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Tesla Motors Inc (TSLA) Has Ludicrous Lead on Rivals

Tesla Motors, Inc (NASDAQ:TSLA)

Tesla Motors Inc has what looks to many like an impossible to overcome lead on its growing list of rivals.  As the U.S. and much of the world works to move away from fossil fuels and toward more environmentally friendly transportation it’s easy to understand why so many would want to claim a piece of the EV market.  It’s one thing to want a piece of the market and another to get a piece and that will prove to be difficult for most rivals.  At this point, Tesla holds a ludicrous lead over every other EV maker.  Tesla is the pace-setter and as of today it has no real competitor – but they are coming.

Tesla Motors Inc (NASDAQ:TSLA) Model S and Roadster
The Tesla Motors Roadster (right) was Elon Musks first success with an EV although it almost cost him his fortune. The Model S (left) has become the standard in luxury EVs.

Current Tesla Competitors?

Nissan LeafThe simple answer is, there is no direct competitor.  That’s not to say that Tesla is the only EV maker in the world – there are many.  Mostly though, unlike cars we are all used to driving, they are small and provide very little range.  They’re great for getting around town or for short commutes.  The number one selling EV in the world isn’t made by Tesla.  It’s a Nissan – The Nissan Leaf.

The Nissan Leaf is worth mentioning because it is the more affordable alternative for drivers looking for a 100%, plugin EV.  It lacks the technology of the Tesla, gives drivers only an 85 mile range but it’s priced far below the Tesla.  It’s more readily available as well.

A few reasons Tesla holds a ludicrous lead

The Supercharger Network

Tesla (NASDAQ:TSLA) SuperCharger StationDespite some complaints from current Tesla owners regarding local Supercharger use, this is one of the best features that Tesla offers and it’s going to be very difficult to compete with.  Superchargers are super-fast charging stations that are strategically placed to make long distance travel easy for Tesla owners.  There are currently 512 Supercharger stations with 2,895 Superchargers.

tesla-supercharger-speed-graphSuperchargers are FREE to use for Tesla owners and can only be used with Tesla vehicles.  This infrastructure of charging stations is an important focus for the company as it gives an advantage no other auto maker can offer and one it will be very difficult for other auto makers to re-produce quickly.

When Tesla says Superchargers are fast, it’s not kidding.  In just 30 minutes, drivers can add 170 miles of range and while they are doing that they can grab a cup of coffee at a nearby Starbucks. Stations are strategically placed near restaurants and shopping giving drivers a nice place to take a break.

Batteries (Gigafactory)

Tesla Motors Inc Gigafactory Drone Flyover September 2015Tesla Motors Inc makes very expensive cars.  One reason for the high price is the high cost of batteries. To help overcome this challenge, Tesla is working hard to improve its battery technology and reduce costs.  One way to reduce cost is to scale up production which will improve manufacturing efficiencies.  This is where the Gigafactory becomes important.  Scheduled to open in 2017 but ahead of schedule, the first Gigafactory (there are more to come) is set to produce batteries for Tesla automobiles as well as the batteries used in the Tesla Powerwall for home use.  Tesla expects to reduce the cost of batteries by 30% or more.  Other than Tesla, no other car manufacturer is close to tackling the battery issue at least not yet.  Just another way Tesla is pulling away from the pack.

Tesla has an incredible reputation

Just a few weeks ago, the Tesla Model S P85D broke Consumer Reports rating system scoring 103 points on a scale that tops out at 100 points.  That’s how much owners of the car love it.  And they love it for so many reasons.  Among them:

Ease of Purchase – Buyers bypass the traditional dealership model which can be frustrating.  They customize and order their Tesla online, place a deposit and as hard as it may be, they wait for delivery.  The no-dealership model is being challenged in court cases in many states but Tesla has been overcoming those challenges with relative ease so far.

Delivered Promises – Tesla doesn’t promise perfection but what they deliver is close to that.  The Model S is as luxurious as just about any car out there, the technology is 2nd to none and the car is fast.  Very fast. In some cases (Model S P90D with the right options), ludicrously fast going from 0 – 60 in 2.8 seconds.  Customer service is without peer with staff that goes beyond anything you’ll see at a traditional auto service department.  Owners arrive at their service appointments to a red carpet reception and immediate attention.   Loaners are typically a nicer Model S than you’re bringing in for service.  Good plan, Tesla!

Great Technology – The gradual introduction of Auto-pilot features is only one way Tesla is crushing the competition with technology.  Traffic-aware cruise control already allows drivers to let the car control acceleration and braking.  Lane-keeping is promised in the next several weeks.  Combine those two features and you can just about let the car drive itself on the highway.

The Auto-pilot features are great but the first thing you notice when you climb into a Tesla is the 17 inch touch screen monitor that can display everything from energy usage, navigation, entertainment and even a web browser.  The car is always online via 3G connections at no monthly cost to the owner.  All music is streaming via included apps.  The car will even route your travel through Supercharger stations removing “range anxiety” on long trips.

It’s going to be hard to catch up to Tesla

With the soon to be delivered Tesla Model X and the lower priced Model 3 expected in 2017, Tesla continues to create a lead that seems very difficult to overcome. The technology behind an EV is being refined, the costs are coming down and the demand is rising.  There is little question that as these improved and less expensive EVs become available, more people will be driving them. The reality is that there really are no Tesla competitors currently out there. The technology is at its very earliest stage, and is being pushed forward by Tesla.

[Full disclosure: I’m long TSLA]

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David is cool! :)