Do Tesla Model S And Porsche Panamera Plug-In Hybrid Compete?

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2014 Porsche Panamera S E-Hybrid

2014 Porsche Panamera S E-Hybrid

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In less than a year, the Tesla Model S has created a new category of car: the electric luxury sport sedan.

But with impending launches by two experienced, prestigious German luxury brands, will Tesla find the Model S facing new competition among wealthy buyers who like plugging in to drive?

We just drove the 2014 Porsche Panamera S E-Hybrid, the first-ever plug-in hybrid car from the famed German sports-car brand now owned by Volkswagen.

That car will go on sale for 2014, and is expected to find its largest audience among wealthy Californians--who get a number of incentives to drive fully or partly on electricity.

Porsche, then Benz

Then, in September, the Frankfurt Motor Show will see the unveiling of the Mercedes-Benz S-Class Plug-In Hybrid--first shown as the Vision S 500 Plug-In Hybrid concept in 2009.

Both German cars are projected to do 15 to 25 miles on electricity alone, reverting to conventional hybrids when the battery pack is depleted.

It's the same concept as plug-in hybrids from Toyota, Ford, and Honda--but at a much more luxurious, capable, and high-priced level.

Can they lure buyers?

So will buyers who might otherwise have gone for a Tesla Model S be lured away to a Porsche or Mercedes-Benz plug-in hybrid instead?

Either car would give them electric range around town, with the backup of hundreds of miles on gasoline without the adding complication of visiting Tesla Supercharger stations or the full process of battery swapping.

That's the premise, anyhow, of a post on the SeekingAlpha investment website.

2013 Tesla Model S

2013 Tesla Model S

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The writer, we should note, has sold shares of Tesla Motors [NSDQ:TSLA] short--meaning he has an interest in seeing the stock price go down on bad news.

But he raises a valid question nonetheless.

From January through March, the Tesla Model S outsold full-size luxury sedans from Audi, BMW, Mercedes-Benz, and Porsche in the U.S. Three of those four competitor offer hybrid models, but none have plugs.

And that's about to change.

Porsche: 22 electric miles

Moreover, the upcoming plug-in Panamera appears to be genuinely good on the road, with true Porsche performance and handling--not to mention a larger rear seat than the Model S.

It's effectively a Panamera S Hybrid with a 9.4-kilowatt-hour battery pack--almost eight times larger than the conventional hybrid's--giving it a stated all-electric range of 22 miles.

It will arrive later this year at selected Porsche dealers, starting at a price of $99,000 (almost $30,000 more than the base Model S).

The 2014 Mercedes-Benz S Class was just unveiled this evening at an event in Hamburg. We were there

The 2014 Mercedes-Benz S Class was just unveiled this evening at an event in Hamburg. We were there

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A bit less is known about final specs for the plug-in hybrid Mercedes-Benz S-Class, which we'll see in September.

But given that model's position at the pinnacle of the Mercedes-Benz model range, it's bound to be competitive with other German contenders, and most likely the Tesla as well.

The Silicon Valley startup is just now starting to sell the Model S in Europe, and it'll come right up against these plug-in German sedans within the year.

Will Tesla find it harder going when it competitors offer 20 miles on grid power? Or will the battery-only Model S retain its unique position?

(Or, as one colleague suggested, might some wealthy drivers simply add one of each to their multi-car stables?)

Leave us your thoughts in the Comments below.


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Comments (37)
  1. Hmm, Seeking Alpha is rearing its ugly head again. A website filled with stories these days by people desperately looking for reasons why Tesla's stock needs to revert to lower levels where they can cover their short positions without too much damage.

    No doubt reasons exist for Tesla's stock to revert to more realistic levels but I don't think the cumbersome double drivetrain PHEV concepts of some of Tesla's rivals is among them. This is the market segment of thoroughbreds, I doubt there will be much enthusiasm for bastards created to meet emission and MPG mandates.

  2. They will have no effect on the Model S sales, if anything it will actually help increase Tesla Model S sales instead.

