Tesla VP: Most Electric Cars From Established Automakers Are “Appliances In Terms Of The Concept And The Way That They Look”


Chevrolet Spark EV

Chevrolet Spark EV

Nissan LEAF

Nissan LEAF

It’s long been Tesla’s stance that it welcomes real competition.

Tesla firmly believes that the introduction of more long-range electric cars with solid performance and stylish design will bolster the entire plug-in market.

It seems Tesla is still less than satisfied with most of the electric car offerings available today from other major automakers.

In Traverse City, Michigan at the annual CAR Management Briefing Seminars in early August, Tesla’s Diarmuid O’Connell, vice president of business development, went on the offensive to defend electric cars.

As Automotive News reports:

“The heads of two major lobby groups told hundreds of attendees at the CAR Management Briefing Seminars that automakers are struggling to meet a California mandate to boost demand for electric cars to 15 percent of sales by 2025.”

Tesla basically stated that these automakers that are struggling to meet the mandate are doing this to themselves.  The reason why the automakers are having difficulties is because they have chosen to make sub par electric cars.  According to O’Connell, most of the established automakers are making electric cars that “are appliances in terms of the concept and the way that they look.”

VW e-Golf

VW e-Golf

Buyers aren’t looking for appliance in the automotive market.  Automakers need to make compelling products, be it electric or conventionally powered.

California is not backing down. In fact, the state might step up its electric car efforts.

CARB chair Mary Nichols is actually pushing for reform to state guidelines.  Her goal is to see all new cars be zero emissions by 2030.  The EPA is largely in support of California’s zero emissions push. Head of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of Transportation and Air Quality, Christopher Grundler, stated:

“I am a big believer in the idea of California as an incubator for technology.”

Let’s hope that future plug-in electric cars from major automakers are less appliance-like and more Tesla-ish, minus the high price tag, of course.

Source: Automotive News

Categories: Tesla


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61 Comments on "Tesla VP: Most Electric Cars From Established Automakers Are “Appliances In Terms Of The Concept And The Way That They Look”"

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Can’t disagree more. If consumers didn’t want appliances, Toyota wouldn’t be in business.


Appliances are commodities with low margins sold on low price.

A battery electric powertrain currently carries a premium vs ICE powertrian.

Ergo, BEV can’t currently compete with ICEv on price.

BEVs must compete on performance,style,and/or emotional appeal.

If you sell BEVs as appliances you 10s of thousands in a market of 10s of millions.

Not the virtues of appliances.

An appliance car is what I want. If Tesla won’t give it to me I’ll look to GM or Nissan.

I’m an appliance guy myself, but he is right, most people buy cars for emotional reasons and to make a big dent in the market the OEMs need to recognize that. Tesla is selling a lot of expensive cars because they are emotionally appealing, not just green.

Ouch! But so true!

+10 for the awesome Toyota dig! 😀

Spot on!

It should be illegal to produce an ugly car (leaf, spark)

I’ve said it before. My wife loves the look of our Leaf.

“De gustibus non est disputandum”

There speaks the pure desperation from a Tesla sales agent.

Koenigsegg said:

“It should be illegal to produce an ugly car (leaf, spark)”

Are you appointing yourself as the Fashion Police?

As PK said:

“De gustibus non est disputandum.”

LEAF is an appliance car. It’s ugly. I love it. Practical, affordable, yet still enough zoom to have a little fun (relative to other “appliances”).

It cool be nice looking and do the same !
Design is not necessary a massive cost driver.
Look at the Renault ZOE, it is better than Leaf, and fine looking.

The automotive industry being dragged kicking and screaming into the 21st century. Not a pretty sight. Of course they can’t be compelled to make compelling evs.

