The Audi E-Tron GT is finally here, and it’s going to kick off a friendly rivalry with its distant stablemate, the Porsche Taycan. But I can’t stop thinking that the real winner in all this isn’t Volkswagen Group. It’s Tesla.
And it’s less about the Model S suddenly becoming a less-formidable competitor — even against carmakers whose task is building incredibly fast cars — and more about the relative affordability of Tesla’s Model 3.
Because the Model 3 is the EV that most American drivers can potentially buy.
We are full-charge ahead on EVs, but so far the EVs making waves are halo EVs like the Taycan, E-Tron and until recently, the Model S. Those three cars start at around $80,000 and easily go into six figures.
Meanwhile, the entry-level Model 3 starts at about $38,000, less than the 2020 average new car transaction price, according to KBB. That’s still quite a bit of money but not so much that it takes the BEV out of the running for many buyers. Never mind that there are similarly priced EVs out there like the Bolt, Leaf or Mach-E. Those don’t have the kind of following or exposure to the mass market that Teslas have, for better or for worse.
Tesla’s ubiquity isn’t always good; the carmaker and its umm, eccentric leader can be the butt of the joke sometimes, but joke or not, drivers know of Tesla. Its Model 3 didn’t quite deliver on the promise of the affordable EV, but Tesla is in a position to develop that car so that its quality can catch up with its price.
Tesla could even find itself in position to deliver a truly affordable EV that would start at $25,000, maybe. Not a lot of other companies can say that. It’s possible that the big carmakers can bring the fight to Tesla using federal tax credits — let’s see how things shake out in the near future on that front.
But for now Tesla is in an enviable place as a maker of electric cars. Meanwhile, Porsche and Audi are patting themselves on the back for being makers of what may as well be electric super cars.