Following up on the Tesla Model 3 vs Audi A3, Audi A4, Audi A5, Audi S3 fun, let’s dive into another lineup of premium-class sedans and hybrids that the Tesla Model 3 will compete against — the Lexus ES, ES Hybrid, IS, GS, GS Hybrid, and CT Hybrid.
Doing things a bit differently this time, let’s jump into Lexus sales first. Sales of these 4 Lexus models added up to 119,369 in the US in 2016, about 55,000 more than the Audi A3, A4, and A5 combined (74,579). Combining all of these models, we’re up to nearly 200,000 premium sedan sales the Tesla Model 3 could steal some serious revenue from.
|2016 USA Sales|
If you’re an astute reader, you’ll notice that these ~200,000 Audi and Lexus sales compare favorably to Tesla’s very lame 0 (zero) Model 3 sales. (Surely, that means Tesla has no future and you should short the stock [TSLA], right?)
In all seriousness, though, the billion-dollar question is, how many of these ~200,000 sales will the Model 3 steal from Audi and Lexus next time those buyers are on the market for a new car?
Well, looking at the specs drivers typically care about, I think there’s a huuuuuge opening.
Lexus competes well in the category of buyers who want good “fuel economy” and/or green cred, but also want to strut their stuff and/or want a bit of luxury. Boosted by Toyota’s hybrid leadership, plenty of Lexus hybrid buyers went with the brand for the same reason people go with a Prius … but also because they wanted to be shopping in the premium category.
But a hybrid is no longer considered that “green,” and while the Model 3 may not beat these Lexus options on some of the luxury features buyers in this category want, it certainly beats them in terms of performance, high-tech appeal/branding, and overall “cool” factor. But let’s dive into the numbers for a closer look.
|Lexus ES||Lexus ES Hybrid||Lexus IS||Lexus GS||Lexus GS Hybrid||Lexus CT Hybrid||Tesla Model 3|
|Base Price After $7500 Tax Credit||$39,000||$42,000||$38,000||$46,000||$64,000||$31,000||$27,750|
|0–60 mph (seconds)||7.1||8.1||6.9||7||5.6||9.8||5.6|
Given the broad range of models here, I’m going to run down these by topic rather than by model.
Cash money: Perhaps the most important single factor to most buyers is, naturally, price. The Tesla Model 3 beats all of these Lexus options on price — which is pretty stunning. With regards to the closest competitor (Lexus CT Hybrid), even if you don’t include the federal tax credit or other incentives, the fuel savings from a Model 3 may still make it cheaper than a CT Hybrid within a few years — but be sure to note, ymmv.
Interior: As one of our readers noted under the Audi article, interior elements of luxury sedans may well outcompete the Model 3 interior and pull certain buyers to a Lexus (or Audi, BMW, or Mercedes) over a Model 3, but it’s hard to have a big-picture view of how much people care about this. The best context I have for it is from watching what the Model S did to the medium/large premium sedan market — it walloped that class. Many people who left BMW, Mercedes, Audi, Jaguar, Porsche, or Lexus for a Tesla Model S have indicated they either don’t care too much about that or they wish Tesla had that type of interior but the car is still so much better because of the drive quality that Tesla wins hands down. Of course, some buyers chose old-school luxury interior over Tesla performance — there are still plenty of BMW, Mercedes, Audi, and Lexus buyers. But the Model S quickly rose to the top of its class in the US and in parts of Europe on the back of its compelling selling points. I have the feeling it’ll be a similar story with the Model 3 — people will pass on the premium interior goodies for the zero emissions, high tech, Autopilot, and performance of the Model 3.
Acceleration: Regarding that stunning performance, the Model 3 time to 60 mph is 5.6 seconds, according to Tesla, which means the Lexus GS Hybrid tags it right at the finish line — the Model 3 surely has more torque and gets off the line quicker. Note, however, that the Lexus GS Hybrid is the highest-priced model of the bunch examined in this article, at a whopping $64,000. At that price, it’s really in the Model S class, not the Model 3 class … unless the Model S is just too fat for your needs (I’m coming to that in a moment). In terms of 0–60 mph times, everything else in this group gets smoked by the Model 3, continuing Tesla’s tradition of embarrassing the competition off the line.