  3. So, $63k-88k (Model S) vs $99k+ (for the porsche) and 208 - 265 miles of range (Model S) vs 20 miles (for the porsche) is this a relevant comparison?
    (Also the Model S is designed to compete with the 5 series/e class NOT the 7 series/S class)
    On another note, a battery swap takes the same amout of time as filling up the porsche (and costs about the same.) and charging can take as little as 30 minutes.

  4. I've tried to imagine why someone considering a Tesla would be tempted away by either of these cars, and I'm coming up empty. Model S sales are probably safe for a while longer.

  5. If anything, Porsche really needs a boost to its tanking sales of the Panamera:

  6. Looks like the controversially styled Panamera is already nearing the end of its product life cycle. Another reason those Seeking Alpha shorters shouldn't pin their hopes on a plug-in version of this vehicle.

  7. I think that's a little short-sighted, with regards to the Porsche. It's around the middle of its life-cycle at the moment, and the PHEV coincides with a general 2014 update that will no doubt stir up further sales (not just from the PHEV, but other variants too).

    It's quite common for sales to lull as a model ages - that's why carmakers do mid-life updates in the first place. The figures in the link don't suggest "tanking" sales to me.

  8. If they're competition, then prospective buyers will likely drive both, and that will play into Tesla's wheelhouse.

    That being said, I also have reason to want Tesla's stock to dip, so I can buy more of it :)

  9. Perhaps some will opt for Plug-in Hybrids. But for me, part of the beauty of a Tesla is that it is a pure EV. With a pure EV, you get rid of the majority of the 10,000 moving parts in an ICE vehicle, and the maintenance issues that come with them.

  10. This is why I'm willing to walk up to a mile to plug in at my destination with my Volt, I want that ICE running as little as humanly possible.

  11. You could load a folding bike in the back and increase your sandwich-only range ;)

  12. The Panamera is too ugly. I don't know why anyone buys it.

  13. Status symbol that seats 4 in comfort and luxury.

  14. The newest version has had quite a lot of the ugly beaten out of it's sheetmetal. Though someone attracted to the benefits of electric drive would not likely be beating down their Porsche dealer's doors to own one. Thus it will be one alternative among the Panameras offered.

  15. A few Porsche fans will be converted, saying the electric drive is great, everyone should have available what the Porsche engineers have provided.

    And of course when informed of Tesla's range their reply will be, huh, what, really? So in short, the Panamera plug in will not be competition for the Model S. Unless Porsche creates a vehicle that is so amazing in every respect that once seeing it, it causes the public to forget that all electric all the time, is now an a

  16. is now an available category for luxury sedans.

  17. Owning a Model S, I can say that a plug-in hybrid is not tempting at all and does not compare to an all electric vehicle. Model S owners are trail blazers that don't settle for yesterday's technology. They embrace EVs because of a chosen lifestyle not because a need for a flashy, over priced, German gas guzzler.

  18. I just drove the model S in France. As Alec Kramer pointed out the model should be compared to Mercedes E/ Bmw 5. Keeping this in mind and after owning several S class mercedes I prefer the Tesla. The idea of no ICE I find wonderful. The thought of driving behind a Tesla is very encouraging compared to driving behind many bad smelling european diesels. I would like to see the Mercedes Distronic on the Tesla model S.

  19. The appeal of Model S goes far beyond its all electric power train, but for those without strong feelings EV vs. PHEV, the decision may well come down to which car, in their opinion, has the better suite of features and amenities expected in a luxury sport sedan.

  20. A Porsche with a battery and a gas engine. Sounds like a Prius to me. Tesla is way out in front!

  21. Plug-in hybrid is a compromise - there are two sets of engines that reduce trunk space, let room in the middle... Then maintenance - two sets of engines to be maintained and coordinated in operations when shifting from electricity to gas. Remember Fisker Auto? You will find them in Chapter 7.

  22. There aren't "two sets of engines". There are two motors and while it seems complex, years of Priuses have proved the maintenance is significantly lower than a traditional ICE car. The Volt, for example, gets typically more than 10,000 miles between oil changes and requires only a tire rotation during its first year.

