3 Big Reasons American Car Manufacturers Still Can't Catch Up To Tesla

Like it or not, Tesla is the most successful EV maker for the time being. No matter how long a legacy automaker has been making cars, it will be compared to Tesla when it decides to make an EV. To Tesla's credit, the brand sells a lot of EVs. During the first quarter of 2024, Tesla delivered a total of 386,810 vehicles across the brand's entire lineup. Those deliveries are primarily comprised of mass-market cars that include the Model 3 and Model Y, with more niche vehicles like the Model S and even more niche Cybertruck rounding out the sales.

Ford's Mach-E, on the other hand, sold 9,589 units in the first quarter, claiming it was only outsold by Tesla's Model Y. General Motors only managed to sell 5,800 Cadillac Lyriq EVs and 1,668 GMC Hummer EVs in the first quarter of this year. Stellantis didn't even have an EV for sale in the United States, until it released the Fiat 500e this year.

Why are the Big Three automakers playing "catch-up" to Tesla? Dr. Laine Mears, the Automotive Manufacturing Chair at Clemson University outlined a few reasons why legacy brands are slacking behind. 

Teslas are built from the ground up and have the Supercharger network

First, Dr. Mears notes that Tesla's success can be attributed to how it designs its cars, stating: "Tesla designed a human interface and built a car around it; this was a benefit afforded by the fact that they had no legacy platforms to try to fit a new control system into." So, unlike Ford, GM, or Stellantis, Tesla had the benefit of building its cars entirely from a blank slate, ensuring that it had the most customer-friendly car possible for its own unique ecosystem.

Secondly, Dr. Mears continues with: "This, combined with the fact that Tesla concurrently built up the charging network needed to support adoption, puts them ahead of the pack." Tesla's vast Supercharger network allowed the brand to take charge of essentially the entire EV industry for a time as it not only owned the vehicles, but also the means to charge them. Cutting-edge technology helps, as do exciting specifications, but the convenience factor is what really sells cars, and Tesla has that in spades with its Supercharger network. Other automakers, even competitors, have started using the Supercharger network

The Tesla ecosystem and overall value

Lastly, Tesla is said to be one of the better values out there when it comes to EVs. Tesla buyers can exist entirely within the Tesla ecosystem without the need to ever venture out for anything automotive-related. The Tesla service center fixes the car in case anything goes wrong, Tesla can deliver a new car to your house within a matter of days, and all your charging can take place at a Tesla Supercharger. Dr. Mears states: "Don't get me wrong; I know some people that can't stand the Tesla interface and technical differences to conventional cars, and in some cases I side with them, but overall, the value is there."

Elon Musk often draws a lot of ire for how he conducts itself, leading some to avoid Tesla. For everyone else who just wants an EV they don't have to think about when it comes to charger compatibility, dealing with the hassle of car dealerships, and overall availability, Tesla is proving hard to beat.