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[video] Detroit Auto Show: Sizing Up Tesla's Competition

What I mean by serious competition is something along these lines: a powerful electric motor, where 100% of the power envelope is reached without any assist from any gasoline or diesel engine. Then package this in an upscale body, preferably something other than a plain-vanilla body type.

You see, there will be -- and already are -- plenty of plug-in cars that fall into either of these two lesser categories:

A. Long range but with the range achieved by gasoline or diesel engine assist, and where the electric portion of the drivetrain is not only short range (10 to 25 miles) but also accomplished by a weak electric motor unable to give full power by itself. Ford (F), Toyota (TM) and the Volkswagen Group (which includes Audi and Porsche) all fall into this category, as do Volvo, Mitsubishi and Honda (HMC). BMW will have entries in this category starting already in 2014.

B. Full-power, all-electric but without anywhere near Tesla's legendary 265-mile, all-electric range. Nissan, Ford, Honda, GM, BMW, Toyota and VW have cars in this category.

As you can tell, several auto makers already offer cars in multiple categories where you can say that, at least peripherally, they compete with Tesla. As a minimum for price reasons, this is likely to continue.

Nissan is a curious case at the moment. Obviously Nissan has been the key industry pioneer with the Leaf, which started deliveries in December 2010 and where over 100,000 have been sold world-wide since then. A well-equipped Leaf costs around $35,000 before tax adjustments.

Nissan owns Infiniti, which is its luxury brand. Two years ago, Infiniti showed an early prototype of what a luxury sedan version of the Nissan Leaf would look like.

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