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

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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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Zachary Shahan

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

  • That is a no brainier. Tesla already has many reservations for the model 3. As I write this I would not be surprised that the number passed 500,000. These reservation are taken away from other car brands. So it is not only a strong indication but a deadly one. How do you then GM feels about that huge number of reservations and we are not even 4 weeks into the revealing? And what about the others who do not have a washer let alone a BOLT?

  • Indeed telling trends.

    Turns out that “GM” is not the term people seem to use. Try “Chevy” and “Chevrolet” or “Opel” for more accurate results. (Opel has dropped off considerably in recent years). Obviously the mega Tesla hyperventilation spike around the Model 3 still exceeds even Chevy or Chevrolet.

    Also interesting to run “Mercedes”. (Again, few outside of industry and equity analysts refer to them as “Daimler”.)

    • Ha, i didn’t even think to search Chevy/Chevrolet. Somewhat surprised. Mercedes vs Daimler is obvious, but GM has focused on highlighting GM rather than Chevy a lot in recent years.

  • I just googled a T-car and actually a picture of a Tesla Model S came up. Maybe it is just my personalized Tesla fanboy google, but it does seem that googling these cool new T-cars is a thing.:D

    • Haha. Yeah, that’s what the lady in line to reserve a Model 3 told us. She saw a Tesla in front of her one day and thought it looked beautiful, so she searched something like that when she got home, and found out it was a Tesla… and not cheap. ~1 year later, she was in line for a Model 3 reservation. 😀

  • Part of the reason for the massive spike is probably also because Tesla has massive press publicity yet are a new company to many – a quick Google Trends search shows “What is Tesla”, “Who is Tesla”, “What are Tesla” and “Who are Tesla” all had a massive surge.

    Also important to note that globally, even with the surge, Tesla failed to reach the levels of Audi and had half the traffic of BMW. America may lead the world, but that isn’t guaranteed – the same Google Trends methodology shows some brands are relatively limited to the US/North America (eg Jeep).

    The real indication will be how much the Tesla surge falls in future months.

    • Or how much it rises again when Part 2 comes along and when production of the Model 3 begins.

      But yeah, I can switch to a global search in the future. 😀

  • Tesla is searched, GM is bought. Their search stops after they have searched the price.

    • So let me get this right, your position is that people want to pay a $2500 premium over the Model 3 price for a Bolt?

      • Unlike Tesla fans I don’t think I am authorized to speak for all people. It is your habit.

        • Well Green Greed, your statement is contradicted by the fact that the Model S sold by far the most in the large luxury SEGMENT in the US in 2015.
          I think I can confidently predict that the Model 3 will do the same in its segment when it is in full production.
          Nice try though!

          • Making cheaper cars is a challenge. They have sold the luxury car for a couple of years alreadsy but when it comes to producing ceaper and smaller car it takes them to years just to get it to the market.

          • It’s mostly about the batteries, and Tesla is driving down battery costs faster than anyone — thanks in large part to the Model S and X.

      • Telsa at best will be coming out 1 year after the Bolt. If the Bolt MSRP isn’t dropped by $2,500 or more it second year I will be surprised.

      • Is the Bolt for sale now? I thought it wasn’t on the market yet.

    • The search stops when they compare the non-Tesla products to a Tesla…

    • We’re noticing a habit of trolling here…

      If you miss the point of the article, good on you. But trolling isn’t tolerated indefinitely here, so let’s not go overboard, eh?

      • I would call it criticism. It is not my fault that any criticizm of Tesla is seen as a blasphemy here and red clothing and everybody starts to react which is quite funny and makes me appear to be a troll.

        • “Tesla is searched, GM is bought.”
          -that’s just pointless trolling. and have seen plenty more of it.

          “Their search stops after they have searched the price.”
          -obviously not.

          • Here is a fresh perspective.
            I received an email from a relative who has no interest in technology what so ever, however he was referring to the release of the model 3.
            If this company can create such interest in people who normally would show no interest let alone have them contact other people then Tesla must be doing some very good things.
            The product sells itself no advertising “”brainwashing”” needed.

          • I have seen plenty of jokes and ruducules of other companies here. Nobody calls them trolls.

          • That Tesla has gained so much interest without advertising speaks volumes for the product.
            Because motor vehicles have been traditionally sold as a personality extender not as a value for money proposition this Tesla company is causing a disruption to the status qua.
            There is interest because the product is so superior to the old offerings.
            Consumers have been treated like mugs by the auto companies, with a few exceptions to the broad statement, for far too long.

          • Here we go again. An expensive car with tiny sells becomes volumes for the product and a value for money.

          • If pointing to the Model S it is superior hence sales in its class.
            If pointing to the Model T it has a huge number of people who have put their name down.
            The company has made it’s IP available to the industry.
            Only Mercedes Benz did a similar thing with its survival IP in the late 50’s to help give the auto industry a slightly better image.
            The motor vehicle has killed and maimed more people world wide that have been killed in major wars from the day the worst consumer product was put on the road.
            Tesla has turned the traditional attitude of auto makers on its head.

          • Amen

          • What’s a ruducule?

