It seems quite common these days to attribute love for the Tesla Model 3 and strong support for Tesla overall to some kind of Le Elon Muské cult. You know, Tesla is so extremely popular only because of Elon Musk’s quirky, nerdy, superhero shtick and unconventional marketing pizzaz. Tesla’s cars are okay, but they’re in high demand simply because Tesla fans are crazy and quite illogical. And there’s not as much demand as everyone presumes anyway, right?
But something crossed my mind a few months ago, and I’ve been planning to write this article ever since. How would the market and these same critics respond if the Model 3 was a BMW, Honda, or Ford instead of a Tesla? In particular, I often think of BMW since the Model 3 is everything a BMW is supposed to be — super sporty, luxurious, cool, on the cutting edge of tech, and in the end, the ultimate driving machine.
How much demand would there be and how much would reviewers rave if a BMW model had the clean & powerful acceleration, battery-rooted & software-enhanced handling, top-of-class autonomous driving features, and innovative touchscreen of the Tesla Model 3? How would the market respond, how would the media respond, and how would the stock market respond if BMW got half a million reservations for the car and had to go into the red for a few quarters to ramp up production?
The point isn’t only to ponder how popular a BMW Model 3 would have been. The point, also, is that BMW isn’t the company producing the Model 3. Neither is Ford. Neither is Honda. Neither is Skoda. It’s Tesla. And a handful of startups are dreaming of following it, while large automakers try to claim they have competitors coming out … someday … in some volume … in some places.
Seemingly, none of the major automakers could produce the Model 3. Seemingly, BMW doesn’t have the battery expertise, software leadership, EV-supply economies of scale, bravery, or propensity for hardcore electric innovation to produce the Model 3. Look, I drive a BMW i3 — I love it. But it is not a Model 3, is not up to the level of the Model 3 in key regards for many consumers, and is never going to reach the production scale that the Tesla Model 3 is destined for.
Furthermore, BMW doesn’t want to have such a successful electric model. If it did, that would wipe out sales of its gas and diesel 3 Series, 4 Series, 5 Series, etc. That would put BMW in a very difficult financial situation, and presumably in a very difficult shareholder situation.
Luckily, we have Tesla. Because if we didn’t, we wouldn’t have the 4,000+/week Model 3s that we’re now getting.
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