Well, you know what they say about opinions.. Tesla you would think would stick to their knitting. My Roadster was a nice looking car, but it had design problems specifically due to Tesla’s arbitrary decisions, and of course the doors didn’t work, whereas the original Lotus’ Elise was fine. Tesla changed the design for absolutely no reason. I’m told all the early model S door handles were eventually changed out, and the ‘new and improved’ door handles every review I see says that “Its extremely unlikely to happen to anyone else, but our door handle doesn’t work”; except that every review seems to say the ‘extremely likely event has occurred’. Now I don’t, but there are those who really love the styling of the Chevy Volt. Not me, but then I don’t consider the model S’s styling that out of the ordinary. I had a 1995 Buick Riviera with cleaner lines, but the same basic appearance. The point is, Mr. VP, is that if your cars were flawless you could start criticizing others. But of the 3 EV’s I’ve owned to date, the only one I’ve felt comfortable parting ways with was the Tesla.

I think you get that Tesla has moved way beyond where they were since the original Roadster, 10 years ago. You should, too.

As for the company critiquing everyone else’s lame compliance EVs– I think they have more than enough legitimacy to do so, based solely on their current BEV offerings and business practices.

I’ll spend my car dollars where and when I care to, no advice needed from you.

Since the door problem is 10 years old as you imply, you’d think they would have hired a ‘door expert’ by now, and after a decade no longer have the problem, which of course they still do since reviewers still talk about it on the subsequent car. This was just an example. So my comment is more than timely.

LOL Tesla having an ongoing ‘door problem’…. next contestant, the Falcon Doors!


I mention above that Musk was upset a few months ago that, if you read between the lines, the ongoing expenses of Superchargers are getting a bit much.

NOW, just a few hours later, Musk sends emails to owners and the formerly “Tesla can do no wrong”, are now mad at Musk for criticizing them for using their ‘free’ chargers too much..


Sorry Anon, seems like I’ve sized it up pretty good. Ok so I got Lucky.

Humm what I was just talking about was on another article.

I appreciate that you think I’m not seeing the big picture, but I feel I am seeing it.

As PuPu stated, insulting other people’s designs is bad news, especially when the companies you are insulting have better products.

Now, me, where I am, I need a heavy duty, trouble free car in the winter. Of the EV’s I’m familiar with, only GM products to date have made the grade.

The tow truck driver for that Minnesota Woman who got stranded in her new Model S (over $100,000), told her, that for the kind of weather they have, she should have “Bought a Volt”.

Wise words are where you find them.

Door problems solved:

10 years ago I opened a Falcon car door and the whole door fell off. This was not funny at the time as I had just met my father in law and it was his car.

Uh Bill, you’re missing the big picture here.

Nobody is sitting on a high horse pointing fingers. I wholeheartedly agree with the premise that the big guys are making unappealing EVs. We(I) want them (whomever) to succeed.

Taking ICE platforms and sticking a big battery in the trunk and/or rear seat makes for a crummy EV. Many don’t even have DCFC support. Some don’t even have a 6.6kW L2 charger. I don’t want little Honda Fits or Chevy Bolts. I absolutely don’t want EV+ICE, having the cons of both. Gimme an EV that has the closest ICE experience (hauls people and stuff, easy to refill, decent range).

Stimpacker said:

“Nobody is sitting on a high horse pointing fingers.”

Even as a Tesla Motors enthusiast, I disagree. Calling other EV makers’ efforts mere “appliances” is pretty condescending.

GM did a great job with the Volt. The Leaf is more problematic, and certainly the styling does fairly scream “wuss-mobile”, but the Leaf is still the overall #1 worldwide best-selling highway-capable plug-in EV. So Nissan must be doing something right.

Tesla certainly does have the right to say “We make the best EVs in the world.” But blatantly sneering at other auto makers’ efforts is not good PR for any company trying to sell products to the general public. If Tesla reps are gonna sneer, they should be subtle about it.

…unless it’s a “fool cell” car. In that case, sneering is entirely appropriate.

80 miles real world range and ugly never sells well. Nissan Leaf was best of the worst. (As a high priced non-ev it would have been killed years ago.) Current generations Kia Soul and eGolf are at least normal looking cars so competition is getting better. Doubling the milage like Bolt and New Leaf will be interesting, to my taste Bolt is an unappealing compact car so new Leaf is only hope for Model 3 competition

“…ugly never sells well. Nissan Leaf was best of the worst.”

