In June 2020, I wrote a newsletter called “How Tesla’s Elon Musk dunks on the competition just as their momentum builds,” where I dissected Tesla’s strategies to derail competition in its footsteps. It seems that anytime a competing automaker is about to make a substantial step forward, Musk or Tesla releases an update that simply takes away any attention from anyone else. In this week’s newsletter, I want to talk about what Elon Musk and Tesla can do in 2021 to combat an expanding EV market, and take momentum away from the companies that claim they are “the next Tesla.”
With Rivian coming to the market soon with its R1T pickup and R1S SUV later this year, Tesla has a unique opportunity to halt the oncoming automaker’s momentum. Rivian, headed by CEO RJ Scaringe, has an adventurous, outdoorsy appeal to its consumers and its reservation holders, a strategy that truly speaks to the EV drivers who choose electric powertrains because of their environmental impact. Rivian is likely the first electric car company that will see its products regularly used in offroad settings, just what they’re geared for.
Tesla has always had a relatively luxurious connotation with its name, as its cars are usually sporty, sleek, and perfect for open road driving where the accelerator can occasionally hit the floorboards (not suggested or recommended by me). However, Rivian’s R1T, which sports a traditional pickup truck design, isn’t as talked about or as popular as the Tesla Cybertruck. On frequent occasion, the Cybertruck seems to come out of nowhere with a newly-released modification or design update at the hands of Elon Musk. With Musk revealing that the Cybertruck has been modified and reduced in size by 3%, there is no reason that Tesla won’t show new pictures of the all-electric “Cyberpunk” inspired pickup when Rivian is about to gain momentum. The conversation will almost surely switch back to Tesla because of its name, the truck’s “polarizing” design, and Tesla’s notoriety in the segment.
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The R1S is a little bit tougher of a cookie to crack for Tesla because it doesn’t have anything that really matches the design of Rivian’s SUV. The only thing that could derail attention from the R1S are details about Tesla’s electric van. However, with the Cybertruck, Roadster, and $25k vehicle projects being talked about already and delays due to battery constraints, there isn’t much hope to hearing about the Tesla Van in the near future.
Even still, something simple as renders or Musk even mentioning the possibility of an electric van will drive media into a frenzy. It will likely be one of the only things talked about in the automotive world for several days. While Rivian will release its R1S, it will get coverage, but Musk and Tesla will take priority, I’d assume.
Lucid is a company that seems to have the best chance of competing with Tesla in terms of electric car performance. The Lucid Air Dream Edition Limited is one of the premier electric vehicles in terms of performance, and it proved it by setting records at the Laguna Seca raceway in California. Arguably the most sporty electric car since the Model S, the Air has Tesla roots as Lucid’s CEO and CTO is Peter Rawlinson, a former Tesla employee who helped with the Model S project.
The problem for Lucid is that Tesla has the Roadster coming out within the near future. Lucid has already delayed production due to the pandemic, and it won’t come until later this year. Tesla has put the Roadster on hold several times, as it is still in development for a few meteoric features, like hovering, that Elon Musk seems hellbent on figuring out. While the Lucid Air has incredible performance and range that is impressive in its own right, it doesn’t hold a candle to the performance, range, or suspense that Tesla Roadster fans have felt. Updates to the Roadster are unbelievably sought after by enthusiasts, and any small detail is eaten up instantaneously by those who are interested in the vehicle. It is fair to assume that if Lucid announces its initial deliveries of the Air, Tesla could counter it with an update to the Roadster, big or small.
Not to mention, Tesla could singlehandedly take most of Lucid’s appeal away with a quick 10-second clip of the Model S Plaid+ doing a quarter-mile drag. Many people would be interested in the Air’s most robust performance package until they see the 1.7-second 0-60 MPH from Tesla’s new Model S powertrain.
Legacy Automakers and OEMs
There are a lot of advantages here, and one of the biggest could be Tesla’s introduction of Giga Texas later this year. More than a production plant, this facility is set to be an entire experience. A boardwalk, entertainment, tours, you name it. Giga Texas will be a production facility that puts much of its competition to bed simply because of its appeal. It will likely be the most immersive, personal “tour” experience that anyone ever has at a vehicle production plant. Who other than Tesla to make it happen?
Tesla doesn’t have to do much different than what it has done for the past few years to take momentum away from legacy automakers. Continuing to build highly-effective, revolutionary electric cars is all Tesla needs to do to convince people that it is ahead of legacy car companies in this front. Not much needs to change.
Tesla does have its work cut out for it in Europe, though. European EV sales figures are dominated by Volvo, Kia, Renault, BMW, and Volkswagen. Tesla doesn’t have a car in the Top 20 in Europe yet this year, according to the EV Sales Blog. With Giga Berlin coming later this year as well, this will surely change. My guess is the Model Y cracks the Top 5 no later than three months after Giga Berlin’s initial rollout, simply due to demand, the appeal of the crossover body style in Europe, and the distinct advantage Tesla has over legacy car companies in terms of software.
Despite the tumble on Wall Street, Tesla still has plenty of time to turn 2021 around. With the EV sector growing this year as new manufacturers release their first products, Tesla has an opportunity to show that they’re still able to compete with the young guns of the EV industry. Tesla is sure to remain the top dog, and it could take some simple derailing of competition, just like it has done for years.
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