Car News

New Competition for Tesla from Chinese Newcomers

While Elon Musk and the folks at Tesla Motors figure out how they are going to ship the nearly 400,000 Model 3 pre-orders, new entrants backed by Chinese investors and Tesla ex-pats, are preparing a luxury EV of their own.

Based out of Silicon Valley, Atieva intends to produce a luxury sedan that could be on the road as soon as 2018 according to an AutoWeek report.

Should they meet that aggressive timeline, their EV could be an attractive alternative to would-be Tesla buyers, many of whom are not scheduled to receive their Model 3 until 2018 or later.

Backed by Mitsui & Co, one of the largest trading companies in Japan, Venrock, a Silicon Valley venture capital firm, and state-owned, Beijing Auto; Atieva joins three other Chinese-based automotive start-ups that are drawing from the Silicon Valley talent pool to develop electric vehicles.

Since the company was founded in 2007 by former Tesla and Oracle executives, including former Chief Engineer on the Model S Peter Rawlinson as their Chief Technology Officer, former Senior Engineer at Tesla Axel Vollmer, and former Apple engineer Joshua Goldberg.

Using the Mercedes-Benz Vito van platform to test the high-output drivetrain for the vehicle currently known by the code name Project Cosmos, their luxury EV is aiming to achieve a zero-to-sixty time of 2.7 seconds for their 2018 sedan.  The kind of acceleration normally reserved for cars described as “super.”

Production plans for Project Cosmos is expected to start at 20,000 vehicles a year before scaling to as much as 130,000 a year according to estimates from Atieva manufacturing director Brian Barron.

Atieva may be the new kid on a relatively empty block, but it certainly will not remain that way for long as Mercedes-Benz, Volkswagen, and BMW all plan to take a long range EV to market by 2020.  The increased competition in the luxury EV category could create some pressure for Tesla to ramp up production of the Model 3 much sooner than expected to mitigate the risk of having to refund impatient Model 3 buyers.

While Musk and Tesla have not directly commented on Atieva, he has alluded to revising his production output strategy to keep up with demand, tweeting “Definitely going to need to rethink production planning…”