Automakers Take Aim at Tesla’s Model 3


Source: Tesla Motors

At last year’s EV Roadmap conference in Portland, John Voelcker of Green Car Reports kicked off the conference with an opening plenary discussion on what the electric car industry would look like in 2017. Voelcker tossed questions to various automaker representatives and they discussed charging, sales projections and dealerships, among other topics.

However, Tesla was missing from this panel and, not surprisingly, the Model 3 mass market car was not a topic in the plenary discussion.

Fast forward to 2015 and the Model 3 is still not being mentioned by its competitors, although Nissan and GM are starting to position their 2017 EV cars. GM seems to be taking a “first-to-the finish line” strategy. Recent reports indicated that the Chevy Bolt is being track tested while Nissan recently “talked” about a possible jump in battery range for the 2016 or 2017 Leaf. (Not sure what BMW has in store for 2017, please comment below if you’ve heard news on that front)



Tesla and BMW take the stage at 2014 National Drive Electric Week in Huntington Beach, CA

The stakes are high and marketing narratives are being defined for a possible game-changing electric car.

To me, a trojan horse marketing strategy seems to be emerging for Tesla Motors with the Model 3. As mentioned in the Battery Pack to Have Huge Influence on Model 3 Design post, Tesla’s base Model 3 will be a single-motor, rear wheel car that will be priced at approximately $35,000. This base model, the trojan horse, will receive a lot of attention due to Tesla’s grand ambitions, but the media will also be covering a horse race this time around: three big automakers (maybe 4) going after the mass-market EV crown.

Tesla will receive free advertising and, in the process, slip in the all-wheel drive Model 3 versions into this possible media frenzy. Musk and Straubel have stated that the company will produce multiple Model 3 models. The higher-end models will include all-wheel drive, as mentioned, and possibly other options, like traffic aware cruise control and sunroofs. Analysts hint at $45,000 to 50,000 price points, which would help subsidize the base model and provide healthy margins.

>> Video: Traffic Aware Cruise Control for the Model S

These upgraded offerings would take dead aim at BMW’s 3 Series regular car segment, not to mention Infiniti and Lexus, too.

There’s definitely an undercurrent of excitement on many discussion groups and social media discussing mass-market electric cars. EV early adopters seem to be most interested in Tesla, but where will early majority car buyers—the group after early adopters—go in 2017 or even 2016?

Will they lean on traditional automakers or the first mass-market EV released?

My guess is that a lot of opinions will be shaped by the Model 3 design that will be unveiled in the late spring or early summer 2016, according to Tesla. I like Tesla’s chances if that’s the case.

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