By on April 15, 2020

Image: Porsche AG

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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23 Comments on “As Brand Goes Electric, Porsche R&D Head Says Tesla Not a Direct Rival...”

  • avatar

    Tesla is no threat to anyone. That maker of luxury golf carts still cannot produce a car at a level of quality to equal anything from Japan. I repeatedly see awful paint that has to be corrected and is applied so thin as to make one question if anyone with paint experience was consulted on the assembly line. I see constant assembly gaps that would not even be acceptable on AMC in the 1970’s.

    These vehicles are luxury only in the area of the price that the company charges; materials are not at that level and using a tablet does not mean you are delivering acceptable information in an easy and safe way to do.

    I had to laugh that the new Model Egg (the Model 3 hatchback) has “off road” as an option. You’d be better off taking a 1964 Ford Falcon off road than a Tesla CAR.

    • 0 avatar

      Paint can be fixed. Japanese styling not so much. The assembly gaps aren’t a big issue now, and even then, that can be fixed. What do you do with a Toyota front end? How about honda styling? Can’t fix that.

  • avatar

    I too have been unimpressed by the quality of fit/finish in Tesla. I have one friend who bought an early model X and got rid of it because the gull wing doors were an unending problem. Yet, except for that one friend, people who have them seem to really like them.
    IDK what will happen down the road at 4 or 5 years old and having no warranty on the more mundane parts of the vehicles. Also for me, running short on a charge and waiting in line at a super charger is NOT appealing. I sat in too many gas lines in ‘73 and ‘79 to go through that sort of thing again.

  • avatar

    Gotta give the customers some sort of hook to rationalize to themselves why they are paying so much, and this is it.

    (Not that I’d rather have a Tesla than a Taycan, but, well, the price of the latter is hard to justify without badge snob factor.)

    • 0 avatar
      Guy A

      Porsche is always expensive in it’s segment. You get a better built car, a higher quality interior, more customisation and more consistent performance with the Porsche.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    Tesla is kicking Porshe’s (and Volkswagen/Audi’s) butt in EVs, so naturally Porsche says they’re really not competitors. High school guys say the same thing when they can’t get a date with the cheerleader – “she’s really not my type anyway”.

    As for range, price, and value, the Audi e-Tron has similar problems as the Porsche. And the VW ID series is stalled with huge software bugs.

    But the Porsche’s better paint is definitely worth the extra $50k, if that’s what you value.

    • 0 avatar

      Well the paint, and the interior, and the support, and the styling. I’m starting out snarky, but I guess I don’t mean it. Tesla has done some amazing things, but damn the Porsche is just nicer. As far as the range goes, I don’t trust it anymore- I’ve now seen 3 different tests where they’re far closer than they sound on paper.

      Are you out shopping for an electric car or are you shopping for a luxury sport sedan and you want to be eco-conscious.

      • 0 avatar

        “Tesla has done some amazing things”

        If you think building low quality, unreliable cars that take forever to get fixed “amazing” then I guess so!

    • 0 avatar
      Guy A

      Porsche makes a profit, so whose butt is being kicked?
      Porsche is a higher quality and better brand thank Tesla. Tesla is more Audi.

    • 0 avatar
      Art Vandelay

      If you track your car and obviously the money is no object, the Porsche’s performance is repeatable where as Tesla is fond of posting Hot Laps and letting people that know no better extrapolate that it can keep those times up for multiple laps. I have now seen 2 model 3s on the track. I don’t know range wise what they could do as the tires were the limiting factor…both drivers were chunking them early on. I don’t know if the Porsche does this, but it could be that the price difference is currently what it takes to run an EV at speed on a track in a repeatable manner. If this is important to you, and it is to some, the Porsche is the better option, again in a cost no object environment.

  • avatar

    Herr Steiner should get his head examined not embracing one pedal driving on a “sport sedan.” Please. Model S feels exactly like a manual transmission car. Taycan is and feels like a car with automatic transmission. Some sport sedan. No thanks.

    • 0 avatar

      “Herr Steiner should get his head examined not embracing one pedal driving on a “sport sedan.” Please. Model S feels exactly like a manual transmission car. Taycan is and feels like a car with automatic transmission. Some sport sedan. No thanks.”

      What??? I have a 5 speed BMW and my neighbor’s Model S does not feel ANYTHING like a manual transmission car. Do you know how to drive a manual transmission?

