For years, those of us who follow electric vehicles closely and get excited about every stage of the electric revolution tracked the “exciting” horse race of the top selling electric vehicles, vehicles which gave the new industry about 0.5% or 1% of the broader auto market. Overall, though, we have to admit that 1% is barely noticeable.
Did the Nissan LEAF, Chevy Volt, and Tesla Model S get some attention beyond our circles? Yeah, a bit. Did they enable the current era of electric vehicles? Certainly. But did your aunt and uncle know anything about them? Did loose colleagues at work start chattering about EVs? Most likely, no.
Lately, it feels like I’m seeing a lot more Teslas on the road, and it’s not uncommon for me to now see multiple Teslas at one intersection. “Normal people” have to be noticing them more and more, and realizing that they’re becoming quite popular. Yes, California’s been there for a long time, but now this is happening in Southwest Florida, and eventually it will happen in the suburbs of Oklahoma. However, Tesla is not going to take 100% of the market, and even 10% would be a tough stretch in the coming handful of years.
While many will be excited and intrigued by Tesla, others are not so interested in jumping onboard with young companies — even Tesla — and will go to their graves attached to traditional automakers. So, the Tesla models definitely need teammates — good ones.
The Volkswagen ID.4 & Ford Mustang Mach-E (and one or two more models I’ll mention later on) are superb potential teammates.
The Ford Mustang Mach-E Takes Its Position On The Right Flank
The Ford Mustang Mach-E offers excellent specs for fine middle-market pricing after you take the federal tax credit into account, and it offers a range of options now — from top-tier crossover performance down to $35,395 after the tax credit. It uses and evolves Ford’s most iconic brand. While many Ford fans may not see it yet, the Mach-E brings the Mustang brand to a whole new level. It will be the Ford to buy, and it deserves to be the aspirational vehicle of Ford fans who couldn’t care less about Tesla.
The Mustang Mach-E could have the cost of ownership of a Ford Escape (or even less) while offering much more performance, much better tech, and much more style & prestige. Who would buy an Escape over a Mustang Mach-E? (Some people will, because they won’t learn about or consider the Mustang Mach-E, but as long as the new EV is available on the lot and not hidden in a back corner, many Ford customers should drive away from the Ford dealership with the kind of smile on their faces that Tesla owners have when they leave a Tesla store after a test drive or drive their new car home from a delivery center.)
Holding the Mustang brand, it is not too far of a stretch for people to connect with and accept the new Mach-E. There is a long history and emotional message linked to the Mustang name that opens a few doors right off the bat. As long as that’s enough to get people to sit in the Mach-E, once they shut the door, they will feel like they entered the 21st century Space Age.
As more and more pop up on roads around us (assuming Ford has enough production capacity to make that happen and does a good enough job selling the vehicles), people will take notice of the new fleet of Tesla vehicles and the similarly designed, similar sounding, similarly spunky Mustang Mach-E mingling on the streets in between them. The impact will be much greater than from seeing more Teslas alone. It will show people that one of American’s most storied, most famous, and most successful companies is in on the electric mission as well.
Bill Ford will make more noise about the Mustang Mach-E once it’s actually on roads across America, and that feature on Mr. Ford was an eye-opening look for me on how serious he is about bringing Ford into the electric era.
The Volkswagen ID.4 Brings Up The Rear
Volkswagen does not have the same reputation, history, or sales volume as Ford in the United States, but it’s clearly a well known automaker with a moderate portion of the market. Also, recall that Toyota and Honda weren’t always dominant sales leaders in the USA and aren’t headquartered here. The same goes for Hyundai and Kia, which have become enormously more popular since I was in high school a couple of decades ago. A big improvement in vehicle offerings and a solid growth strategy can boost an automaker’s market share rather quickly in the grand scheme of things.
Why do I think Volkswagen has the opportunity right now? Well, the Volkswagen ID.4 is sitting in the middle of a truly seductive sweet spot. It comes in a few thousand dollars below the Ford Mustang Mach-E, just low enough to really torment some of the most popular vehicles on the US market — the Toyota RAV4 and Honda CR-V, for example. It also offers 20 miles more range at the base level than the lowest cost Mustang Mach-E. In other words, it is more of a “value crossover/SUV” than the Mustang for a bit less style, spunk, and American folklore. If you look around on streets across America today, this is what many people want.
Somehow, despite being a rather revolutionary electric model, the ID.4 conveys that image of a sensible, affordable, bland everyperson’s vehicle that is a more practical purchase than an exotic Tesla or Mustang (without being too boring). Many will surely want to argue that the Tesla Model Y is a smarter buy. Although I personally agree, I think it depends on the circumstances and people have to be open minded and aware that not everyone is going to be pulled into the Tesla story and Tesla tech like some of us are, and the Model Y’s starting price is $50,000 and cannot get you a federal EV tax credit, meaning its base price is $17,500 more than the ID.4’s. If it makes sense for Tesla to sell Model Ys like hotcakes, it also makes sense for Volkswagen to sell ID.4s like pancakes at an IHOP.
Again, the top two keys are whether Volkswagen produces enough to make this a high-volume vehicle in the USA (I think it will), and how well dealers make customers aware of the model and help slide them into the driver’s seat for some convincing test miles (yet to be seen).
Add the more nondescript, stealth ID.4 into the array of Teslas and Mustang Mach-Es on the road and you just further show people who are a bit attentive to what’s going on around them that the world is shifting to electric vehicles. You show them that there are compelling, popular electric vehicles for everyone — or almost everyone.
Also, recall that the Chevy Bolt, the Nissan LEAF, and a few other models will fill their roles and make up a bit of a garnish around the above models.
But, yes, there is one glaring segment that needs attention.
The Tesla Cybertruck will eventually arrive and reach decent volumes, but there’s no doubt that it is an odd vehicle in terms of design and won’t appeal to more conservative buyers who are scared to look different — or just don’t like it. I’ve been asking Santa for a Cybertruck incessantly for the past two years and my wife still doesn’t need to blink before saying she heavily prefers the Model Y over the Cybertruck.
An electric Ford F-150 could be just the vehicle America needs. It should check all the boxes. It should offer a cool, conservative alternative to the wacky Blade Runner–style Cybertruck. It should have truly awesome specs and more instant power than a gas or diesel truck could ever boast.
GM isn’t fond of being left behind either, and it’s quite adept at keeping new models a secret. Perhaps it is working on an electric Chevy Silverado it will try to get to market before or right around the same time as the electric Ford F-150. It’s hard to imagine GM not doing so and ceding that ground. The company was super proud to get the Chevy Bolt to market before the Tesla Model 3. I think it must be drooling over a potential repeat in the pickup truck arena.
Europe Showing Us The Way
Yes, when plugin vehicle sales are perhaps 2–3% of the auto market in the US, it’s hard to see the country getting to 20–30%, let alone 70–100%, any time soon. However, Europe was just recently at 2–3%, and it is going to be above 10% this year. Germany was long a laggard in the EV industry, but 20.5% of new passenger vehicle registrations in November were for plugin vehicles.
France was at 15% last month, Sweden was at 39%, and Norway was at 80%. We do have strong examples of relatively high and quickly climbing plugin vehicle market share in Western, capitalistic countries. (Though, I guess by Fox News and 2020 Republican standards, all of those capitalistic countries are dirty, backwards, savage communistic havens for Marxists and socialists — or something like that.)
The United States doesn’t have strong policies forcing automakers to make electric vehicles available to buyers. However, Europe does show us that making these vehicles available and actually trying to sell them leads to results. The public will buy electric vehicles if automakers offer them. As the old saying goes, build the EVs and they will come.
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