If you watched the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, you might conclude that with new electric cars launching left and right, the pioneer in the EV industry, Tesla, is worried.
Considered what we heard over the week: Faraday Future unveiled an out of this world concept car showing high-end car buyers that it means business.
Chevy’s new Bolt, arriving in late 2016 with a price tag of about $30,000 after incentives, meanwhile, will beat Tesla’s mass-market car to punch.
Also showing off some kind of electric concept were Volkswagen, Mercedes, Toyota and Audi, to name a few.
It’s not like there aren’t other electric vehicles out there already, but they’re all limited to around 100 miles in range (on a good day) on a single charge. The new entrants aim to deliver 200-300 miles. That’s Tesla’s sweetspot, and it’s where anyone who wants to EVs compete with gas-burning cars at a time of $2-a-gallon gas needs to go.
Tesla made a point of congratulating the newcomers.
“Commitments from traditional car makers to build electric vehicles advances Tesla’s mission to accelerate the advent of sustainable transportation,” a Tesla spokesperson said immediately after GM CEO Mary Barra introduced the Bolt in Vegas. “We hope to see all those additional zero-emission vehicles on the road.”
The rival cars are a clear statement from some of the world’s largest automakers that they take the potential for an electric car market seriously. It’s an important validation because the overall direction of the electric-car market hasn’t given, for example, GM much to get excited about.
The buyers just aren’t there yet. Tesla’s biggest year ever, for example, just wrapped up with total sales of 50,000 cars.
Tesla has always been a source of fascination to the traditional auto industry. Ford CEO Mark Fields once said that his engineers were so interested in the Model S sedan that “we have driven the Model S, torn it down, put it back together, and driven it again.”
GM’s goal with the Bolt is to make sure that Tesla isn’t selling the only high-volume, low-cost, long-range EV in the world. (Tesla’s Model 3 is probably going to hit the market in 2017 at a cost of about $35,000.) Because if the concept takes off, then the mass market producer will be the first entrant in a whole new mobility market: cheap electric transportation for everyone.
GM pulled out all the stops to get the Bolt ready to show at CES. This is a very large and still residually conservative automaker that doesn’t take wild risks. But GM’s top executive leadership — Barra and product guy Mark Reuss — clearly that that the risk is worth it.
That should please Tesla founder Elon Musk. He eats risk for breakfast, but I’ll bet he’s psyched that he’s no longer dining alone.