The Leaf: It’s not sexy, but it works.

(Ohhh… Jay Cole just put me on his s#*t list! 😀 )

Much as I wish mine were,.. a Volt IS NOT a BEV. which is at the core of the comparisons to Tesla’s Model S. Personally I too think that Leaf’s, I3’s are Ugly cars. The E-Golf , B Class etc. are better looking but generic in approach. The best looking BEV out there “besides Model S” for my money is the Focus EV. Even then all of the above suffer from the compact form factor. I’d love an affordable Mid-Sized BEV say like a Malibu, or Fusion sized platform built as a BEV from drawing board to the road!

Best selling car in the US: Toyota Camry
Best selling car in Europe: VW Golf

“Buyers aren’t looking for appliance in the automotive market”? Please …

Yes please. I want a cheap practical car. I want it better cheap than luxury and stylis.

$70,000 over the cost of my LEAF does indeed get you a better looking car.

rather telling to see IEVs using big bad GM’s Spark EV as this thread’s highlighted photo. And tucking in the LEAF in a tiny afterthought photo.

Anybody who’s driven a Spark EV knows it ain’t no appliance.

Any BEV sub 100 mile range is an “Appliance”.

I don’t agree. Neither do i3 owners. Sub 100 EV’s are merely limited capability traveling tools. Some are more fun than others, but their downtime is way too large vis a vis their service time.

sub 200 miles

“Her goal is to see all new cars be zero emissions by 2030.”

Does she actually think it’s possible for all new cars sold in California to be ZEVs in only 15 years?

I don’t think that’s a realistic goal, but I certainly applaud all efforts in that direction!

Frankly, even after the EV revolution is complete, I don’t expect to see 100% EVs in any market. There will still be a niche market for gasmobiles. If nothing else, then at least for use in wilderness areas where electricity isn’t available.

I’d be perfectly satisfied with 95% of new cars being EVs.

When you read the actual quote from her she counts PHEVs as part of the 100%. I still don’t think it’s realistic by 2030 but certainly one could imagine getting close if mild PHEVs like the Energi and Outlander plugin are included.

I think it is possible. The only thing missing is a decent battery, the people will switch en masse.

I think the development will look like the flat screen TV transition. You could buy a flat screen TV for a long time but once they got to an acceptable price point and quality suddenly everyone switched out their old CRTs in a matter of a few years.

The electric car, once energy storage has been solved, is clearly superior in every way. The only reason it’s not there yet is because of the limited range. Yes, price matters but that is really only a function of how much battery capacity you put in the car.

“Someone out there” said: “I think it is possible. The only thing missing is a decent battery, the people will switch en masse. “I think the development will look like the flat screen TV transition. You could buy a flat screen TV for a long time but once they got to an acceptable price point and quality suddenly everyone switched out their old CRTs in a matter of a few years.” Building consumer products, such as flatscreen TVs, is light industry, which can be ramped up rapidly with a relatively small capital investment. Furthermore, TVs are electronic products, and the price for electronics has been dropping more rapidly than for any other large category of consumer goods… and much faster than the per-kWh cost of EV batteries is dropping. Neither of these situations apply to building EVs. Even if every single gasmobile maker in the world suddenly had a “Road to Damascus” conversion and started switching to producing plug-in EVs as fast as they could afford to, I seriously doubt that all models could be switched over in just 15 years. The cost of tooling up to switch over every single gasmobile production line to plug-in EVs, even over a… Read more »

There are already plenty of car factories out there, the scaling problem is already solved. The physical difference between EVs and fossil cars isn’t that big, both still need a chassis and a cabin that is produced in exactly the same way. Most of the functions in a fossil car is already electric and digitally controlled.

