Just weeks after Tesla took aim at the record books with the launch of the Model S Plaid – claiming it to be the fastest production vehicle ever – Dodge threw down the gauntlet. The Detroit muscle car brand plans to bring out its first all-electric model and it’s meant to nab Tesla’s performance crown.
Dodge isn’t alone. In a new video promoting its own electrification program, General Motors dropped a strong hint that it has an all-electric version of its Chevrolet Camaro in the works. And Ford just launched a new GT version of its hot-selling Mustang Mach-E that will narrow the performance gap with the Tesla sedan.
Ever since the first Tesla Model S went on sale in June 2012, the upstart manufacturer has claimed a unique niche in the small but emerging market for battery-electric vehicles. But, seemingly by the month, Tesla is losing exclusivity. It faces a steadily increasing array of products targeting its four current model lines – with competition ready to pounce on future offerings, such as the Cybertruck pickup, the 2-seat Roadster and even the big Semi truck.
No longer on its own
“It’s been working in its own world until now,” said Stephanie Brinley, principal auto analyst with IHS Markit. Now, however, “Not only will Tesla face more new products but more manufacturers with stronger reputations for quality and stronger dealer networks.”
Tesla’s latest sales numbers would suggest the automaker is doing just fine. After setting a record in 2020, despite the pandemic, it delivered “over 200,000 vehicles” globally during the second quarter of 2021, it announced in a statement last week. Production of its two smaller offerings, the Model 3 sedan and Model Y SUV, meanwhile, jumped to 204,081 from 75,946 during the same period a year earlier.
The carmaker is so optimistic about the future that it is readying a third assembly plant in Texas, and a fourth outside Berlin. And CEO Elon Musk has strongly hinted that more such operations will follow.
But established automakers, as well as some other new entries, aren’t ready to give Tesla the free rein it has had for nearly a decade.
Products like the Ford Mustang Mach-E and Volkswagen ID.4 are already chipping away at the Model Y’s dominance. And they’ll soon be joined by a procession of additional electric SUVs, such as the Nissan Ariya, the Fisker Ocean and others. Even the original Tesla Model S is being challenged. Lucid is set to launch its big Air sedan around year-end, while Mercedes-Benz will deliver its first EQS – the electric alternative to the classic S-Class – this coming autumn.
Tesla generated a huge buzz when it rolled out a prototype version of its Cybertruck in November 2019. After repeated delays it may be beaten to production, however, by both the GMC Hummer pickup and even the Ford F-150 Lightning. And there are as many as 10 other all-electric pickups in the works, Ram on Thursday confirming rumors that a battery-powered 1500 will be on sale by 2024. Start-up alternatives include the likes of the Bollinger B2 and the Rivian R1T.
All manner of manufacturers are set to challenge the likes of the second-generation Tesla Roadster that also appears to be delayed. Lamborghini, for example, will have as many as four pure BEVs on sale by the end of the decade. And not only exotics such as Ferrari and McLaren, but more mainstream brands are also set to introduce electric sports cars. Among the ones generating most buzz: a rumored version of the Chevrolet Corvette.
Looking for the “white space”
And Tesla’s competitors will be targeting whatever “white space” they can find with products like the Dodge muscle car and electric Chevy Camaro.
All told, U.S., European, Korean and Japanese automakers are expected to spend north of $500 billion on battery-cars by 2030. Volkswagen is betting $86 billion. Stellantis this week announced it will invest $35 billion over the next five years. GM recently upped its own number to $35 billion by mid-decade. As recently as March 2020, it was planning to spend $20 billion.
Early on, Tesla CEO Musk stressed his desire to set off a revolution within the industry, saying he was “glad” to see other manufacturers begin to target the electric vehicle market. “I hope they move even faster than they announce,” he said back in 2015. Tesla even offered to share without licensing fees some of its key patents.
Whether Musk has second thoughts is uncertain. Tesla failed to respond to questions for this story.
An all-electric tsunami is coming
By various estimates, U.S. motorists could have more than 100 all-electric offerings to choose from by mid-decade, and virtually every model left in showrooms will likely be available with either a plug-in hybrid or BEV option by 2030, analysts now anticipate.
Tesla certainly isn’t acting like a company facing an existential threat, however. It is expanding production capacity and, despite its all-too-typical launch delays, Musk has indicated still more products are in development. These will include new BEVs pushing still more into the mainstream market with prices that could reach $25,000 or less – though, even there it will face new competition. Right now, the base VW ID.4 starts at $39,995 before any federal or state tax credits. The automaker will launch a version dropping below $25,000 when it starts producing the electric SUV in the U.S.
On the positive side, sales of plug-based vehicles came in at barely 2% of the U.S. market last year, with demand jumping a hefty 95% during the first five months of the year, according to industry data. IHS, J.D. Power and other industry trackers now expect the EV market share to reach 30% by 2030. Ford CEO Jim Farley and Stellantis CEO Carlos Tavares put the number at, or above, 40%.
That leaves tremendous opportunity for all comers, said analyst Brinley. For Tesla, in particular, “there’s still more room for growth. But it’s going to get a lot tougher.”