Tesla currently has ‘no competitors,’ but its biggest rivals will come from China, auto-manufacturing expert says

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Tesla’s biggest threat will be Chinese electric-car manufacturers, according to Sandy Munro.

  • Even as EVs boom, Tesla has no real competitors, according to manufacturing expert Sandy Munro.
  • Chinese firms like Nio and XPeng will pose the biggest threat to Tesla, Munro said.
  • Tesla dominates EV sales, but it faces growing competition from startups and traditional automakers.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Tesla launched its first model, the Roadster, back when there were virtually no electric cars on the market.

Now, as the electric-vehicle space is bursting more than a decade later, one manufacturing expert thinks Elon Musk’s automaker still has no true rivals.

“None. There are no competitors to Tesla. But when they do come they’ll be Chinese,” Sandy Munro said during a Q-and-A session on his YouTube channel when asked which companies pose the biggest threat to Tesla. Munro runs an engineering firm and is well-known for his cost-analysis teardowns of cars.

Tesla is far and away the dominant force in the EV industry currently, and its roughly $40,000 Model 3 sedan was the best-selling electric car in the world in 2020. But legacy automakers have their sights set on the startup’s crown amid tightening emissions regulations worldwide and growing excitement from investors around EVs.

Volkswagen announced an all-out electric offensive this year that includes several European battery plants and major investments in charging stations. Ford recently began selling its first EV, the Mustang Mach-E crossover, which has already begun eating into Tesla’s US market share, according to analysts at Morgan Stanley.

Read more: How a Taiwanese scooter startup finally made battery swapping for electric vehicles work

According to Munro, who has been involved in EV engineering since the ill-fated GM EV1 of the late 1990s, the Mach-E is the “closest thing to an electric car that could – could – take on Tesla.” But Chinese carmakers like Nio, XPeng, BJEV, and Geely will pose the biggest threat to Tesla and traditional OEMs alike as they bring electric cars to market in the coming years.

“Quite frankly, apart from Tesla and Rivian and maybe a few others here, all the other OEMs better pay attention. Because the Chinese EVs have builds as good as anything we’ve got here [and] costs that are significantly lower,” Munro said. “You better have your belt on real tight when the Chinese start putting their cars into North America.”

Munro has said that Tesla is 10 years ahead of the competition when it comes to some elements of its manufacturing. Some Wall Street analysts think Tesla’s lead in the EV space will extend for years.

In a March note, analysts from UBS said Tesla will remain the most profitable electric-car company through at least 2025, even though Volkswagen will overtake it in terms of EV sales by that year.

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Tesla settles lawsuit with former employee accused of stealing Autopilot trade secrets

Tesla Shanghai China Factory
Guangzhi Cao maintains he didn’t share any Tesla trade secrets with anyone.

  • Tesla and an ex-engineer who left the firm for rival Xpeng settled a lawsuit about trade secrets.
  • Tesla accused the employee of uploading Autopilot source code to his personal iCloud account.
  • The employee, Guangzhi Cao, maintains he never shared Autopilot information with anyone.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Tesla settled a lawsuit against an ex-engineer who copied the source code of its Autopilot driver-assistance tech before taking a job with a Chinese competitor, according to documents filed Thursday with a US district court.

Former Tesla employee Guangzhi Cao will pay the electric vehicle maker an undisclosed sum as part of the settlement, though he maintains he never did anything improper with the Autopilot code.

Tesla filed the lawsuit against Cao in 2019, claiming that he copied Autopilot source code to his personal iCloud storage account before abruptly resigning from the company in January of that year to join XMotors, the US arm of Chinese EV maker Xpeng. Tesla alleged that Cao had uploaded more than 300,000 files and directories related to Autopilot to his iCloud account.

Read more: 6 top startups propelling the electric car boom with new alternatives to expensive lithium-ion batteries

Autopilot is Tesla’s advanced driver-assistance system that comes standard on all of its new cars. The technology automates some elements of highway driving, like keeping a car in the center of its lane and keeping up with traffic. It’s considered to be one of the more advanced such systems on the market.

According to the documents made public on Thursday, Cao admitted that he saved the files to his personal account and that files remained on his personal devices when Tesla filed the lawsuit but says he intended to delete them before leaving Tesla.

In a statement to Insider provided by his attorney, Cao said that he never accessed any Tesla data after leaving the company and never shared any of the data with XMotors or anyone else. Tesla and Xpeng did not respond to requests for comment.

Tesla competes closely with Xpeng and other Chinese automakers in China, the world’s largest market for electric cars. Tesla operates a plant in Shanghai and is expanding its presence in the country to include a research and development facility where it will design a more affordable EV.

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