Tesla is scaling very rapidly, ~50% increase in production year over year – and they were starting from scratch! It would be MUCH easier for an already established car manufacturer to switch to EVs. The Nissan LEAF is sharing a factory line with other Nissan fossil cars, that doesn’t seem to be a problem.

I absolutely don’t agree that all you need to do to make a compelling EV is to shove an electric drivetrain into a gas guzzler shell (or “glider”).

That’s the sort of thinking that lead to early horseless carriages being made by taking a buggy, adding a steering tiller, and bolting an engine onto the back.

And it’s the sort of thinking that lead GM to build the Volt using the front end of a Cruz, using a “T” shaped batter pack that puts an intrusive hump into the floor of the passenger cabin. Now, the engineering of the EV drivetrain of the Volt was brilliant. Five years later, it’s still by far the best-performing PHEV. But aside from the actual drivetrain, it’s not exactly a compelling PEV.

(Apologies to kdawg and other GM enthusiasts for singling out a GM car here. It was just the most obvious example because the Volt has been one of the top-selling PEVs.)

Where did this learn trash talking ? From GM ?

Oh C’mon!!! Vice president Bob Lutz at the time PLEADED with engineering departments, and constantly praising Eberhardt by saying

“IF a few guys in a garage can make a 200 mile all electric Sports Car, shouldn’t GM at Least TRY to make an Electric Car?”.

That quote was after all the engineers at GM told him building an Electric Car was Impossible.

Later with Musk at the helm, he has disagreed with some of the decisions, but has always gone out of his way to complement Musk.

With someone so friendly, and also Savy as Lutz, you’d think that someone would cut him some slack, not just constantly say he’s old and senile.

Even after successfully coming out with the volt, NOW all the magpies complained about the price, which GM was losing money on.

Here’s Lutz again:

“Hey, you’re getting an $80,000 car for $44,000. What’s wrong with that?”

Well, I have bad news for Tesla. I think the new Volt and possibly the new Leaf (depending on what it looks like) may be strong competitors for Tesla’s model III. Don’t get me wrong, I expect Tesla sales to be strong, but I think it will be hard to trash talk your competitors when they are selling large numbers too.

Is the real issue the inability of automakers to engineer and produce an electric car that is purely electric from the ground up. Electric cars are built with electric components made to look like an engine is still sitting in the front of the car. Is Tesla the only company to realize this. Toyota gave up and ran in the opposite direction…I’m pretty sure Chrysler/dodge is still in denial the EV revolution has started.

Uh, the Model S has a hood as long as any typical ICE car in its price class. Don’t give credit where credit is not due….

The Bolt looks more like what the point you are making… any reason not to direct your praise to GM?

I think he’s talking about companies laying out the engine bay as if there’s an ICE in the front (I remember Nissan noting they put a lot of effort into doing so). Tesla instead chose to put a sizable frunk and use the space.

It’s not about the overall length of the hood (still serves as a crumple zone: important for Tesla Model’s top safety ratings across the board).

I think both sides of this debate have good points.

Yes, gasmobile makers are guilty of using as many existing gasmobile parts in their EVs as they can, rather than designing a car to be a plug-in EV from the ground up. Even the Volt 1.0, as excellent an example of engineering as it is, shares its front end with the Cruz, and has that awkward hump in the floor where part of the battery pack is.

And Tesla did pretty obviously design the Model S to look like a gasmobile. Yeah, the extended front crumple zone is great for safety, but that’s not the actual reason Tesla gave the Model S a long nose. It’s just a fringe benefit.

I hope that in the future, EV makers will be willing to be bold in EV design. BMW has taken a lot of flack for its “ugly” or at least “odd-looking” i3, but I think future generations will see it as a forward-looking design rather than ugly.

Ugliness, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder.

The i3 is a far more ground-up EV design than the Model S. Tesla itself has said they purposefully designed the Model S to look like an ICE car.

Frunk… All that crumple space adds to crash safety. I love the volt..but the Bolt hasn’t been released and my opinion based on a few pre production pictures is not something I can comment on. Hope it’s a good EV.

