Model 3

Tesla at a tipping point: How a focus on safety and features is building a formidable car brand

(Photo: Tesla)

Last week, JD Power revealed the results of a study about the public’s perception of electric vehicles and autonomous driving technologies. The results of the survey were not that encouraging, with 68% of the respondents stating that they had zero experience with electric cars. The majority of the study’s demographic also stated that they would not consider an EV as their next car purchase. 

Yet, despite these results, one particular vehicle seems to be bucking the trend. In June, Tesla sold just shy of 40,000 Model 3 across the globe, making it the best-selling electric car worldwide. Following the Model 3 was the BAIC EU-Series from China, which was far behind at almost 18,000 units sold. Third place in June’s global EV sales rankings was the BYD Yuan, which sold 6,566 units. The Model 3’s feat is impressive, considering that the market is just beginning to seriously embrace electric cars as a viable alternative to gas-powered automobiles. 

Baillie Gifford’s recently-released Annual Financial Report noted that Tesla had reached a milestone with the Model 3, as exhibited by the vehicle becoming the US’ best-selling passenger car by revenue over the past four quarters. This milestone could have been achieved by Tesla because the company has and continues to develop a reputation for building great cars that just happen to be electric, not electric cars that just happen to be good. By emphasizing the innate strengths of electric vehicles, Tesla has created a brand that is becoming synonymous with safety and bleeding-edge features.

The Tesla Model 3, Model S, and Model X are three of the safest vehicles on the road today. This is partly due to the vehicles being designed from the ground up as electric cars. With their generous crush zones and rigid frames, Teslas are capable of protecting their occupants, even in potentially serious crashes. Some of these incidents are shared online through the Tesla community and beyond, and they help spread the word that the company’s vehicles are among the safest vehicles on the road today. 

The aftermath of these incidents usually follows a similar pattern too, with a Tesla getting damaged and the other vehicle coming out worse for wear. An example of this could be found in this recent incident involving an otherwise intact Model 3 toppling a fire hydrant after getting rear-ended by a Subaru. As could be seen in pictures of the crash’s aftermath, the gas-powered car looked like it hit a wall when it smashed into the Model 3. 

Teslas are essentially computers on wheels, and this is one of the reasons why the Model S, Model X, and Model 3 are among the very few vehicles on the road that can receive new features through free over-the-air updates. This has become a crucial part of the Tesla ownership experience, as cars that are handed over to customers only get better with time. Some of these features, such as Sentry Mode and TeslaCam, have even helped owners catch individuals that vandalize their vehicles. 

In a recent report, the Highway Loss Data Institute stated that Teslas are among the least likely vehicles to get stolen in the United States, with the Model S and X nearly 90% less likely to attract thieves than the average automobile. The reasons for this could vary, but the fact that Teslas are equipped with a suite of security features, and the fact that the National Crime Information Center tracked 112 recovered Teslas out of 115 stolen vehicles between 2011 and May 2018, establishes the company’s electric cars as vehicles that are pretty tricky to steal. 

Tesla only commands a tiny fraction of the overall automotive market today. Even with the aggressive ramp of the Model 3, Tesla is still far from breaching the mass markets that are dominated by low-cost vehicles that have been around for decades. This does not mean to say that Tesla is not making progress, as the company is steadily increasing its reach in the auto industry’s premium segment. And thanks to the company’s innovations and unique approach to its vehicles, Tesla is making itself into a brand that simply attracts a ton of interest. 

An example of this could be seen in Japan recently, where Tesla showcased the Model 3 (which is yet to be distributed to the country) at the Haneda Airport. Not too far from the Model 3 was an exhibit of the gas-powered B-Class from Mercedes-Benz, a premium vehicle from a veteran carmaker that is synonymous with luxury. The interest attracted by the two vehicles among the people at the Japanese airport was very telling. 

Tesla at a tipping point: How a focus on safety and features is building a formidable car brand
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