Every phenomenon needs a hero to make it sexy. F1 needs Ferrari. Running needs Usain Bolt. Smart phones need Apple, and, well, bodybuilding needed Arnold Schwarzenegger.
In much the same way, electric cars need Tesla. Founded by real world Tony Stark, Elon Musk, Tesla started off with the Roadster – which, based on a Lotus Elise, was a good place to start. It was nothing if it wasn’t sexy. At a time when carmakers were developing EVs that looked sorry to have even dared to venture out on the public road what Tesla brought to market was seemingly a middle finger to the car it was based on – and all others propelled by something as antiquated and pedestrian as fossil fuels.
This audacity was met by the sheer genius of the Model S – a car that shattered all the expectations of what an electric car was capable of. It was like a combination of the Ford Model T and the Jaguar E Type for the electric car world. But it is expensive. So you can imagine the hype and sheer hysteria that surrounded the reveal of the Model 3 – Tesla’s first mid priced machine. It was as though Elon Musk was handing out free tickets to his Space X shuttle to Mars – yes, he is planning to send people to Mars!
In the midst of all this, the traditional carmakers are left just scratching their heads. The BMW i3, which would compete directly with the Model 3, has about one-third the claimed range of the Tesla. The Chevy Bolt, which was shown at CES for the first time earlier this year, almost doubled the range of the BMW but still finds itself only two-thirds of the way there. And relative to Tesla it has about as much cache as a pair of Bata chappals compared with a pair of Ferragamos.
So what’s a conventional manufacturer to do – especially considering that the likes of Apple and Google are working furiously to redefine the automotive landscape? Well, they better start thinking outside the box and up their game.
Sure, for the most part, they’re all nursing pretty healthy bank balances compared with a few years ago, but it doesn’t take long for the tide to change and for them to find that there’s suddenly no wind in their sails. And they certainly don’t want to be devoid of sex appeal, do they?