I didn’t write my comment as clearly as I wanted to. Basically what he’s talking about is when you open the front hood for some EVs, it looks like there’s an engine right there (they make other components look like an engine cover for example).

Stuart, exactly. ON an earlier post where GM was constantly the fall guy, I said “Name 5 other car companies coming out with a $37,500 203 mile Battery Electric”. Now this car may not win any beauty contests, but it apparently will have GREATER STORAGE than the VOLT, which almost everyone has been asking for, and the fact that over 50 of them are currently in all kinds of stress testing, means to me, that, like the volt, LIGHTNING WILL STRIKE TWICE. By that meaning, the VOLT, instead of having horrible reliability as most brand new products do, was so extensively tested that some people dont want to even take a CHANCE on a GEN2 volt since the GEN1 has been so reliable. Similiar levels of testing seem to now be happening with the BOLT, pretty much assuring that when the first one is SOLD, the bugs will be OUT. Now I’m planning on getting a BOLT, and I too hope they at least make a 6-7 kw charger at least as an option, if the 3.3 or 3.6 is standard. But if theres only a small charger in it, to me thats a small point. It will remain for… Read more »

No, Tesla is not. The BMW i3 has a similar architecture as well. Both have their battery located in the floor below the driver.

Unlike Tesla though, BMW also experimented with new manufacturing techniques and new materials, while the Model S is basically constructed like a regular old car.

“…the Model S is basically constructed like a regular old car.”

Actually, no. The Tesla Model S uses a mostly aluminum body. Aluminum is much harder to weld than steel, and presents other manufacturing difficulties. Using a steel body would have been much easier. Tesla chose to use aluminum for the body, despite the difficulties, for the same reason BMW chose to use a carbon-fiber composite material for the i3 body.

A lot of comments actually miss the point.


Diarmuid O’Connell made his comments in defense of California standards and many of us would do the same.

Everything that Tesla says makes perfect sense if we recognize they are just like every other company, interested in maximizing profit. Of course they want the California standards to be as stringent as possible. Ideally, from Tesla’s point of view, 100% of vehicles sold in CA would be required to be electric.

And why criticize other automakers’ EVs if you want to encourage EV adoption? Because you want to encourage adoption of your products in particular, not your competitors’ products.

If the headline was “Ford VP: Most Cars From Other Automakers Are “Appliances In Terms Of The Concept And The Way That They Look,” this would hardly be newsworthy.

Breezy said:

“Everything that Tesla says makes perfect sense if we recognize they are just like every other company, interested in maximizing profit”

Nope. If Tesla’s goal was the same as similar companies, then it would be trying to be the next Porsche. That is, a manufacturer of limited production but rather pricey cars.

But Tesla is trying hard to expand out of the luxury-only (or “premium”) car business. Tesla wants to be the next Ford Motor Co., and is spending a lot more than just its profits in expanding as rapidly as it can. Compare, for example, Tesla’s Gigafactory project to Ford’s River Rouge complex from an earlier generation.

Here is the quote shedding some light on the context:

In the unusually open discussion, O’Connell said consumer demand for electric cars could be higher, but too many models from established car companies “are appliances in terms of the concept and the way that they look.”

I couldn’t agree more. Consumer demand for electric cars could be higher, much higher. It is not public that doesn’t want electric cars. Its ICE car makers and lobby.

Reality check time — the main reason the public is not passionately embracing EVs is that today’s EVs that can match the utility of an average ICE vehicle cost way, way too much in comparison with that ICE vehicle.

These statements by Tesla’s brass simply display a ‘We Know Better’ arrogance that haunts the company. An arrogance that leads to faulty decision making such as greenlighting the showy Falcon Doors.

It’s amusing that Tesla is critiquing the designs of existing automakers when the Model S itself is very conservatively designed. They clearly took their cues from established rivals.

Since Tesla basically stole its exterior design from Jaguar, what exactly did it do? Arrogant plagiarism?

But the Model S IS the BIGGER Appliance than anyone else!