During the second quarter earnings call, Elon Musk tentatively confirmed that Tesla would be making a compact car and a vehicle with high capacity. Granted, it would probably take a few more years before such vehicles are produced, but one thing seems certain. Considering Tesla’s speed and pace, it would not be surprising if Tesla’s compact car and high capacity EV causes the extinction of the internal combustion engine.
Tesla’s current lineup of vehicles, which comprise the Model S, Model 3, Model X, and Model Y, are great EVs, but they are still fairly large for their class. This includes the Model 3 and the Model Y, Tesla’s “smaller” vehicles in its lineup. This, together with the vehicles’ premium price, end up blocking the company from reaching its full potential in the auto market. With a compact car and a high capacity vehicle, however, things could drastically change for Tesla.
Compact and High Capacity EVs
Tesla has mentioned the creation of a smaller car in the past, and more recently, the company has tapped into China’s creative minds for help in designing its compact car. This vehicle is expected to be designed and manufactured in China, but the opportunities for such a car go far beyond the country. Compact cars have a dedicated following, after all, and for good reason.
A higher capacity vehicle is also a key part of the mass market puzzle that Tesla could tap into. Higher capacity vehicles could come in many forms, like vans that could either transport people or cargo. Fellow EV maker Rivian is already involved in the development of electric vans, thanks to its partnership with Amazon. It would then not be surprising if Tesla also dips its feet in the development of its a similar line of vehicles, especially those that it could use for its own operations.
Opportunities in Developing Countries
Tesla’s current S,3,X,Y lineup are still premium cars through and through, and one thing that they cannot do is compete in a market that prioritizes cost. These markets, such as India and other southeast Asian nations, actually hold a lot of potential for the company. However, for Tesla to enter and compete in these regions, it would have to learn how to play the affordability and practicality balancing game.
Vehicles that thrive in the compact car segment usually offer the best performance and features within a limited price range. The Honda Fit/Jazz (or at least its initial iteration) is a good example of this, as the vehicle was affordable, practical, and still fairly fun to drive. If Tesla could create a vehicle that’s far more affordable than the Model 3 (perhaps in the $20,000 range), then the company could tap into a segment that is, at least for now, still dominated by legacy auto.
The same is true for high capacity vehicles. There is a reason why the compact MPV (multi purpose vehicle) segment exists, after all. MPVs are low cost, relatively bare bones vehicles that are designed to carry as many people or cargo at the lowest price possible. This usually results in vehicles that are not optimized for performance, with small engines and high seating capacity (think a 1.5 liter engine with seven seats). The Toyota Kijang, an example of this type of vehicle, has been around for decades, and for good reason. It simply has a very stable following.
The Tesla Effect and the Extinction of ICE
Interestingly enough, Tesla is already in the process of lowering its production and battery costs. This is one of the reasons why the company has been aggressively acquiring companies that are working on bleeding edge battery tech. Elon Musk is aware of this, as he noted during the recently held earnings call.
“It is important to make the car affordable. We will not succeed in our mission if we do not make cars affordable. Like the thing that bugs me the most about where we are right now is that our cars are not affordable enough. We need to fix that,” Musk said.
Fortunately for Tesla, it has now reached a point where the company is now being emulated by the legacy automakers in an attempt to catch up in the EV transition. The transition to electric cars is pretty much undeniable at this point, so it is now up to Tesla to set the pace. With this “Tesla Effect” in mind, it would be best if the electric car maker could expedite its expansion into other vehicle segments as soon as possible. Doing so would allow the company to accelerate the transition to sustainability.
After all, with vehicles that start at around $20,000 and with high capacity EVs that can transport numerous passengers, there will be very little reason for customers to buy a gas powered vehicle anymore. By taking on and competing in the compact and high capacity segment, Tesla could, effectively, usher in the extinction of the internal combustion engine.