Jaguar Land Rover I-Pace (Photographer: SeongJoon Cho/Bloomberg)

Germany's Electric Cars Are Coming for Elon Musk and Tesla

(Bloomberg) -- Elon Musk started Tesla Inc. with a goal of accelerating the switch to electric cars by about a decade.

That wish is now catching up with him. Starting with Jaguar’s I-Pace crossover and later this year Audi’s e-tron, virtually every major carmaker is rolling out stylish, sporty electric vehicles in the mold of his Models S, X and 3. Unlike Tesla, they have roughly a century of experience launching models every few months and can spread development costs across a broad portfolio.

“The vehicles I’ve seen are far superior to anything Tesla has,” Mike Jackson, chief executive officer of U.S. vehicle retailer AutoNation Inc., said on an earnings call Tuesday, referring to German carmakers’ electric lineups. “They are in a massive pivot and shift away from diesel investment into electrification in both pure electric and plug-in hybrid.”

For the unprofitable California-based carmaker, they’re coming at a tumultuous time. Tesla said Wednesday that it burned another $1 billion in cash in the first quarter, and while Musk committed the company to solving production issues for the Model 3 -- the key to bringing electric vehicles to the masses -- he also shut down analysts asking pointed questions on a conference call.

While Jaguar’s I-Pace SUV has been available for order since last month, Tesla’s stiffest challenge will come from Germany. A phalanx of fossil-free competition is heading for dealer showrooms -- from Volkswagen’s I.D. family, aimed at the mass market, to the Mercedes EQ C crossover and Porsche’s Mission E, both coming next year. Porsche last week upped its forecast, saying sales of plug-in and electric cars would make up half of total deliveries by 2025.

Even so, Tesla is set to remain a force in the electric vehicle market, according to IHS Markit. It’s persevering, and doesn’t show any sign of letting up, according to Stephanie Brinley, an analyst with the researcher.

“Tesla has a good starting point, and new competition doesn’t negate Tesla,” she said.

©2018 Bloomberg L.P.

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