    • Or rather short leased to tide one over between a Leaf return and a T3 delivered. A Bolt may be pretty cheap to lease this December.

    • “Tesla is searched, GM is bought”

      Indeed. That’s why the Model S sales tanked after the release of the ELR.


    • Ha, thanks!! 😀

      So I was correct that it was somehow related to the event. 😀

      I’ll add a link, don’t have any ZEV credits to give away. 😀

  • Shitty company, run by a shitty guy making shitty unprofitable products based on money he conned out of the tax payer. He should die of ball cancer.

    • You are gonna give them fan boys a heart attack.

      • no heart attack. that was a clear troll/spam. booted without any need to stress or waste time.

      • So any comment that points out that Tesla is an unprofitable company funded entirely by government largess is deleted for “trolling”? Interesting.

        I wonder how long this one will last.

        Tesla is an unprofitable company founded on a government subsidized loan which receives $7,500 or more in subsidies per unit sold and still doesn’t make a profit and never has.

        What’s more these “green” cars have batteries that are terrible for the environment and are charged up with electricity generated mostly by fossil fuels. Not to mention the lithium mining necessary to produce the batteries is bad for the environment too.

        So how is this “green tech” again? Government subsidized toys for the rich. That’s all.

        If and when the model 3 becomes reality I’m sure it won’t be profitable. How long will the delays be?

        • yep, when you spout ~7 lies (or misinformed comments when there’s plenty of info out there to help you) in one comment, you can expect it to be deleted.

          • LOL. So here “facts” = “lies”? How Orweillian. I am going to screen shot all this in case it disappears.

          • I just responded to your false “facts” — aka, deceit — above. Screenshot whatever you want. If you keep spewing misinformation here, you can head out the front door and play in another house.

          • Yea yea got it all the facts you don’t like are “lies”. Loud and clear. And everyone that tries to post actual facts must be working for the oil companies… or something. The truth is anyone working for the fossil fuel industry really doesn’t care about your toy electric cars because more than 66% of the energy generated for the US is generated with…. fossil fuels.

    • First company to pay back the money.
      The product speaks for itself.
      No other company is so focused on the quality and making as good a vehicle as is possible.
      The interest is there because the product is bottom line so good against the traditional offerings.
      Elon does not sell the product he just allows it to sell itself.

      • I bet 95% of people speaking here about “good vehicle” and “traditional offerings” take this traditional offerings cause they can not afford to by Tesla.

        • There was no other choice, however the picture is changing and will continue to

      • So what if they paid back the loan? The get $7,500 or more in free government money for every unit sold… and they still can’t make a profit!

        • i think you don’t understand how these subsidies, and broader transport subsidies, work.

          • No it is you and Tesla promoters that don’t understand. The government takes money from people at gun point, and then they give it to Tesla buyers. It’s a pretty simple concept.

            Besides that Teslas are not environmentally friendly at all. Lithium mining is not environmentally friendly (it’s also not scalable enough for a majority of the world’s transportation needs). Tesla batteries are toxic waste. The majority of the electricity which powers Tesla cars (and everything in the US) is fossil fuel energy.

            Teslas are wasteful and unprofitable. Toys of the rich, that’s all.

          • Bobby, the auto industry has gotten massive subsidies. We subsidize it further by paying extreme healthcare costs from the pollution and their decision to slow down a clean transport transition. The oil industry gets ridiculously more in subsidies than any car company.

            Tesla had a loan that it paid back several years early. The federal government doesn’t give Tesla anything now. California, which requires that automakers produce a certain number of ZEV cars, doesn’t give Tesla money. Other automakers who decide to be total slackers do (to a small degree) rather than producing and selling legitimate ZEV cars.

            EVs are dramatically more environmentally friendly than gasmobiles, and if you lie again about that, you’ll just be booted from the site. It’s total nonsense that has been debunked dozens or hundreds of times in a thorough manner.

            Same thing with being scalable. Your statement has been demonstrated to be false by plenty of top researchers on the matter.

            You and I don’t know if the majority of Teslas run on fossil fuels, so again, stop lying. ~40% of EV drivers in California have rooftop solar. The state also uses a lot of hydro, as does the Northwest, and these are where the vast majority of US electric cars go. Norway leads the world in EV saturation, and it uses almost 0% fossil fuels for electricity.

            Tesla is aiming to recycle about 95% of used batteries.

            If Tesla is going to produce a mass-market affordable car, it basically has to start at the top. To ignore that is to again deceive people.

            So, yes, I spent part of my day responding to misinformation that has been debunked numerous times. I don’t intend to spend more time on such outdated and false claims, so wise up or have a nice day somewhere else.

          • Way to go Zach. FYI for the troll, we got our rooftop 8 kW system about 9 months before we got our first EV (2011 Nissan LEAF) and have since driven over 50,000 miles on sunshine. With the cost of solar and EVs coming down, it just makes economic sense once one considers the “Total Cost of Ownership” with ICE vehicles. Thus, I think the article is right on target in claiming that EVs will soon, if not already, be a disruption to the auto industry.

