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Is Tesla Search Trend vs Audi, VW, GM, BMW, & Porsche Search Trend An Early Disruption Indicator?

Tesla is set to disrupt the heck out of the auto market, according to many of us who watch the industry closely, and search trends on Google may be one of the earliest indicators.

I have tried hard to remember who passed this insight on to me, but have been unable to do so, so if it was you, please drop a note in the comments! It was either during or right before our Cleantech Revolution Tour event in Berlin, which just followed my trip to Los Angeles to cover the Tesla Model 3 unveiling, so I will claim innocence via lack of sleep and too much cleantech craziness on my plate. (Update: thanks to Alharbi for the tip!)

Back to the story — as you can see in the graph below from Google Trends (USA), searches for “Tesla” climbed considerably from 2013 to 2016, but then jumped through the freakin’ roof sometime in the past month or so … hmm, wonder why. It climbed up to a point not far below Audi, GM, and VW up until that big rise, but then it shot up to quickly and dramatically surpass them and also BMW (which sits a bit higher than the larger but less desired Audi, GM, and VW brands).

Tesla search trend vs BMW, Audi, VW

Wowza. Does this article/video come to mind for you?

It does for me.

Here’s another graph but changing BMW to Porsche (you can only put 5 in at a time):

Tesla vs Audi VW GM Porsche

The bottom line is manifold:

  1. Tesla has created an insanely popular brand.
  2. The Tesla Model 3 has made much of the world stop and say, “wow!” Even more than many of us expected it would at this stage.
  3. The Tesla Model 3 — much better than any car in its price range, arguably goes down to $25,000 … or even lower (story coming soon on this) — is primed to become one of the highest-selling cars in the United States, perhaps surpassing any model that BMW, Audi, GM, and VW have to offer.
  4. The Chevy Bolt is not in the same league as the Tesla Model 3 … as much as GM would like you to believe that it is. Here’s a comparison of “tesla model 3” searches vs “chevy bolt” searches (USA):

tesla model 3 vs chevy bolt

There are a handful of what I think are obvious reasons for the discrepancy in this last graph and the broader trend noted above regarding the brands. I’ll again resort to a list, since I like those:

  1. Tesla has built a hot brand based around world-leading performance and technology. The Tesla Model S is quicker than all but 7 “production cars” in history, but clearly being much more of a car for much less money than any of those 7. (Yep, the Model S crushes far more Lamborghinis, Ferraris, Porsches, and McLarens than you can name.) On the technology front, Tesla is widely recognized as the leading automaker in autonomous driving (what’s available in production cars today … and very likely next year, the following year, etc.).
  2. Teslas are pretty. It was interesting talking with people in line at the Santa Monica Tesla store to put down reservations who found out about Tesla and decided they wanted one just from seeing the car on the street and then googling something like “T car.”
  3. Tesla built a truly 7-seat SUV that is quicker than almost any model of sports car ever produced, and that also has a number of other innovative and useful features.
  4. People want to drive clean cars. Many people are interested in being more environmentally friendly, but have historically felt that they didn’t have many exciting options on the green car front. With an attractive, high-performance, long-range option on the market that has zero tailpipe emissions (no tailpipe, for that matter), millions of people can finally feel good about their transportation choice.
  5. Speaking of range … while some people may be attracted to the idea of a clean electric car, their first question when the topic comes up (primed by the lamestream media) is typically about range, followed soon after about charging. In the case of Teslas, you have long range (like the Bolt) built in, but you also have super-fast charging that actually makes long-distance road trips convenient. With the Chevy Bolt, you have a much more limited number of less reliable charging stations that charge at about half the speed of a Tesla Supercharger.
  6. Very large reservation numbers (115,000 before the car was even shown) get the attention of more people, normal people, the early majority (who helped boost the number to ~400,000 in well under 1 month). While it takes a while for a disruptive technology to show signs of true market disruption, once the ball gets rolling, speed picks up fast. If you want the long version of that story, here’s my nearly hour-long presentation at an institutional investment conference in India in February:

Yes, the large, established, “too big to fail” automakers of the US, Germany, and Japan need to wake up and come up with a real plan for the electric vehicle future. (I’ll spill the beans on an idea I supported during that Cleantech Revolution Tour event in Berlin: spin off sub-brands that can wholeheartedly and with common sense pursue electric vehicle competitiveness, insulated from the demise of the internal combustion engine — in lay speak, gasmobiles.)

We’ve been having some fun discussions lately on CleanTechnica about the future of these large automakers. There’s plenty of healthy and interesting debate whether they will pull themselves through the transition (and what they need in order to do so) or be eaten alive by their own size and institutional weight. (Again, we have a fun deep dive on this topic that should be published in the coming weeks.)

But let’s be absolutely clear, Tesla isn’t just getting press because Elon Musk is a lovable character who has hypnotized the masses. Tesla doesn’t just have fans because Elon jokes with the common folk on Twitter. Tesla has demonstrated the following competitive advantages with its cars (which grow the size of this list):

  • insane — nay, ludicrous — acceleration
  • world-leading autonomous driving options
  • continued improvement (via deep learning) of its autonomous driving options
  • over-the-air software updates
  • a giant iPad (well, tablet) for controlling your new toy
  • Supercharging (this is basically a requirement for EVs akin to oxygen for humans, btw*)
  • no-pressure direct sales experience, with no haggling
  • lowest-cost batteries
  • offers battery upgrades (for a price) for existing cars, and will continuously do so
  • instance after instance of doing things for the benefit of the consumer even if not financially beneficial (in the short or medium term) for Tesla

If you aren’t drinking the Kool Aid yet, maybe it’s time to go to the store.

If you aren’t producing/selling the Kool Aid yet, maybe it’s time to move beyond Death In A Bottle and get into the game.

*slight overstatement possible

By the way, here are interactive versions of the three charts above:

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Written By

Zach is tryin' to help society help itself one word at a time. He spends most of his time here on CleanTechnica as its director, chief editor, and CEO. Zach is recognized globally as an electric vehicle, solar energy, and energy storage expert. He has presented about cleantech at conferences in India, the UAE, Ukraine, Poland, Germany, the Netherlands, the USA, Canada, and Curaçao. Zach has long-term investments in Tesla [TSLA], NIO [NIO], Xpeng [XPEV], Ford [F], ChargePoint [CHPT], Amazon [AMZN], Piedmont Lithium [PLL], Lithium Americas [LAC], Albemarle Corporation [ALB], Nouveau Monde Graphite [NMGRF], Talon Metals [TLOFF], Arclight Clean Transition Corp [ACTC], and Starbucks [SBUX]. But he does not offer (explicitly or implicitly) investment advice of any sort.


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