As Brand Goes Electric, Porsche R&D Head Says Tesla Not a Direct Rival

Matt Posky
by Matt Posky
as brand goes electric porsche r d head says tesla not a direct rival

Now that Porsche has committed to Volkswagen Group’s plan for widespread electrification and manufactured its first purpose-built EV, many are starting to make comparisons with Tesla. Like it or not, Porsche’s Taycan is probably the closest competition the Tesla Model S has.

Porsche’s R&D boss, Michael Steiner, doesn’t like the comparison, saying any direct juxtapositions are apples to oranges — even if Tesla’s recent attempts to call out Porsche’s newest model seem contrary to this.

Some of the differences are obvious. Tesla clearly set out to build an all-electric luxury vehicle with explosive acceleration, while Porsche designed a comprehensive sports sedan (read: Porsche-like) that could fling itself around corners while also melting your face with straight-line speed. But they’re both sedans, roughly the same size, aimed upmarket, insanely fast, and rely entirely on electricity to move about. Still, Steiner told Automotive News in a recent interview that Porsche doesn’t actually view Tesla as an important competitor.

“Although people like to play us off against each other, we do not consider Tesla to be a direct rival,” he said. “With the Model 3, it’s clear that they are more aggressively targeting the volume segment.”

While the answer came in response to questions regarding Tesla’s attempt to outshine Porsche on the Nurburgring, Steiner eluded to the two automakers playing to entirely different demographics. He referenced the Model 3 and stated that’s not the car the German brand needs to be on the lookout for. We would also argue that Porsche has also become a volume brand, otherwise it would have never built the Macan.

That said, there are marketing distinctions between the two companies’ electric sedans. The Taycan is clearly trying to cater to a novel subset of driving enthusiasts while the Model S services tech-minded customers in general. Then there’s the pricing.

Starting at $103,800, Porsche’s EV delivers reportedly sublime handling and a dash to 60 mph in under 4.0 seconds. Fees for Tesla’s flagship sedan can vary month-to-month, but it currently starts around $74,000 and boasts a similar (if not superior) rush to highway speeds. It’s much the same when you move up to the top-trimmed models. Quicker on paper, the Model S Performance starts at $94,000, though real-world testing has shown the Taycan Turbo S to be more capable when exposed to repeated abuse on a racetrack. Unfortunately, it costs $185,000 and needs the right kind of roadway to truly spread its wings.

Much of the Taycan’s strengths have been undermined by a presumed lack of range. The model’s all-electric range peaks at 201 miles, with some versions getting less than that. The current Model S, on the other hand, promises a minimum of 348 miles, with Extended Range variants claiming 390 miles per charge. However, independent tests have shown real-world economy being much closer than the EPA estimates make it seem. In one test, Car & Driver claimed the difference was negligible,with Tesla’s numbers coming way down (while still being better overall).

Not all tests show the two being so evenly matched, and there’s an assumption afoot that Volkswagen Group’s battery tech isn’t up to snuff. When asked how far behind Porsche’s hardware was, Steiner claimed it wasn’t — adding that the brand intends to move forward with battery tech at the expense of the internal combustion engine.

“Tesla employs round cells, a slightly different chemistry and another cooling concept, all of which have their specific advantages and disadvantages. In our opinion the kind of high battery capacities you might find installed in a Model S are not ideal in terms of sustainability,” he said. “We believe in smaller, lighter and therefore less expensive batteries that can be recharged more quickly. It’s not our aspiration to be the leader in electric range.”

“Also, while we don’t currently plan to develop another combustion engine architecture, that doesn’t mean that we cannot maintain and improve models using the existing ones. That is valid for the Macan, because we cannot expect electric mobility to advance in all regions at the same pace, so we currently anticipate that in specific segments there will be a need to offer both a combustion engine and a full-electric or plug-in hybrid version in parallel. Customers and regulators will determine how long it will be necessary to maintain this.”

So that leaves Porsche with a mixed lineup slated to shift gradually towards heavy electrification. Assuming the brand follows through, that only differentiates it from Tesla in the short term. Eventually, Porsche’s lineup will look very much like Tesla’s — just with higher price points and more performance-focused models in its stable. Perhaps it doesn’t make sense to view the American firm as a true rival at present, but consumers are already making the association — and Porsche’s long-term strategy seems to be forcing the issue. Until customers have more all-electric brands from which to choose, any company offering premium EVs will be seen as a Tesla competitor … even if it’s not wholly fair.

[Image: Porsche]

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3 of 23 comments
  • Bigoak Bigoak on Apr 16, 2020


  • HotPotato HotPotato on Apr 16, 2020

    Porsche makes a car with half the range at twice the price, with no performance advantage on the street, and sells approximately none...then says they're "not a competitor" for Tesla. I'll say.

    • Inside Looking Out Inside Looking Out on Apr 16, 2020

      That's a negative statement. Porsche does not say what it is but rather what it is not. It is the sign of weakness.

  • SPPPP It seems like a really nice car that's just still trying to find its customer.
  • MRF 95 T-Bird I owned an 87 Thunderbird aka the second generation aero bird. It was a fine driving comfortable and very reliable car. Quite underrated compared to the GM G-body mid sized coupes since unlike them they had rack and pinion steering and struts on all four wheels plus fuel injection which GM was a bit late to the game on their mid and full sized cars. When I sold it I considered a Mark VII LSC which like many had its trouble prone air suspension deleted and replaced with coils and struts. Instead I went for a MN-12 Thunderbird.
  • SCE to AUX Somebody got the bill of material mixed up and never caught it.Maybe the stud was for a different version (like the 4xe) which might use a different fuel tank.
  • Nopiho Kovaon GOOGLE
  • Inside Looking Out Scandinavian design costs only $600? I mean the furniture.