European Auto Makers Target Tesla

Tesla Model S

Tesla has only sold about 50,000 of its Model S sedans, but the shock waves set off by Elon Musk’s upstart car company are reverberating throughout the board rooms of auto makers around the globe. According to Germany’s Manager Magazine, Porsche, Mercedes and Audi are working overtime on new models to fend off the challenge from Tesla. All three companies want their new electric models to have at least 400 kilometers/240 miles of range.

Porsche’s new electric vehicle will be a smaller version of its Panamera sedan. Since the Model S is roughly the same size as the Panamera, Porsche must believe the power of its nameplate will be enough to offset the Tesla’s advantage in interior room. The electric Porsche will not be in showrooms until 2018 at the earliest.

Mercedes CEO Dieter Zetsche is anxious to see his company offer a car that can compete head to head with the Model S, one that is about the size of the current E Class or S Class sedans. The problem for the Stuttgart team is their battery is too big to fit into any of its current models so they must engineer a completely new car for the task. Don’t look for the anti-Tesla Benz anytime before 2021.

Over in Ingolstadt, Audi is not planning to tackle the Model S head-on. Rather, CEO Rupert Stadler is focusing his company’s efforts on building a car to compete with the soon to be launched Tesla Model X. The electric Audi SUV will not be available until late 2017 at the earliest, it’s believed.

Surely Elon Musk and his management team must be snickering up their sleeves to think their tiny company is causing industry giants such as Porsche, Mercedes and Audi to spend billions developing products to compete against them. In an interesting side note, Daimler sold its remaining stock in Tesla just this week, realizing a $780,000,000 windfall. Some analysts think the sale marks the end the Mercedes/Tesla partnership that saw Tesla contribute its technical skill to the development of the Mercedes B Class electric vehicle, as the two companies move into a more adversarial role in the marketplace.

Will Porsche, Mercedes and Audi be able to meet the Tesla challenge? If you are in the car business, these are interesting times.



Steve Hanley

Closely following the transition from internal combustion to electricity. Whether it's cars, trucks, ships, or airplanes, sustainability is the key. Please follow me on Google + and Twitter.