Mail from a reader :
Do you think the [Tesla] Model 3 would be as popular if it was released by a company like Ford or Toyota? Like the exact same specs and promises, just different company logo ?
So… Model 3.
I guess let’s start with the fact that I’m not quite sure what’s meant by “as popular”. Since the Model 3 doesn’t exist and assuredly won’t for longer than fans have been thus far led to believe,i any popularity it possesses is very much an act of faith. In effect, then, you appear to be asking is whether a son born of a virgin mother would be as popular if he were Martian instead of Christian. The answer to which can only be “I guess so, but so what?” Besides, I think this is a digression for what you’re really trying to ask : whether Elon Musk et al. have magical marketing powers that no other company has.
The answer is to a large degree “Yes!” with the caveat that they’ve still a very poor track record of backing up their holier-than-thou claimsii with the kind of consistent product required to compete in the mass market. Time and time again, the Roadster, Model S, and Model X have been delivered behind schedule and with continual software, hardware, and manufacturing shortcomings. Their Apple-On-Wheels style brand power has pushed them above and beyond most of these teething problems but only because these earlier models were 3rd, 4th, or 5th cars in country club garages and some “beta” issues could be tolerated. The 3-seriesiii market the Model 3 will be competing in isn’t nearly so forgiving, not by a long shot. Buyers will expect their Model 3 to be faultless, but it won’t be, Musk has already admitted as much. So if anything, a Model 3 with the same specs and a different badge would be very much preferable (by sane people) because it couldn’t possibly be more poorly assembled, less reliable, and less wrapped in the flag of Moral Superiority For People Who Suck At Math.iv
Last point : people who talk about buying cars love the idea of electric cars (because saves polars bears! hurr!) while the people who actually buy cars nod in polite agreement and then go buy pickup trucks anyways. This is mostly because actually owning an electric car means having to constantly hunt for charging points and maybe 1.5% of North Americans would even if they could at the lower price point of the Model 3, which isn’t enough for Tesla to be profitable or for the charging infrastructure to improve. As has been proven by everything from the 2012 Better Place Renault ZE to the 2010 Nissan Leaf to the 1996 GM EV1 to the 1898 Egger-Lohner C.2 Phaeton,v people much prefer the flexibility, simplicity, and reliability of internal combustion engines.
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- 2017 is already a quarter done! 2018 in California is optimistic. 2019 in Canada. [↩]
- Eg. “autonomy“. [↩]
- That is, the benchmark beamer. [↩]
- These being the same Moral Superioralists who buy solar panels. [↩]
- The Egger-Lohner was the first car ever designed by Ferdinand Porsche. And it was electric. [↩]