This column has been updated from Aug. 18 to include details about BMW's Frankfurt Motor Show announcements and Nissan's unveiling of a second-gen Leaf electric car.
No matter how one feels about Tesla Inc. (TSLA) as an investment, the company deserves a lot of credit for how much it has motivated one auto giant after another to get serious about bringing reasonably-priced electric cars with acceptable performance and range to market. As Tesla's recently-launched Model 3 sedan has moved closer to mass production, the drumbeat of automakers unveiling plans to challenge Tesla has grown with it.
Some of these would-be rivals are much closer to launching credible challengers to the Model 3 than others. But all of them have to contend with the fact that Elon Musk's company won't be standing still while they act, and that some of the selling points for its EV lineup could be much stronger in 2 or 3 years.
On Sept. 7, BMW announced at the Frankfurt Motor Show it will start mass-producing electric cars in 2020, and that it plans to offer a dozen electric models by 2025. The company is also sharing some details about a concept car for its electric i-series line that aims to take on the Model 3; a launch date and pricing info haven't been given yet.
In addition, BMW's Mini unit plans to launch a small electric hatchback in 2019, and an electric version of the BMW X3 crossover is due in 2020. The company's small i3 electric car (114-mile range) has been around since 2013, and its i8 plug-in hybrid sports coupe since 2014.
BMW's announcement came just after Nissan announced a second-gen version of its Leaf electric hatchback. The new Leaf's 150-mile range tops the 107-mile range of its predecessor, but is still much lower than the 220-mile range of the base version of the Model 3. Nissan is eager to tout the new Leaf's regenerative braking abilities, which eliminate the need for a brake pedal, and an advanced driver-assistance system called ProPilot.
Hyundai is also among the big-name automakers to recently announce it's going after Tesla: The South Korean firm says it plans to launch an electric version of its small Kona SUV that has a range of 390km (242 miles), well above the modest 124 miles of Hyundai's recently-launched Ioniq Electric. Pricing hasn't been disclosed, but one report pegs the electric Kona's price at 35,000 euros ($39,000) -- about $4,000 more than the Model 3's base price.
What a Nissan exec just told TheStreet about the 2018 Leaf.
Hyundai also wants to launch an electric car for its premium Genesis brand in 2021 that has a 500km (310-mile) range. And affiliate Kia, which launched a subcompact electric SUV (the Soul) with a 105-mile range in 2014, plans to bring an electric version of its Niro crossover to market in 2018.
Toyota Motor Co. (TM) reportedly wants to mass-produce an electric car based on its C-HR subcompact SUV in China in 2019. And in 2022, the company reportedly wants to field an EV with a new kind of battery that both improves range and cuts charging times.
General Motors Co. (GM) , whose Chevy Bolt hatchback is the closest thing the Model 3 currently has to a direct rival, has said it wants to launch an EV based on a brand-new architecture before 2020, as well as launch a slew of EVs and hybrid cars in China by 2020. Ford Motor Co. (F) , which has sold an electric version of its Focus hatchback since 2011 -- the latest model has just a 115-mile range -- says it wants to launch an electric crossover with a 300-plus mile range by 2020.
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