Audi A8 / Tesla Model S

The automotive industry is full of rivalries, from Ferrari versus Lamborghini to Ford's recent war on the Toyota Prius. Audi must be feeling the electric heat of Tesla's recent success, because the German automaker has put out a press release with one single message: Hey, let's not love on Tesla too much, mmmkay?

Audi's press release is titled, "Not so fast to put Tesla on that particular pedestal" and it's full of Audi making sure we all know that "some reports are giving Tesla too much credit." What's extra funny is that Audi compares its April US sales (13,157 units) to Tesla's 4,750 Model S sales, mistakenly claiming they, too, were from April. But Tesla doesn't report monthly sales, and the 4,750 number is for the total deliveries for the first quarter of 2013. That fact makes Audi look even better by comparison but even worse for making a stink about the whole thing. You can read the whole thing below.

While Audi's points are accurate, we see this headed into the realm political consultants talk about where if you need to clarify the details, you've already lost. And whatever the mood inside Audi HQ is, the reality is that Tesla has figured out how to sell a good number of luxury electric vehicles, while Audi is still just teasing.

One final bit of rival hilarity that takes on a new light today: Iron Man Tony Stark might sometimes drive an R8, but he is, in fact, based on Tesla CEO Elon Musk (in the movies, anyway).

*UPDATE: Looks like Audi has pulled the press release off its site. Interesting.
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Not so fast to put Tesla on that particular pedestal

Posted on May 17, 2013 2:38 PM

Not so fast

Investors, press and a lot of front-runners are enthusing over the progress of Tesla in selling all-electric vehicles, and doing so profitably, when other EV brands are faltering. But some reports are giving Tesla too much credit.

A headline on CNNMoney.com this week, for instance, said "Tesla sales beating Mercedes, BMW and Audi."

But the fact is that Tesla's reported sales of 4,750 units of its Model S electric car in April were less than half of Audi of America sales of 13,157 vehicles in the month, which represented a 16-percent rise from a year earlier. BMW and Mercedes-Benz sold even more than that.

The story's misleading headline came from the fact that Model S did outsell at least one of each of the German luxury brands' models that are in the general price range of the Tesla vehicle. Audi A8 sold 1,462 units in the U.S. in April, for instance.

And while Model S is Tesla's only nameplate at this point, the Audi A8 is the brand's flagship model and is aimed at consumers in the most exclusive segment of the market. The demand for premium models including the Audi A6, A7 and A8 is growing but remains just one segment for Audi.

The CNNMoney.com story did mention that it wasn't making a "perfect comparison," noting that each of the German brands sells "a full range of cars and SUVs" and that pricing of the Tesla S and the comparison models wasn't apples-to-apples.

To be sure, Tesla has been riding a boom in investor and consumer interest based on its apparent ability crack the code for EV sales with its $70,000-and-up Model S.

But while Tesla founder and CEO Elon Musk has raised Model S sales estimates for 2013 to 21,000 units, the brand faces a number of long-term issues that also were noted this week by American press.

"Tesla has to show it can be consistently profitable with a single product that is priced so high that most buyers can't afford it," as USA Today put it. "There are questions, too, about whether it can keep its order books full, or whether the number of people who crave electric cars is limited."