match Tesla Motors Inc.
in terms of luxury and performance in all-electric cars — as the world learned this week, however, several competitors are trying.
Audi and Porsche divisions have unveiled concept luxury all-electric cars at the Frankfurt auto show this week. Not to be outdone, Daimler AG
Mercedes-Benz said the company is also working on an electric car, according to reports.
Judging from Tesla stock performance this week, however, investors don’t seem too worried.
Some analysts were also quick to point out that Tesla still enjoys competitive advantages related to being first out of the gate and, more crucially, in planning ahead where it will get cheaper and more plentiful batteries to power its cars. Tesla is building its own battery factory outside Reno, Nev., dubbed the “gigafactory.”
Tesla shares are poised to gain more than 5% this week, and are up nearly 6% so far this month. That compares with 1.3% month-to-date gains for the S&P 500 index, and a weekly increase of 2% for the index as of late Thursday.
Tesla certainly is the company to beat. Its popular Model S sedan has won several accolades and most recently blew the top off Consumer Report’s magazine scorecard.
The second car in Tesla’s lineup, the Model X SUV, is scheduled to roll off the Fremont, Calif., assembly line on Sept. 29. Tesla plans to have its $35,000 mass-market car, the Model 3, available in the next two to three years, and Chief Executive Elon Musk recently tweeted that Model 3 preorders will start in March 2016.
Audi calls its e-tron quattro concept electric car “a new chapter in electric driving.” It will have a range of 154 miles between charges and its lightweight construction helps the car’s performance, the company said.
Porsche’s concept car is dubbed Mission E, and the company called it the first electric car fit for everyday use. The prototype can travel 500 kilometers (about 310 miles) on a full charge. The company also boasted that the car’s battery can be charged to 80% of capacity in 15 minutes.
The competition also is heating up in the cheaper electric-car realm, with General Motors Co.
Chevy Bolt and a redesign of Nissan Motor Co. Ltd.
Leaf that it expected to take such lower-priced electric cars to battery ranges of around 200 miles between charges.
The Leaf starts around $30,000, which is also about the price expected for the GM Bolt. A Tesla Model S starts at $75,000, and a top-of-the-line “Signature series” Model X can cost as much as $132,000 without upgrades.
“I should also mention the Cadillac ELR plug-in hybrid, also from GM, and it is possible that some would see the upcoming Toyota Mirai and Honda (yet unnamed) fuel-cell electric cars as Tesla competition,” said John O’Dell, a senior editor with Edmunds.com.
Chinese maker Fisker Automotive has said it would begin making a high-end hybrid next year, and a couple of startups and the U.S. and in Europe — such as Atieva in California and Venturi in Monaco — are pursuing electric vehicles, he said.
How everyone is going to get the batteries they need is the question, said James Albertine, an analyst with Stifel.
“Quite frankly, a lot of the manufacturers are paying lip service to EVs,” with their announcements and offering paltry details about the cars’ technology, Albertine said. That they rushed to make their plans known “tells me how far behind the traditional manufacturers actually are,” he said.
Tesla enjoys proprietary advantages and has had a headway of three to five years to refine its products and work out add-ons such as autonomous driving features, he said. Once its battery factory is up and running, the company will dominate battery cell production, while other car makers will have to figure out how to secure batteries for their cars, he said.
Tesla broke ground on its $5 billion ‘gigafactory’ last year, and the factory is expected to begin production in 2017. By 2020, Tesla has said, the battery plant will reach full capacity and produce more lithium-ion batteries annually than were produced world-wide in 2013.
Other advantages for Tesla include its direct sales and its “supercharge” network, Albertine said.