Tesla Motors Inc is inching closer to the big unveil even and will soon begin taking preorders for its mass-market Model 3. Rivals in the automobile industry are not taking things lying down. On Thursday, I wrote about how Tesla is already causing traditional automakers to lose sleep because of the upcoming Model 3. I talked about how Tesla courted all the attention at the New York International Auto Show even though the firm wasn’t physically present at the show.
Model 3 faces Toyota challenge
Now, new revelations have emerged on plans by Toyota to take on Tesla’s Model 3 in the mass-market for EV. Toyota displayed a prototype of the Prius Prime at the auto show, the Prius Prime is designed to be an upgrade over the original Prius as it focuses on being more eco-friendly, pocket-friendly, and tech-oriented at the same time. However, the Model 3 seems to be way ahead of the curve and making a Model 3 to Prius Prime comparison might end up being an Apple to Oranges comparison.
Here’s what we know about Toyota Prius Prime
Tesla Motors has raised the bar on electric cars very high with the Model S and Model X – it is no longer news that Tesla is giving cars that run on gas a run for their money in the luxury automobile market. Nobody outside of Tesla knows what to expect from the Model 3 but we have some hints and the fact that the Model 3 is coming from Tesla has practically erased any fear of a possibility that the Model 3 might disappoint buyers.
Toyota is trying to preempt Tesla’s Model 3 with its Prius Prime and it has cramped enough features that makes the car look like a Model S wannabe; yet, it is trying to keep its cost in the mass-market price range. To start with, the Prius Prime is an electric-gas hybrid that gets a combined 600-mile range on gas and electric power. However, the reality suggests that it can’t go beyond 22 miles on battery power alone – how does this thing even want to compete with a Tesla?
Toyota outfits the car with an 11.6-inch portrait-aspect touchscreen – not quite the 17-inch touchscreen in Tesla’s older cars. The Prius touch-enabled display does provide info on fuel/electric usage, charging schedule, a ChargePoint map, and some touch-sensitive buttons on both sides of the bezel. The car also has a smart HVAC system that routes air to occupied seats to save energy on heating and cooling.
Rumors has it that the Prius Prime will hit the market with a suggested retail price of $28,000 – much cheaper than the Model 3 but Slash Gear notes that the Prius Prime “feels unpleasantly plasticky, and the synthetic leather seats (optional)… aren’t especially convincing even as faux-hide goes.”
Audi admits that Tesla has done everything right
Toyota’s attempt to develop eco-friendly cars is commendable; it is in the best interest of everybody in the end. However, I find its attempt to mimic and compete with Tesla slightly comical even though Tesla is the usurper in the mass market. Audi is one of the biggest rivals that Tesla will be competing against in the EV space in the next couple of years as the German automaker prepares to debut its E-Quatrro EV.
Nonetheless, Audi’s EV chief, Stefan Niemand has praised Tesla Motors at the recently held Technical Congress of Germany’s automotive industry organization. Niemand was quoted saying, “I hate to admit it, but Tesla did everything right.” There are also rumors that Audi might have imported a Model X into Germany for reverse engineering or benchmarking.
Toyota has its own strengths, but building EVs is certainly not one of those strengths. The firm is practically taking on more than it can handle in its attempt to compete against Tesla.