    • 0 avatar

      “Herr Steiner should get his head examined not embracing one pedal driving on a “sport sedan.” Please. Model S feels exactly like a manual transmission car. Taycan is and feels like a car with automatic transmission. Some sport sedan. No thanks.”

      What??? I have a 5 speed BMW and my neighbor’s Model S does not feel ANYTHING like a manual transmission car. Do you know how to drive a manual transmission?

      • 0 avatar

        I drive nothing but manual transmission. Model S feels exactly like a manual transmission car. It has strong engine braking when you release the gas pedal. It does not creep forward when you let go the brake pedal. It will roll back on an incline. It has the same measured, linear, immediate response to throttle like a manual transmission car. The fact that you don’t need to shift is icing on the cake. You get all the benefits of manual transmission and none of the drawbacks.

        • 0 avatar
          Tele Vision

          ‘You get all the benefits of manual transmission and none of the drawbacks.’

          Shifting gears is a pleasure – not a ‘drawback’.

          • 0 avatar
            Carlson Fan

            “Shifting gears is a pleasure – not a ‘drawback’.”

            Depends on the vehicle. Shifting gears in my Trans Am was fun, shifting gears in my Toyota PU was a PITA, especially when towing. Never again will I own a truck with a manual.

          • 0 avatar

            I drive manual transmission cars to have control and to have good response without delay. Shifting gears for the sake of shifting gears does not seem like something I would value without the huge advantages… That is why shifting automatic transmissions manually is a fools errand — other than engine braking there are no benefits. You still have no precise control, you still feel no connection between the engine and the wheels. Also why vast majority of people don’t do it even when they have shift paddles in their automatic cars.

            I enjoy the process of shifting gears but I enjoy driving my EVs more. The instant torque, the precise throttle control, the engine braking — EVs dial manual transmission qualities I value so much to 11. Especially my Model S. Now that it is almost impossible to buy a good new car with a manual transmission, EVs are the perfect replacement. Except VWAG EVs that have regen exclusively tied to the brake pedal. Personally, I want no part of that. One of the biggest advantages of EVs (and manual transmission cars to some extent) is one pedal driving.

          • 0 avatar
            Art Vandelay

            Well good for you VVK, but you arent everyone and no…it is nothing like a manual. You are saying because there is a direct coupling between the engine and trans, as is the case when the clutch is engaged makes it like a manual? Bull….The same could be said for the old school automatic with a lockup converter. A Dual Clutch is more like an automatic than this. As to comparing the S’s drivind experience to other cars I have driven…Buick Dynaflow Maybe? A Dual Clutch feels orders of magnatude closer to a manual than an S. It isn’t bad…It is just nothing like a manual.

  • avatar

    I really don’t see what all the fuss is about. Porsche has consistently made high-priced cars and lately sorta kinda SUVs. A 911 always cost a lot more than a Corvette, and any dope with eyes could see why when you looked at them up close. One actually had a finish – even if the interior was stark, it was well-made, and didn’t stik of fibreglass resin.

    So Tesla is a lower-price point EV than a Porsche. Should anyone be surprised? In the past if you wanted cheap horsepower, you bought some American sled for a quarter the price of a Porsche. Of course, then the happy owner of the cheap sled would blather on about how their car was just as fast as a Porsche. Sure, it might well have been. Doesn’t mean it was in the same class. You can buy Walmart underwear if you want, I like a better grade.

    This constant comparison of some mass-produced and slapped together Tesla with something better-made to begin with, seems like a complete waste of time to me. People buy these modern prairie schooners laughingly called pickup trucks, and go to ordinately convoluted reasons as to why that’s a good idea, none of which make a whole lot of sense to me. They pay ridiculous prices for the upmarket trucks, then turn around and complain Porsches cost too much.

    If there’s a market for Porsche EVs, well-off people will buy them. What Tesla does is irrelevant. It’s not a luxury brand, it’s the Model T, everyman’s brand of EV.

  • avatar

    Of course Tesla isn’t a direct rival. Porsche makes quality automobiles where Tesla makes low quality fashion accessories.

    Porsche also has to worry about things like profit, etc. Tesla does not.

    The only thing Tesla competes with is overpriced shoulder bags that rich people keep their designer dogs in.

  • avatar


  • avatar

    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.

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