Hint: A cool and sexy car can get you laid.
Take one look at the new Tesla Model 3. Gorgeous, ain't it? Even if you have no plans to buy one it's really hard to deny that it's a real looker. Although the Model 3 is not expected to be delivered to the more than 276,000 people ($11 billion in eventual sales) who've pre-ordered one until late next year, competing automakers like GM, Ford, Nissan, BMW and VW are already worried. They won't admit it but they are, and here's why: All these other EVs are ugly (bland at best), or are nothing more than existing cars that dropped gas engines for electric motors.
Let's break this down one by one. We'll start with the first mainstream affordable EV, the Nissan Leaf. It really does look like the ultimate dorkmobile, the type of car only tree-hugging hippies would ever consider buying after spending hours debating whether or not to give up their precious bicycles. Really, Nissan. That was the best design you could come up with? The second-gen Leaf needs to look so different and so much better it might as well not even be called Leaf (stupid name, by the way). We were at Detroit in January when Chevrolet revealed the Bolt and were impressed with its interior quality, performance specs, and range. Exterior design?
A cross between a Star Wars storm trooper helmet and a golf cart painted something that's not off-white with grass stains. Definitely less dorky than the Leaf, which isn't hard to do, but it's still not sexy. The Bolt has no presence and does nothing to let others know that its technology is special and state-of-the-art. As for Ford, simply swapping out a gasoline engine for an EV powertrain isn't anywhere close to being good enough. Do you think EV buyers are stupid? These people want other people to know their green credentials, the fact they drive something unconventional to help save the world (at least in their minds, which is another argument entirely).
Slapping an "EV" badge and a somewhat different grille on the car goes largely unnoticed. Same deal goes for that stupid e-Golf from VW, which costs more than a GTI. Here's a sample conversation: "What do you drive?" Reply: "Oh, I have an e-Golf." First guy: "Really, looks exactly the same as all of the other 18,000-some Golfs VW sold in all of 2015." Second guy: "Damn it." The BMW i3 is an extremely impressive piece of tech. But it doesn't look cool. It looks more like a bulldog that got punched in the face. Things couldn't be more different with Tesla than with any of these aforementioned carmakers. Tesla, like Apple, knows how to make its products look sexy.
Sexy becomes trendy. Trendy translates to high demand and massive sales. Lame looking EV hatchbacks aren't trendy or sexy and never will be. Tesla's big concern now is to deliver on time and without any glitches. The Model 3 and its $35,000 base price and minimum 215-mile range could very well be the sexy and affordable EV nobody has so far been able to build. Like Apple, Tesla customers are buying into a product lifestyle not offered anywhere else. Mainstream automakers still haven't realized that and, perhaps most importantly, EVs need to look as good if not better than conventionally powered cars.