Cargo space: But hey, what about practicality? Well, there’s not a great deal of variation in cargo space among these models. The Lexus IS and ES Hybrid clearly come at the bottom end of the cargo space category, while the non-hybrid ES inches out the win. Overall, though, the Model 3 seems to perform well. I think there’s not much more to say until we try sticking a stroller into the trunk.
Footprint: Length & width are interesting beasts. I really don’t like large cars, but I get the impression a lot of people do. Also, to some extent or another, a bigger car means more space and comfort for passengers. However, for those of us living in Europe (or anywhere outside of suburban North America), size is an important matter for opposite reasons — parking, parking, parking (also, there are quite a few narrow little streets in Europe that are as annoying as fingernails on a chalkboard in a big car).
There’s quite a lot of variation in this category between the models. The slimmest by far is the Lexus CT Hybrid (70 inches, versus 74 on the Model 3), but it’s also the shortest (171 inches, versus 185 for the Model 3), which surely means less space inside for passengers. I’m guessing the CT Hybrid is a bit tight for a family, but we’ll have to check it out in person before passing judgement.
The ES, ES Hybrid, GS, and GS Hybrid offer the longest body, which presumably helps interior space a bit, but considering the unique architecture of the Model 3 and the lack of an engine, it’s hard to know at this point how the interior cabin will feel in these models. Plus, the Model 3 has that amazing glass roof option. In any case, the longer bodies come with a price tag — the ES, ES Hybrid, GS, and GS Hybrid range in base price from $39,000 to $64,000, with the latter being nearly double the base price of the Model 3 and actually in the Model S territory, as noted above.
At the end of all of this analysis, what’s my opinion? It’s that none of these Lexus sedans compete with the Model 3. We’ll see how others feel and I’ll certainly get a better feel for the Model 3 pros and cons once it comes out and we can test all of these models.
In the meantime, any guesses how much the sales of these Lexus sedans fall in 2018?
As in the first article in this series, here are some extra notes — mostly about huge (but not self-centered) benefits — that I think are worth highlighting no matter which models we’re comparing the Model 3 to:
◊ Styling is a subjective matter. Everyone I talked to who was at the Model 3 unveiling thought the Model 3 was stunning — and I certainly thought so as well. But some people prefer to stick with designs/brands/meals they know. With this being such a subjective factor, I’m just going to leave it alone in this series. (Frankly, that goes for much of the interior as well. But we don’t have much info on a finalized Model 3 interior to compare that aspect of the car yet, and there’s broad assumption the Model 3 interior will be similarly minimalist as the Model S, which is a departure from the premium car norm.)
◊ The value of a zero-emissions vehicle is invaluable for many people. The existential threat global heating poses for society isn’t worth gambling with. The trillions of dollars in health costs and hundreds of thousands of premature deaths from air pollution are not moral or sensible to many when they have alternatives. However, others prioritize small personal preferences over all of that, and some people have even been so brainwashed by the pollution industry and all their minions that they think pollution is somehow good, and turning the planet into a fireplace is somehow sane. So, I am also leaving the climate and health benefits of the Model 3 out of the equation.
◊ For that matter, the societal benefit of buying a national security bulldog is being left off the table too.
◊ We don’t actually have a great deal of detail on the Model 3 yet. The 5.6 seconds to 60 mph is the base model, presumably, but what about quicker versions? And when will quicker versions be available? Will pink & purple ponies dance out of the trunk, frunk, cupholders, and door pockets? And, by the way, how many cupholders will there be? And so on …
◊ Tesla says the Model 3 seats 5. How comfortably it seats 5 is something I don’t feel confident enough to comment on at this point. Some of the cars to which we compare it seat 4, some seat 5 — I don’t generally have enough experience with them or the Model 3 to compare in a practical way, so I’m just leaving that off the table until we get inside these cars for a careful comparison.
◊ The Tesla Model 3 will come with hardware that could one day allow for fully autonomous transport, but it’s unclear when the software will arrive, what it will cost, what default semi-autonomous features will do, and how all of that will compare to competitors. I assume the Tesla Autopilot features will outperform what any competitors offer for a long time to come, but I may be wrong, so I’m leaving that out as well for now.
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