In one of his recent excursions on Twitter, Elon Musk reaffirmed that Tesla does not advertise. While traditional car companies invest a lot in advertisements, Tesla has mostly relied on word-of-mouth and clever initiatives such as referral programs to promote its vehicles. As the auto industry shifts towards electric transportation with more and more EVs from traditional auto, it is evident that Tesla’s best advertisements can actually come from its vehicles’ rivals in the market.
Take Audi, for example. The German automaker has already released its first all-electric vehicle, the e-tron, an SUV expected to compete against the Tesla Model X. Audi has been promoting the SUV heavily, as shown in physical advertisements such as billboards and social media campaigns. Jaguar’s the same with the I-PACE, and the same is true with Porsche and the Taycan. These veteran carmakers know the auto business, and they are aware that ultimately, advertisements work. And they do.
Back in March, the I-PACE comprised almost 6% of Jaguar’s entire US sales. This is the company’s first all-electric vehicle, and it is competing in the market without a dedicated rapid charging network or the convenience of Tesla’s frequent over-the-air updates. Despite this, the I-PACE appears to be seeing a lot of interest, especially among buyers who are already committed to Jaguar’s brand. Porsche is experiencing something similar with the Taycan. The company is yet to reveal the production version of the high-performance sedan, but the number of paid reservations for the Taycan already exceed the company’s initial estimate for the vehicle’s annual production rate. Audi’s e-tron also appears to be getting a lot of interest from car owners committed to German-made vehicles too, even if the company is reportedly running into issues with the SUV’s production.
These electric cars from veteran auto, while packaged and hyped as potential “Tesla Killers” at some point, actually play a valuable part in Elon Musk’s plan to wean the world away from fossil fuels. Each I-PACE, e-tron, or Taycan that is sold is ultimately not a blow against Tesla; rather, it is a blow against vehicles equipped with the internal combustion engine. Despite this, it is still pertinent to note that even if veteran auto’s much-promoted electric vehicles are designed to take down Tesla’s entries like the Model S and Model X, it might still take some time before these companies can create a compelling EV comparable to one of Tesla’s offerings. This results in one of the most ironic twists for Tesla, as the existence and performance of rival EVs end up becoming the perfect advertisements for its electric cars.
The Audi e-tron will be yet another perfect example to illustrate this point. When the vehicle was unveiled, Audi hinted that the all-electric SUV’s range would be around 300 miles per charge, thanks to its sizable 90 kWh battery. The vehicle was only given a very conservative and almost underwhelming 204 miles of range per charge by the EPA, which is estimated to be caused by the vehicle’s poor efficiency. Ironically, range and efficiency is something that Tesla, which is still learning the challenges of mass producing vehicles, has mastered over the years, as proven by the Model S Long Range, which can travel 370 miles on a single charge. This learning curve that veteran auto is currently traversing with regards to electric vehicles is something that was felt openly by r/TeslaMotors subreddit member u/SilverTangerine5599, who recently took the Audi e-tron on a 260-mile test drive in Europe.
Similar to the Jaguar I-PACE, the Audi e-tron relies on an existing electric vehicle charging network to recharge its batteries. This became a problem during the test drive, since several public chargers that were compatible with the premium all-electric SUV proved unavailable. Ultimately, the r/TeslaMotors subreddit member noted that he ended up charging the e-tron at a 10 kW connector, which took a very long time to charge the vehicle’s batteries. This proved to be quite frustrating, since several Teslas finished recharging at a nearby Supercharger while the e-tron charged for hours at 10 kW. In a post about the experience, the electric vehicle enthusiast noted that at least for now, Tesla’s best advertisement could very well be a customer’s firsthand experience in an EV that is not a Tesla.
It should be noted that the Jaguar I-PACE and the Audi e-tron are both first-generation vehicles, and thus, are only bound to get better with time. Both carmakers already have their interior and build quality locked in from their experience in producing internal combustion vehicles. In the coming years, Jaguar, Audi, and every other large automaker going all-in on electric cars will have to master ideas that first movers like Tesla have refined over the years, such as software and efficiency.
When Tesla open-sourced its patents, Elon Musk admitted that the company could not transition the transportation sector away from the internal combustion engine on its own. For such a change to happen, other companies would have to join the movement. The arrival of the I-PACE, the e-tron, and other all-electric vehicles like the Taycan show that the electric car movement is now gaining speed.