Last fall, Count Carlos over at Nissan surveyed his moat and laughed at the notion of an invasion. “I know the media love to say we have a new superman coming here, and it’s going to make all of you look like dinosaurs. But frankly, the likelihood that this is going to happen in our industry, in my opinion, is very limited.”
Well, now Toyota’s Jim Lentz is proclaiming much the same thing from the walls of his castle. Here’s what he just told The Street:
“At gas at less than $2 a gallon, no [I’m not worried]. I think [the Model 3] is going to be great but today less than half of one percent of the industry are pure electric vehicles.” Lentz is also fond of Volvo’s move to compete with Tesla and offer an electric version on its portfolio of cars. “I think it’s a good move on their part,” Lentz added. “I think [Volvo] sells about 100,000 [vehicles] here in the U.S, – we sell about 2.5 million here in the U.S. When you have a much smaller portfolio of product, it allows you to concentrate in a much smaller niche of the marketplace.”
Let’s look more carefully:
Cheap gas, eh Jim? Don’t get TeslaMondo started on this subject. Cheap gas is obviously not a hindrance for Tesla, because it primarily sells excitement. Lentz is grasping.
The “N” word, eh Jim? If Lentz is unaware of the Model III’s niche-busting order bank, he’s aloof. If he’s pretending to be unaware, that’s even worse. And if he’s never heard of the Prius, the biggest automotive niche-buster of all time, then The Street must have interviewed a Jim Lentz clone from another planet.
Let’s contrast Nissan’s and Toyota’s hand-wave with BMW’s recent alarmism. The company showed its employees a horror film of sorts, with Musk as the monster — an attempt to shock them out of complacency.
The odds are very high that behind their fortified castle doors, Toyota and Nissan are NOT in a state of blissful myopia. They’re every bit as rattled as BMW and hear the same scratching at their windows. Nissan resorted to tapping people on the shoulder — people waiting in line for a Model III — and trying to sell them a Leaf. BMW did the same.
Toyota should try it too. It’s losing a lot of would-be Prius customers, at least, to the Model III. TeslaMondo talks to car buyers every day, so don’t attempt to argue. The brand new plug-in Prius Prime, billed as the most advanced Prius ever, isn’t moving the needle whatsoever. According to Edmunds.com, it has $3,000 on the hood in some markets, same as the lame duck, soon-to-be-replaced, all-but-forgotten 2017 Camry.