- Share this article on Facebook
- Share this article on Twitter
- Share this article on Email
- Show additional share options
- Share this article on Print
- Share this article on Comment
- Share this article on Whatsapp
- Share this article on Linkedin
- Share this article on Reddit
- Share this article on Pinit
- Share this article on Tumblr
Something’s awry when the usually tight-lipped Tesla — the leader in the luxury-electric auto market — goes to the trouble of refuting media stories. On Jan. 25, the Elon Musk company pushed back against a report citing its new Model 3 four-door sedan for poor quality and production target woes.
The Model 3 — with a 220- to 335-mile range — is positioned as the everyman’s Tesla with a starting price of $35,000 (compared with $74,500 for the Model S, owned by Cameron Diaz, Robert Redford and Mark Ruffalo, and $79,500 for the Model X, a vehicle of choice for Will Ferrell and Snoop Dogg). Tesla denied a separate story claiming that its batteries are not being manufactured as meticulously as they should be. It has yet to comment on a Mundro & Associates consulting firm car review that criticized the Model 3 for poor exterior finishing and confusing user interface.
For CEO Musk, the stakes are high: His new contract, announced Jan. 23, lays out performance milestones that would pay him $55 billion if, among other things, he increases Tesla’s market cap to $650 billion within 10 years, a huge jump from today’s $54 billion valuation.
Tesla has more than once pushed back its goal of producing 5,000 Model 3s a week. It now says it will hit that target by the end of June. A scant few Model 3s have been seen roaming L.A. so far, with fewer than 2,000 shipped in 2017 due to delays (global pre-orders run to 400,000-plus). Early February emails to those on the waitlist revealed their Model 3 orders have been delayed a year, causing cancellations and a round of Twitter recriminations.
The timing is unfortunate for Tesla, as nearly every luxury brand is nipping at its heels for a share of the exploding market, opened up by China’s ambitious emissions goals to phase out gas and diesel-powered cars by 2040.
Nearly 50 electric vehicles (EVs) will come to market by 2022. GM has 20 EV models in the pipeline, while Mercedes-Benz’s EQ sub-brand is readying 10. Volkswagen Group plans to invest nearly $50 billion, with a goal of electrified versions of its entire lineup by 2030. Volvo has relaunched its performance sub-brand Polestar as a Model 3 competitor, and James Dyson of vacuum fame has announced a $2.7 billion spend to develop a Dyson EV.
For now, 2018 will see the introduction of many new models, including the updated Nissan Leaf, priced from $29,900. Mercedes-Benz has rolled out a smart Fortwo, a neat two-seater cabriolet (from $23,900) that’s part of the brand’s $11 billion electric gambit over the next six years. BMW has an i8 Roadster, a swell-looking convertible version of its Electric i8, from $163,300.
This year also will see the first real uber-luxury market entries with the launch of Jaguar i-Pace, an all-new electric-powered crossover priced in Tesla Model S territory at around $75,000.
But the model that should keep Musk up at night is the Porsche Mission E, due in 2019. Expected to sell for $100,000-plus, it is a stunner aimed squarely at the Model S, looking like a futuristic version of the Panamera. Porsche will spend close to $7.5 billion by 2020 on electrification. “We now feel comfortable putting a Porsche crest on an electric car,” says Porsche Cars North America president/CEO Klaus Zellmer.
Which presents a quandary for potential Tesla buyers: Would they rather have the stellar build quality and performance of a Porsche EV, or a Model S, whose outstanding performance is bedeviled by inconsistent quality control? It may be best to sign a very short lease. But don’t tell that to die-hard Hollywood Tesla devotees, among them Stephen Colbert and Don Cheadle. “I’ve driven my Tesla to Vegas, San Diego and Montecito with no issue. I have no idea what a gallon of gas costs anymore,” says Fifty Shades Freed producer Dana Brunetti. “On the very infrequent times when I do take one of my Ferraris out and have to stop at a gas station, I can’t help but think, ‘This is so archaic.'”
This story first appeared in the Feb. 21 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.
Sign up for THR news straight to your inbox every day