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

The feedback to this Infiniti prototype was very poor. It was to have no more range than the Nissan Leaf. With a price perhaps around $45,000, it would be no less expensive than the upcoming 2017 Tesla cost-reduced car with a talked-about 200-mile range. In other words, the Infiniti electric car as envisioned two years ago would have become an industry laughing stock.

Somewhere along the line, perhaps when the Tesla Model S started shipping in the middle of 2012, Infiniti realized the grim future for this prototype. The project has now been delayed indefinitely, and we just don't know what to expect -- except that we most likely won't see an Infiniti electric car until at the very least late 2016, probably later.

Yet, I watched Nissan's press conference at the Detroit Auto Show, and product boss Andy Palmer assured us that Nissan was fully committed to continued leadership in electric cars. Other top Nissan executives also spoke in extraordinary terms about the success of the Leaf. But then you combine this with Infiniti's increasing lack of interest in electric cars, and what are we to believe? Is this all talk, but nothing of interest in terms of competing with Tesla head-on?

Knowing nothing else, I have to assume that Nissan will continue to develop the Leaf, but not devote the resources to compete with Tesla -- or for that matter with GM's and BMW's more interesting electrified offerings -- at least in the near term.

There are many auto makers where it is hard to get a clear sense of where they want to go in terms of competing with Tesla -- or not. They may have some of those offerings I described above in the market today, but they aren't committing to any plan publicly. Perhaps more important, they sure aren't showing any relevant and realistic prototypes.

It is entirely possible many of these companies are pursuing the strategy of "shut up until our car is ready for production." For whatever reason, they don't want to tip their hand. Perhaps they consider electric cars politically or financially controversial. Perhaps they don't want to set expectations too early. Who knows?

Stock quotes in this article: TSLA, GM, NSANY, F, TM, HMC 

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