The Sales War : how Tesla won over Mercedes and

BMW in the United States.

by Niccolò Ferrari

EVs are a niche product. They’re too expensive, their milage is mediocre, if compared to the fossil-fuel counterpart, and the technology is still new.

Or, at least, that’s what most of the people thought a few years ago.

In this statement, some truth can be found. Prices are still high: there are just a handful of EVs placed in the lower tier, with most of the placed in the premium section, for obvious reasons. Moreover, milage is still a relevant issue for many customers, especially in rural areas of the world.  However, things have changed dramatically in the last years: as an example, if we consider premium sedan sales in the United States in year 2015, the best-selling models were the BMW 3-Series and the Mercedes-Benz C-Class, with 94,527 and 86,080 units sold.

 The hottest EV was the Tesla model S, with a mere 18,645. Moving forward to year 2021, things changed dramatically: what were the most sold vehicles back then, now sit far from the top with around 50,000 and 30,000 units sold each. On the contrary, the first spot of this segment is taken by Tesla itself, with the Model 3, with an astonishing 138,000 units. 

Apart from the numbers, what is most of interest is the change of perception of the customers, regarding EVs. The sentiment, reported in the first sentence of this article, has and is swiftly changing. Buyers now consider electric cars as a concrete alternative to the usual premium vehicles, such as BMW and Mercedes. Range has increased, even for the same model, year on year and with every new generation of the same model. The infrastructure is growing and, for most of the people who live in urbanized areas, charging stations, be it at home or in public spaces, have become less of an issue.

Another factor that contributed to this shift, is seeing traditional automakers offer electric versions of their traditional models. As an example, Ford, with the Mustang Mach-E, not only offers a direct competitor to the Tesla Model 3, but is perceived by the customer as much more confidence inspiring product, backed by a more solid maker.

In conclusion, in the last years there has been a disruption, with electric models from Tesla reigning in their respective categories. However, as traditional carmakers started producing competitive offerings, they could gain back some of the ground lost in the last years. These companies have decades, if not centuries, of know-how, reputation, and production. Tesla beat them at their own game, numbers do not lie. However, there might be a second round in this exciting match, and the winner must not be taken for granted. On either side.

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