Statement: ‘Tesla is not premium’

What is Premium?

Tesla only sells richly equipped cars in the more expensive segments. In the United States, the brand’s home country, Teslas are therefore classified in the ‘luxury cars’ category, just like the models of BMW and Lexus, among others. In the Netherlands we call the cars of the latter premium, but can you call Tesla’s offer that or not? High time for a statement.

The word ‘premium’: some are sensitive to it, others see it as an empty marketing phrase. BMW, Audi and Mercedes-Benz have traditionally been the premium brands on the European market, but we also know Jaguar, Lexus, Maserati and Porsche. This raises the first question: when does a brand belong to the exclusives, when to the premium brands and when not?

Brands such as Ferrari and Bentley are of course also ‘premium’, but we do not refer to them as such. They operate in segments that other manufacturers often ignore and have a limited edition. Porsche, Maserati and Jaguar are somewhere in between. Porsche is moving with the Macan in the segment of the medium-sized SUVs. With the XE and XF, Jaguar offers the 3 and 5 series of BMW, among others, and Maserati also tries to steal some customers from the brands that traditionally serve the upper end of the business market with sedans and SUVs.

Well one, not the other

We know a few more in the more exclusive category of Lexus. Not only from Asia (Infiniti from Nissan and Genesis from Hyundai), but also from Europe. This is how Stellantis DS also became detached from Citroën as a premium brand. But is it? A tricky discussion – although the ‘volume intentions’ of Infiniti, Genesis and DS certainly exist.

And then there’s Tesla. As mentioned, it does build cars in the higher segments, which are also always richly equipped and roll off the production line in large volumes. In the United States, Teslas are therefore invariably referred to as a ‘luxury brand’, together with Mercedes-Benz, Jaguar, Range Rover, et cetera. But does it qualify for the more European premium term?

Opinions are divided on this. The brand may make luxury products in large numbers, all with advanced technology and a little more power; there are plenty of features that suppress its premium-leaning character. For example, the ‘more money for less car’ credo no longer applies at Tesla. A Model 3 or Y will hardly cost you more than a Hyundai Ioniq 5, Kia EV6 or Volkswagen ID4, but it does offer more on many fronts. Tesla lacks the personalization options that distinguish traditional premium brands.

Dealing with customers is also part of the premium experience

Plus, the customer experience falls short of what other luxury brands offer. With a brand like Audi you get a bunch of flowers or a bottle of wine with your new car, the dealer invites you to drive a new model and maybe send you a present around Christmas. You shouldn’t expect that from Tesla – and certainly not with a Model 3 or Model Y. You get the registration papers for that, and then you can visit it yourself in a large hall or on a windy harbor area – certainly not premium.

Tesla Model 3 Rotterdam port delivery

Get yours out there, see you soon!

If we keep the recent price reductions in mind, the question arises: is Tesla now a competitor of Hyundai or Volkswagen, for example, or of BMW or Mercedes-Benz? In other words: is the brand premium or not? Or is premium an archaic concept that is completely irrelevant to newcomers who are shaking up the automotive landscape – such as Tesla? We are curious about your views, so please leave them in the comments.

You can add explanations and arguments in the comments. As always, your opinion does not have to be someone else’s. We should all be on because we have a thing for cars, so be kind to each other and try not to get too carried away.


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