    I believe inevitably a pure plug-in is preferable, but let's be accurate. Accurate is: Yes, things like the Fusion Energi have horrendous trunk space and yes Fisker is all but gone (although they haven't filed bankruptcy in any chapter of the code). But maintenance concerns on plug-in hybrids don't see to be a real issue.

  23. I think it's worth noting that Tesla would welcome the competition because it means higher numbers of "sustainable consumption" cars on the road, one of Tesla's/Elon Musk's stated goals.

    In addition, Elon has a good understanding of free market capitalism and stated in the recent shareholder meetings that he expects his cars to compete favorably no matter how good the alternatives. He said something to the effect, "if cant compete, it doesn't deserve to exist."

  24. While the Tesla superchargers and battery swap systems make long distance more palatable, the availability of these systems is still rather limited and will be for a number of years. That reality will keep a market for hybrid or EREVs alive for some time to come.

  25. Agreed, but why would somebody shopping for Porsche go for a hybrid version?

  26. Green cred, Chris. Or a sincere desire to be greener. Around here, a lot of Panameras are driven as commute vehicles, for example, and the small battery range would yield either no gas consumption or minimal amounts. Every one who does this makes a small difference. Multiply that by enough people and you begin to make a big one.

  27. If your desire to be greener is truly sincere and you have the money for a Porsche, why wouldn't you opt for a Model S and solar panels instead? For getting off fossil fuels or just saving money, the plug-in Porsche seems lke pretty weak tea to me.

  28. Norm, I agree with you, but there are levels of seeking green-ness. I mean some people actually bought the Fisker...

  29. There are Porsche fans. Anr their are Porsche fans who will be shopping Panameras. For a small fraction of those, this like Mark said will be "greener." Few who buy the Panamera will be shopping the Model S, and few who buy the Model S would shop the Panamera as one of their first choice.

    After all the US auto market consists of about 260 different cars. Someone may surmise, they are big and green, they will be cross shopped. That will prove to be incorrect.

  30. If I have the money, they don't compete. But I am NOT the buyer.

  31. It also depends on where you are.

    If you are located in a country where there are no superchargers or EV infrastructure, then Tesla S might have some issues. For US and EU, I don't see a problem.

  32. That depends where in the US you and want to travel.

  33. I disagree. Most people who are in this price range can afford and do have a second vehicle that they can use if they are headed to a place where the charging infrastructure is not dense enough yet. The pace of expansion is increasing though so I'd expect a buyer to purchase an S, hold on to the ICE vehicle and then switch the second vehicle once the infrastructure catches up.

    Where we travel there are no chargers whatsoever so we went with Volts for now but shortly one will be replaced with a Model-S. The EREV's and plugins will be seconds to full BEV cars.

  34. I agree with what you said. However, I don't see the coverage of the charging is good enough for everyone AT all location and destination. In fact, I believe the most National Parks in the West will be the last ones getting any kind of charging facility. In fact, the only one that I know is that 1 single L2 charging station inside Yosemite valley.

    If I need to travel to Glacier National Park or Yellowstone, the choices will be limited... Of course, people don't need to go there often.

    I agree that EVERY multi-car family should be able to and can afford to have at least 1 plugin in their car portfolio.

  35. Wait what, why didn't you tell me that when I was in Yosemite two weeks ago?

  36. In a word, NO.

  37. Some privacy and fairness concerns about this "" site aside, the arrival of established brands with electric-hybrid variants on their mainstream models will suck the oxygen out of the room.

    This is the "settled science" of early adopter technology marketing: once the mainstream brands arrive, nobody wants the kooky jalopy, they want the value of the recognized brand.

    That said, Tesla needs to stay on the wave, not battle for the broad market. If they can find a second gear (sorry, that's a jab at one of the early product setbacks of Tesla they've never set right) and keep ahead of Porsche and Benz, they can bring the excitement of the Model X. Then, who cares about the quagmire of sports sedans?

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