It’s one thing for a potentially deluded Silicon Valley entrepreneur like Elon Musk to develop a plug-in electric luxury supercar and say the game has changed. But when auto makers like Audi and Porsche jump onto the track… well, that IS a different game.

1430586378028145185At the 2015 Frankfurt Motor Show both of these venerable German luxury auto makers revealed high-end electric-only prototype vehicles – the E-Tron Quattro Concept and the Mission E respectively. With a projected 300+ MILE range, both are a generation ahead of the BMW i8 and i3 electrics currently available.  The Audi and Porsche concepts aren’t destined to hit showrooms for a few years yet, but the writing is on the wall.

Because the real challenge of electric vehicle adoption may have less to do with technology than it has to do with brands.

Elon Musk’s Tesla badge has been riding a big electric wave of amazing automotive press reviews (for the Model S sedan) and buoyant stock market excitement. But it’s still a car company that is has only been around since 2003. My Honda is that old. So it takes a definite early adopter mindset to sink 60 to 80 thousand dollars or so into one of their electronic rocketships.

Put a Porsche, BMW or Audi emblem on the side however, and potential buyers are suddenly reassured by  decades of brand equity, resale value and prestige.

Even though these major automakers will be big competition for Tesla, it’s likely that Musk and his crew are high-fiving at the news. With these kind of commitments, the internal combustion luxury industry may have just validated the Tesla product and elected its brand as their leader.

Whether Tesla can hold that position remains to be seen.

Follow-up reading: Here’s a thought – will the gasoline car go the way of the flip phone and tube television?


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