There’s a lot of EV crossover competition coming down the pike but don’t expect established gas-engine automakers to suddenly wrest the EV market from Tesla.
In short: The Tesla Model Y will dominate the EV crossover category because it’s the most recognized EV brand – certainly in the U.S.
With over 500,000 VIN registrations for the Model 3, it’s not a giant leap of faith to see the Model Y – with a starting price of $39,000 for the 230-mile range version – garnering market share and mind share quickly.
Crossover competition has arrived
Yes, the EV crossover competition has already arrived in the U.S., including the Audi e-Tron, Hyundai Kona EV, Jaguar I-PACE, and the Kia Niro EV – not to mention the 2020 Chevy Bolt (with an upwardly revised range of 259 miles), and the Nissan Leaf S Plus.
But, remember, all the above EVs are from traditional automakers. They’re ICE vehicle makers first, EV makers second. And right now EVs are a distant second in sales. Don’t believe me? Go visit the U.S. dealer lots of any of those car manufacturers. It’s wall-to-wall gas-engine vehicles (with a few exceptions in markets like Los Angeles).
Still don’t believe me? Check out this sales chart from InsideEVs for the month of September. The much-vaunted Audi e-Tron sold a whopping 434 copies, the Hyundai Kona EV 190, The Jaguar I-Pace, 160, Kia Niro EV 90 etc.
Even if you allow for lack of availability because the above are just coming on the market, long-established nameplates like the Nissan Leaf (in its current iteration as the 226-mile-range Leaf S Plus) and the BMW i3 are not going gangbusters, with sales of just over 1,000 for the Leaf and half that for the i3 in September.
The only EV really in the running at all in September was the Chevy Bolt* with 2,125 copies sold, according to InsideEVs.
And the Model 3? Over 19,000 sold in September, about 8 times the closest competition. It’s not ludicrous to expect that the Model Y will post monthly numbers certainly higher than, for example, a Bolt EV. And probably much higher.
Model S and X will bow to the Model Y, launch to happen in summer
Meanwhile Tesla is ramping up production of the Model Y earlier than expected.
Regarding Model Y, we’re also ahead of schedule on Model Y preparations in Fremont, and we’ve moved the launch timeline from full 2020 to summer 2020. There may be some room for improvement there, but we’re confident about summer 2020.
–Elon Musk, October 24, 2019, third quarter earnings conference call (via Seeking Alpha).
And Tesla’s priorities are pretty clear as the company gets ready for Model Y production. In responding to a question from an analyst on the October 24 call Musk said:
The Model S and X are really niche — they’re really niche products. I mean, they’re very expensive, made in low volume. To be totally frank, we’re continuing to make them more for sentimental reasons than anything else. They’re really of minor importance to the future.
Musk also mentioned that Tesla will “build out more facilities for Model Y production at Shanghai.”
Production glitches are the X factor
Of course, a surge in Model Y deliveries in, let’s say, early 2021 is dependent on Model Y manufacturing being as ready as Musk claims. And the CEO has a tendency for excessive bullishness and exaggeration when it comes to expectations.
Barring an unforeseen event, however, Tesla is more ready now for large-scale mass production than it was back in July of 2017 when it faced a year of production hell and was in the throes of becoming a high-volume car manufacturer.
The Long Range and Performance variants of the Model Y —which you can order now from Tesla’s website – start at $48,000 and $61,000, respectively.
*In the spirit of full disclosure, I drive a 2018 Chevy Bolt.
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I was a founding member of CNET news and hardware editor at CNET, a contributing technology reporter for the New York Times, and a reporter and editor at the Asian Wall Street Journal Weekly — the latter in Japan, where I lived for ten years. Currently a contributing reporter for Fox News.