Legacy Auto Is Losing to Tesla

Tesla is so far ahead, but other auto makers don’t even understand how.

After buying my first vehicle from a car dealership in 2018, I had some thoughts. I didn’t buy the fanciest car, just a 2017 Chevy Cruze from a Chevrolet dealer down in Cleveland, Ohio. I hated the entire process.

From feeling guilted — me, a 22 year old who could hardly afford rent — into a twisted contract with Capital One at a whopping 16% interest rate (yes, you read that correctly), to even small things most people overlook, like paying more than the car is actually worth through dealer fees, etc. So much about the car buying process is a rip-off and I hope I never set foot in a dealership again.

Thankfully, Adam Conover’s brilliant TruTV show that ran for four seasons, Adam Ruins Everything, criticizes dealerships for making this process suck as much as possible.

For one, if you want a new car, you are required to purchase from a dealership. Even online transactions directly from manufacturers go through a local dealer. It’s illegal to sell new cars if you aren’t a dealership and that law doesn’t look like it’s going away soon since states get nearly 20% of their sales tax revenue from dealerships.

The Tesla car-buying process is far easier.

Here’s how to buy a Tesla. Step 1: go to Tesla’s website. Step 2: purchase your car as if you were customizing it on Amazon. Step 3: fill out paperwork online. Step 4: done. It’s that easy.

Tesla’s plan to sell electric vehicles is a sort of genius that most people can really get behind. They don’t mass-produce their vehicles so it’s not built until you send in the deposit and they’re shaking up corrupt auto franchise laws that have benefited the industry since the 1930s.

If you’re in the market for an electric car, let’s break down your decision.

You want an electric car that gets good range. Seems easy enough, right. Most gas-powered cars get around 350–400 miles on a full tank of gas. My Chevy Cruze gets 340 — usually. Tesla’s premium sedan, the Model S, gets 402 miles of range, according to Tesla’s website. Even the Roadster, Tesla’s $200,000 sports car, gets 620 miles on a full charge because of the new battery technology.

So if you’re an auto manufacture building an EV with 200 miles of range, you’re already so far behind.

So far behind.

Let’s compare both the Model S, at $80,000-$90,000 depending on add-ons, and the more robust-built Porsche Taycan. I actually like the Taycan more. It’s entry-level price is $103,000. The car only gets 199 miles on a full charge. Why would anyone choose the Porsche over Tesla?

Not only are some of Tesla’s competitors not getting enough battery efficiency, but Tesla has a network of Superchargers that can fast-charge Tesla vehicles in under 20 minutes. It took a UK couple nine hours to complete what would traditionally be a 2.5 hour drive because Porsche doesn’t have a charging network. Most charging stations they visited were either out of order or not compatible with their Porsche.

Tesla’s more affordable Model 3 sedan is $38,000 base price. A 2020 Chevrolet Bolt EV is $500 cheaper. Now, despite both being in the same price point, Tesla’s car is far more attractive (the design on some legacy electric cars is disturbing). Even if you wanted something like the Bolt since it’s more akin to a crossover than a sedan, the Tesla Model Y starts at $45,000 and has 98 more miles of range, plus an expansive charging network that no legacy maker has replicated.

The Tesla drives better, it looks better, the tech inside is better. I couldn’t see any instance for which I’d recommend the Chevy Bolt over a Tesla Model Y. There’s no scenario.

Ford’s Mustang Mach-E and Porsche’s Taycan are both excellent electric vehicles. But without any sort of charging network, both just don’t have any sort of draw to purchase them over a Tesla, unless you never make road trips, literally ever, because they’ll likely be nearly impossible.

On the other hand, companies like GM and Nissan are building the least aesthetically-pleasing cars imaginable under their “electric” umbrella. Even tossing that aside, companies like GM claim to be going “all electric” in the future, but are still making diesel trucks.

Legacy auto is losing to Tesla for all of the reasons above. If you aren’t making an EV with at least 300 miles of range, if you’re not thinking of adapting to Tesla’s network (something Elon Musk has even offered), and if the cars you are building are hard to look at, then you’re not even on the lead lap of this race.

25, lives in Lansing. I write stuff about gadgets and video games.

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