OpEd: Legacy Brands Must Solve Major 'EV Problems' To Catch Tesla

OpEd: Legacy Brands Must Solve Major 'EV Problems' To Catch Tesla


Legacy car companies (LCCs) are desperately trying to catch up with Tesla in building and marketing battery electric vehicles (BEVs). But, not desperately enough! The huge leads of Tesla in electric and software technologies are big problems for LCCs, but the LCC-dealers (LCC-Ds) problem may be the biggest.

Editor’s Note: Roper has been an EV supporter for years. He owns a 2018 Tesla Model 3 Long Range that he’s driven 42,000 miles. He just got the FSD Beta 10.8 update.

One of Roper’s daughters just sold her Chevrolet Bolt EV (his previous car) back to GM to get a Tesla Model Y. His other daughter drives his old 2015 Nissan LEAF. Clearly, Roper has graduated from the LEAF to the Bolt to a Tesla, so he has plenty of experience with EVs from both sides.

Anyone who has bought internal-combustion-engine vehicles (ICEVs) from LCCs for over sixty years, as this author has, could rattle off the many problems customers have buying ICEVs from LCCs. Buying a BEV from an LCC more than doubles the difficulties compared to buying a BEV from Tesla. Here is an incomplete list of LCC/LCC-D problems:

• When a Tesla is ordered online or at a Tesla store, the final price at delivery is fixed at the initially-stated MSRP; when a non-Tesla BEV is ordered online or through an LCC-D, if demand is high for a BEV, the LCC-D often adds an increment to the MSRP at delivery. When Tesla experiences high demand for one of its BEVs, it sometimes increases the MSRP before future customers order the BEV, but does not add an increment at delivery to a customer.

• Tesla does not try to sell customers accessories or special car treatments for a BEV at delivery; virtually all LCC- Ds do.

• Tesla can set a price for trade-ins and can arrange financing shortly after ordering a BEV; usually LCC-Ds do that at delivery.

• Delivery of a Tesla BEV can be very brief if the customer already understands how to drive it; delivery for an LCC BEV at an LCC-D can take up to two hours or longer. If a customer needs help understanding how to drive a Tesla, well-informed technicians are available at a Tesla store; salespersons at LCC-Ds are often not well informed about the BEV.

• Tesla does not require periodic maintenance in order for a warranty to remain valid; LCCs may require periodic costly maintenance at an LCC-D for a warranty to remain valid.

• Minor Tesla warranty and other repairs are usually done by a Tesla mobile technician at a location selected by the customer; most LCCs do not have this option, usually a non-Tesla BEV must be taken to an LCC-D for all repairs. A Tesla mobile technician can determine if a repair must be done at a Tesla repair shop.

• Tesla provides periodic software updates through a customer’s Internet connection at a rate of about two per month, which installs new BEV features about 6 times a year; most LCCs provide software updates only at LCC- Ds, and not so often.

• Tesla makes manufacturing improvements, including new BEV features, as they become available; LCCs do this mostly yearly. (Thus, the VIN number is more important for Teslas than the year of manufacture.)

It appears to this author that LCCs need to change their LCC-Ds to be more like Tesla stores in order to have a chance to catch up with Tesla!

It should be mentioned that the existence of Tesla Superchargers, with “Plug and Charge”, on major highways for Tesla BEVs to use on long trips gives Tesla a huge advantage over LCCs selling BEVs.

In a year or so, Tesla may open more Superchargers for use by LCC BEVs, but probably will not allow the convenience of Plug and Charge for them. Installing fast-charging stations for LCC BEVs is increasing rapidly, but more Tesla Superchargers are being installed rapidly, also.

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