There has been a lot of fuss raised about the impending competition Tesla Motors (NASDAQ:TSLA) is going to face in the coming years. It's inevitable that the behemoth automakers of the world are going to enter the luxury electric-car market at some point, but I wouldn't write Tesla off just yet.

Introduction of electric cars
When electric cars were first introduced, they were expensive, unimpressive under the hood, and had low travel ranges.

That all changed when Tesla introduced the Model S, which went on to receive the highest score for a vehicle ever from Consumer Reports. It also received the highest score possible by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration for safety, scoring a maximum five out of five in each safety and crash category. 

But enough of that. We've already heard this news, what about the competition? It all boils down to one simple concept for consumers: price. 

Specifically, there have been several big-name, luxury automakers entering the electric sports car market. General Motors' (NYSE:GM) Cadillac has introduced the ELR vehicle, while BMW (NASDAQOTH:BAMXF) has developed the i8. 

Below are the three vehicles, along with the starting price for each:


     Staring Price     

BMW i8


Cadillac ELR


Tesla Model S


Tesla Model S Max     


Source:,, and

You'll notice that the last vehicle on the list is the Tesla Model S Max. When you go to the company's website and design your own car, you have the option, "Max out my Model S." The resulting car has carbon fiber, more horsepower, longer range, and everything in between -- interior and exterior.

While the ELR hasn't received much "Tesla-killer" coverage, many of the Tesla doubters are touting the BMW i8 as the car that could deal a blow to Model S sales. I can't possibly fathom how that's possible, but have been reading about it more and more often, most recently in a Barron's pieced called, "Tesla Motors: Time to Worry About BMW."

Tesla Model S versus BMW i8
Let's first consider the price right off the bat. For nearly 50% less -- a savings of nearly $67,000 -- consumers can buy the fully electric Model S, the highest rated vehicle ever.

Even the maxed out version of the Model S is $14,000 cheaper than the standard BMW i8! 

Below is a table comparing the two models. Since the BMW i8 is an hybrid vehicle (meaning it runs on both battery power and fuel), I have included the electric only stats, listed in the table as "BMW i8 (e)", as well as the standard BMW i8. 


       BMW i8 (e)         

    BMW i8

    Tesla Model S Max     





0-60 mph


    4.4 seconds    

    4.2 seconds

Range (miles)




Top speed (mph)




*The BMW i8 (e) 0-60 mph stat is only given as 0-60 kilometers per hour. It equates to 0-37.3 mph in 4.5 seconds. Source:,, and 

Remember, this is the starting level BMW i8 and the maxed out Tesla Model S, the latter of which is still $14,000 cheaper. On a purely electric-car versus electric-car basis, the Model S toys with the i8 the way a cat toys with a captured mouse before its inevitable death. 

It's not until you measure the Model S against the i8's full capabilities that the race even comes close. While the Model S trumps the i8 in horsepower and acceleration, it can't beat its German counterpart in top speed or total range. 

Looking at the choices through a buyer's eyes
When buyers are looking at the Tesla Model S, they see a well-groomed sports car -- fast, tight handling, quick acceleration -- all without the fuel. There is zero gas. None. Zilch. 

For all intents and purposes, why pay nearly twice as much for the BMW i8 when you would still need to fuel it, and its performance is roughly equivalent to that of a Model S? 

It makes no sense. If one can afford to shell out $136,000 for a new car, why not pass up the hybrid i8 and buy something like a Porsche 911 or an Audi R8, both of which have similar or better specifications with a lower price tag -- starting at $84,300 and $114,900, respectively. 

Either the buyer cares about fuel efficiency or they don't. That is to say, either they want zero fuel responsibilities, which they get with the Model S, or they are willing to go to the gas station. If the latter of the two scenarios is true, and unless you absolutely love the BMW i8, buying an Audi, Porsche, or other luxury ride makes more sense for the money. 

Final thoughts
While I applaud BMW's efforts in its i8 design -- which is admittedly, beautiful -- the price doesn't make sense given what consumers can buy for either a fully electric sports car or a standard sports car. 

With a starting price of $136,000, the BMW i8 is simply too expensive and lacks too many of the benefits you get with a Tesla Model S. 

Even if it didn't cost nearly twice as much as the standard Model S, the i8's performance isn't head-and-shoulders above it. It would need to be much, much better than the Model S to justify a price tag of that magnitude. 

On-par performance coupled with a staggeringly higher price tag for the BMW i8 leaves the Model S without a main competitor, for now. 

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Bret Kenwell has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends General Motors and Tesla Motors. The Motley Fool owns shares of Tesla Motors. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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