Originally published on EVANNEX.
Elon Musk is consistently accused of being late. Sure, Tesla typically takes longer to launch its electric cars than Musk’s overzealous timelines. But no one can argue with his sense of urgency to expedite EVs to market. On the other hand, how are legacy automakers faring in their race to go electric?
According to a former Tesla staffer, Hamish McKenzie, and author of Insane Mode: How Elon Musk’s Tesla Sparked a Revolution to End the Age of Oil, “Other car companies, from General Motors to BMW aren’t showing the same sense of urgency — and that could be their downfall.” For instance, “GM has promised 20 electric models by 2023 and has said it believes ‘the future is all-electric,’ but it hasn’t set a date by which it will make the full transition.”
McKenzie writes in Marketwatch that “trends from Tesla alone should be enough to scare the hell out of established automakers. In August, Tesla’s Model 3 comfortably outsold the perennially best-selling BMW 3-Series in U.S. according to sales estimates. That’s impressive for Tesla’s first foray into the premium mass-market segment, but it’s only just getting started. The cheapest version of the Model 3 is yet to come, and Tesla still has hundreds of thousands of back-orders to fill. Last quarter, Tesla made twice as many cars at it did in the previous quarter. And it’s now profitable.”
Meanwhile, “Other automakers seem to be hoping that mild gestures and good publicity will get them through… The problem for traditional automakers is that they are too deeply wedded to an old technology headed for obsolescence — along with the way they’ve been doing business for decades.” As an example, McKenzie points to “BMW [which] has announced plans for 25 electric models by 2025, but its head of research and development has said he expects 85% of the company’s cars will still have internal combustion engines in 2030.”
McKenzie sat down with Carsten Breitfeld who previously ran BMW’s i3 and i8 electric car programs. According to Breitfeld, “They’re doing too many cars right now with the old technology, earning a lot of money out of it, being very profitable.” The board directors at these companies are focused on three-to-five-year outcomes instead of the long term, says Breitfeld. “They’re concentrating very much on today’s and tomorrow’s businesses.”
At the end of the day, McKenzie explains, “The established automakers still have a chance of participating in an electric revolution, but those who assume they will be there by default are being overly optimistic. The car company of the future is not one that can produce the occasional good electric car among a suite of gasoline-burners. It must concentrate on developing cars that will dominate the next 20 years. The longer it waits, the greater the challenge becomes. Ask yourself who you’d rather be: Tesla or GM? Better yet, ask Nokia.”