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Forbes calls it a “game changer” citing an incredible 276,000 orders taken for Tesla Motors’ (NASDAQ:TSLAC) just announced Model 3. This is for a car that won’t even be available until 2017. Maybe.

Compare those numbers with actual sales of actual automobiles in 2015 and Tesla 3 comes in at number 6, ahead of Ford (NYSE:FC) Fusion, Hyundai Elantra, General Motors (NYSE:GMC) Chevrolet Cruze, Ford Focus and Hyundai Sonata.

And this comes from orders placed in just one week. Does this frighten the competition and if so, why?

5 Causes For Concern

Tesla, with or without the Model 3, has already demonstrated its ability to set benchmarks for others in the industry in 5 key areas.

Performance – The 420 horsepower offered by Tesla’s flagship Model S P85+ has set the standard. Tesla 3’s expected 0 to 60 time of less than 6 seconds keep Tesla in the performance forefront.

Range – As other automakers struggle to build EVs capable of going 100 miles per charge, Tesla’s Model 3 will have a range of about 215 miles. The larger Model S can go 250 miles on a single charge.

Desirability – Tesla’s fan base is unparalleled and has been compared to that of Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPLC). Expectations for the Model 3 include a history of superior sales and service, along with a car that has more technology than just about any other vehicle on the road.

Flexibility – While valid criticism exists regarding Tesla’s potential to ramp up production for a moderate-priced car, the company’s flexibility and ease with which it can react to consumer demand, are a real asset as far as the public is concerned.

Charging Technology – Tesla has the best charging technology available and the company’s state-of-the-art SuperCharger network is already making it possible for Tesla owners to drive 500 miles or more per day.

The Competition

So far, the primary competitor – at least on paper – with the Tesla Model 3 is the GM Chevy Bolt EV, a car priced similar to the Model 3, with similar range but vastly different fan bases. Simply put the Bolt is a non-luxury compact car. The Model 3 is an entry level luxury sedan.

Others, including the BMW 3 Series, Jaguar XE, Audi A4 and Mercedes-Benz C-Class are all gas or diesel powered and priced in the same range as the Model 3.

Wall Street Weighs In

Wall Street analysts are astonished to say the least. "We are simply awe-struck by the demand surfacing for the Model 3... we had no idea the reservation orders would be this strong," said Stifel analyst James Albertine.

Morgan Stanley’s Adam Jonas said, "We are not aware of any precedent of this level of order interest for any other car on the first day of an unveil. And the orders kept coming throughout the evening of test drives.”

The iCar Problem

Meanwhile, as traditional automakers decide how to react to Tesla’s latest offering, Apple quietly, but purposefully hints at building its own all-electric bogeyman designed to rattle the status quo – the iCar.

Which raises the question: Who should fear Apple? According to Zacks, a leading contender should be Tesla, bringing the whole “who’s afraid of who” question full circle.



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