In just three months, Tesla, the electric car maker, has tripled its market value, surpassing even Volkswagen, the world’s largest carmaker. This has prompted many in the industry to lament that Tesla’s lead is becoming more and more obvious. Peter Rawlinson, chief executive of start-up Lucid Motors, said: “There is a recognition that Tesla is in an unparalleled position in terms of electric vehicle technology. “
The praise echoes recent comments by Herbert Diess, VW’s chief executive: “Cars will be the most important mobile device.” If we see this, we can understand why analysts are so highon of Tesla. “
On January 22nd Tesla’s market capitalisation surpassed that of the German manufacturing giant. Less than two weeks later, Tesla’s market value was $140.6 billion, about $50 billion more than VW’s.
Mr. Rawlinson was Model S’ chief engineer before joining Lucid Motors in 2013, but he has not always been so bullish on Tesla, and has even downplayed the products of his former employer as not a real luxury.
But since that interview, Tesla has built an overwhelming lead in the U.S. electric car market, and the Model 3 has become one of Europe’s best-selling cars. Tesla built its first overseas assembly plant in China in just over a year and began delivering domestic cars last month. The company plans to deliver Model Y to customers in March, months ahead of schedule.
“We think Tesla is leading in battery and electric vehicle technology,” said Adam Jonas, an analyst at Morgan Stanley. Tesla has moved from a car unit to a technology unit, comparable to Amazon, Apple and Google. “
Global carmakers, from Volkswagen to GM, are pouring billions of dollars into electric vehicles in an attempt to replicate Tesla’s magic in the stock market while meeting stricter emissions standards around the world. But Mr Rawlinson said the latest electric cars, including the Audi e-tron and Porsche Taycan, had poor battery life, suggesting that traditional carmakers were lagging far behind.
“I’m not criticizing the Germans, they’ve created a lot of cars and put them on the market, which is fantastic,” Rawlinson said. But the technological divide between them and Tesla has proved to be still there. “
Musk said on a conference call that the Model Y will have a range of 507 kilometers, which will easily beat the Audi e-tron and Porsche Taycan, which are estimated to have a range of just over 320 kilometers.
Mr. Rawlinson says traditional automakers are at a disadvantage in making battery-electric vehicles because they have to keep spending money and resources on internal combustion engines, which has affected their improvements in vehicle design and battery pack efficiency.
He also said even deep-pocketed carmakers such as Volkswagen and GM, which can invest in dedicated electric vehicle platforms, are lagging behind because they are not focusing on developing electric vehicle technology in-house.
Meanwhile, Gene Munster, managing partner at Loup Ventures, a venture capital firm and a prominent analyst at bullish Tesla, said that while it was too early to value Tesla like Apple, the comparison would become more credible as long as Musk continued to generate revenue.
“The theory of Tesla’s commercial marvel is rooted in the company’s few competitors for several years,” Munster wrote in a research note. Tesla has led the way in electric vehicles for nearly a decade because other automakers are under-invested in electric vehicles. “