- Benjamin Zhang/Business Insider
If you followed the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas last week, you might conclude that with new electric cars launching left and right, Tesla is worried.
Consider what we heard last 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 the punch.
Also showing off some kind of electric concept were Volkswagen, Mercedes, Toyota, and Audi, to name a few.
It’s not as if there aren’t other electric vehicles out there already, but they are all limited to about 100 miles in range (on a good day) on a single charge. The new entrants aim to deliver 200 to 300 miles. That’s Tesla’s sweetspot, and it’s where anyone who wants electric vehicles to 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 carmakers to build electric vehicles advances Tesla’s mission to accelerate the advent of sustainable transportation,” a Tesla representative said immediately after General Motors 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 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.”
- Hollis Johnson
GM’s goal with the Bolt is to ensure that Tesla isn’t selling the world’s only high-volume, low-cost, long-range electric vehicle. (Tesla’s Model 3 will probably hit the market in 2017 at a cost of about $35,000.) 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 conservative automaker that doesn’t take wild risks. But GM’s top executive leadership – Barra and product guy Mark Reuss – clearly think 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.