            Some people are just mad at the world, so I pity them because there isn’t anywhere they can go to be happy.

          • I have only 2 Kw on my roof, and are unable to sell my Mercedes to buy a Model Y (no buyers interested) 🙁 Hmmm maybe I’ll drop the price again today (ho hum).

          • Shut him down, 5 comments and locked profile. How much you want a bet that every one of those is Tesla fud?

          • Point by point.

            Your theory on subsidies: Two wrongs make a right. OK got it.

            “The federal government doesn’t give Tesla anything now.” This is demonstrably false. From Tesla’s website: “A $7,500 federal income tax credit is available to all customers and several states offer additional incentives, often taking the form of a rebate.” Also… subsidies are subsidies whether it’s the state government or the federal government that robs citizens and makes wealth transfers. End of story.

            It doesn’t matter if “some Tesla owners have solar panels” what matters is what the breakdown is of energy generated for the US market (if you want to talk about the US market, which I’m assuming). Energy spent on a Tesla is energy that would otherwise be spent elsewhere if not for the Tesla. Here is the breakdown but I’m sure you won’t care becasue you seem to be highly allergic to facts:

            “Coal = 33%
            Natural gas = 33%
            Nuclear = 20%
            Hydropower = 6%
            Other renewables = 7%
            (Biomass = 1.6%,
            Geothermal = 0.4%, Solar = 0.6%, Wind = 4.7%) Petroleum = 1%
            Other gases = <1%"

            13% of energy is generated by what you like to call "green" or "renewable". Most is fossil fuel. The other big chunk is nuclear.
            As for the idea that lithium mining isn’t bad for the environment, the batteries aren’t toxic and there is little to environment impact because Tesla “plans” to “recycle 95%” of the batteries…. sorry I cannot stop myself from literally laughing out loud here.

            As to your false assertion that that “electrics” are vastly more efficient, if you want to take an unbaised look at the issue you can make a credible case that the efficiency is about equal but not more.

            Sorry but I can’t post links here as it seems to cause the comment to get stuck in moderation, however main sources used above are Tesla’s own website and the “US Energy Information Administration”.

            This site seems to be openly about promoting EV propaganda as you freely admit you’ll ban anyone that tries to uncover that. Just awful. And you probably call yourself an American.

          • Look at where most Tesla owners live.
            There is a strong correlation between states with high Tesla ownership and those with high rates of renewables in their grid mix.
            There is also a strong correlation between those with PV installed and those who own EVs.
            These are well known facts.
            I’m all for some constructive criticism when the fanboyism gets too rampant, but such criticism should be based on fact, or at least informed opinion.

    • .

    • hate speech.

  • Hi Zach @all, the EVs of the future will need to be self sustainable on the road and able to power a home as when parked. It is fairly clear that the grids do not have a surplus of generated electricity to meet this proposed extra demand. There are many countries outside of the US which barely have a grid.

    Hydrogen is the way to the future of Transport and energy (both electrical and gas) it is not going to be the way that it is planned at present. If you stop and think realistically because powerful people in the 19th century decided that electric cars would not give them such massive profits as oil electric cars were sidelined.

    Those early decisions led to the present production systems and fuel supply networks. Oil Wells to the wheel.

    Now, there are some people who want to retain this and others who know which way we have to go.

    Whilst it is perfectly clear that I am unable to have an Oil well and a refinery in my garden, it is equally clear that I can produce hydrogen in my garage/garden, balcony etc with safe systems.

    I would not incurr the costs which are put forward as a reason for not using hydrogen as it is wasted expense. That is not the case if I own the system in my garage and the sun or wind produces the electricity again at the same percentage of cost of the system.

    Now lets talk 21 st Century, On board EV own Hydrogen and Oxygen fuel production system supplying the HyPulJet.2.0 Hydrogen and Oxygen Pulse Jet Multi-phase Multi-rotor Rotary Engine-generator for Electric Vehicles.(That is the full title on the UK Patent Application) and the engine provide the electrical power for the production system from a dedicated generator powered by a separate drive off the engine.

    Don’t need petrol/diesel.
    Don’t need a H2 Station
    Don’t need Solar Pv.or Wind, although I will take some

    Will produce electricity for Off-grid house and many more applications

    Does NOT produce NOx
    Zero CO 2 emissions

    EV stops 1 Tonne or less in UK terms
    Average UK House Off-Grid STOP 5-6 Tonnes CO2

    You tell me which should be the priority change to Green Energy and which should get subsidies, householders or Auto Manufacturers.(See my comments on how Nissan LEAF became profitable at 200,000 units X £5,000 subsidy = £1,billion)

    HyPulJet.2.0 or other innovation is essential for EVs to make it passed the next 10 years when Fossil Fuel power stations will have to be shut down and have any range beyond home based panels.

  • Is there a way to factor out “Nikola Tesla” searches? Some people could search “Tesla” when they are searching for “Nikola Tesla.”

  • For a more interesting insight, boot out VW (which isn’t really a competitor to Tesla) and replace it with Mercedes. Boot out Porsche (too few sales) and replace it with BMW.

Comments are closed.