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‘Tesla Killer’ narrative comes back as German automakers launch EV offensive – don’t fall for it

This is an op-ed by Fred Lambert, Electrek’s editor-in-chief.

The good old ‘Tesla Killer’ moniker, which the media often apply to virtually any new electric vehicle, is coming back into the spotlight as German automakers are launching a new EV offensive.

Here’s what you need to know in order not to fall for it.

With Mercedes-Benz, Audi, and BMW all making EV announcements this month, the media is quick to call all these vehicles “Tesla killers”.

First off, let me start by saying any new electric car, as long as it is a good vehicle, is a positive for the EV industry in general and often Tesla too since it is increasing options and awareness, which is still one of the biggest issues for electric vehicles.

Secondly, all these recent announcements need to be taken into perspective.

The way I see it, Mercedes-Benz and BMW are trying to respond to Audi and not Tesla.

In the grand scheme of things, yes, Tesla has put a lot of pressure on automakers, especially premium automakers, to come up with new electric vehicle programs.

But Tesla has had the lead for a long time with the Model S being on the market for 6 years and the Model X for 3 years.

In the short term, Mercedes-Benz and BMW are seeing Audi beating them to market with an electric SUV.

Audi already started production on its e-tron quattro SUV and it is going to reveal the vehicle in two weeks.

Mercedes-Benz and BMW have their own electric SUV programs, but they are not planned for production for another one year in the case of Mercedes-Benz and two years in the case of BMW.

Yet, they both had a bunch of announcements about these vehicles just before Audi is unveiling and bringing to market its own electric SUV.

This is not a coincidence. They know there’s demand for electric SUVs that Tesla’s Model X didn’t satisfy and Audi’s etron quattro might, which is why they want to make sure that potential buyers know that they have other options coming.

Therefore, Mercedes-Benz unveiling the “production version” of the EQC a year before it goes into actual production and BMW starting to take orders two years before production for the iX3, which doesn’t even have a targeted price yet, are not “Tesla Killer” moments in my opinion, but rather shows these automakers trying to steal the spotlight from Audi and I love it.

It shows that they want to capture some of that electric demand.

That’s the actual real reason behind what several media outlets have been mistakenly calling a German automaker “attack” on Tesla.

Now as for any actual technology advantage over Tesla that would warrant a ‘Tesla killer’ moniker, there’s none right now as far as we know.

The new Mercedes-Benz EQC unveiled today is not especially impressive spec-wise for an electric SUV coming out in 2019. Same goes for the BMW iX3, which is so far only a concept and it is planned for 2020.

The Audi e-tron quattro is the one with the best case right now because it could still surprise with updated production specs next week.

It appears to be quite efficient and it will even feature virtual mirrors where regulations allow it. On top of that, it looks like it will be capable of a 150 kW charge rate – officially becoming the first vehicle to beat Tesla’s charge rate. Though it remains to be seen how long and at what state-of-charge the battery pack can support that charge rate.

In short, the e-tron quattro has the best case right now, but it is also smaller than Tesla Model X and therefore, not that much of direct competitor.

I see it more becoming a competitor to midsize premium SUVs like the BMW X5, Mercedes GLE, and Audi’s own Q7, which are all gas-powered right now.

In conclusion, there’s no “Tesla Killer” here, but a great new entry in the midsize premium SUV segment that happens to be electric and two announcements about more upcoming electric entries in the segment.

Hopefully, it should rapidly result in the electrification of the segment and more gas mileage being converted to electric mileage, which is the goal of the electric revolution.

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Avatar for Fred Lambert Fred Lambert

Fred is the Editor in Chief and Main Writer at Electrek.

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