AUBURN HILLS, Mich.—In the beginning, there was Tesla.
Well, more or less.
There were traditional OEMs with limited, though relatively successful, electric vehicle offerings. But they were niche vehicles, small passenger cars that lacked the form and function that most drivers—especially American drivers—sought.
Tesla changed that. And, as a result, it may have supercharged the entire industry.
"Tesla was really important," said Kevin Riddell, LMC Automotive senior manager of powertrain forecasting. That's because Tesla did a relatively simple thing: It thought big. And in doing so it broadened the expectations of EVs beyond the tiny, passenger car niche.
"To be able to come into the market and say, 'we can sell an expensive EV, we just have to make it desirable,' opened a lot of eyes," Riddell said.
Tesla's success in the EV space has given others—traditional OEMs and newcomers alike—the courage to take their own leaps of faith, investing in technology and design developments for electrified powertrains across all segments.
Those investments are driving quick change. According to the Center for Automotive Research, North American drivers had 67 EV model options in 2020. But by 2024, more than 200 electric vehicle models will be available across the continent.
And each of those vehicles are developed with Tesla's successes in mind.
"When you look at the whole of manufacturing and think about where the benchmarks are," Riddell said, "everyone is focusing on Tesla."
Anyone who is benchmarking Tesla is benchmarking Henniges Automotive, and that's not a coincidence. The auto supplier sensed change on the horizon as technology pushed the industry closer to new mobility. It saw trends emerge in the electrified and autonomous spaces and knew it needed to take action.
In Tesla, Henniges saw the perfect partner with the perfect timing. The auto maker's ideas were ambitious, but they weren't unrealistic.
"We have been—going back six or seven years—incorporating EV market trends into our corporate strategy. And that led us to really pursue Tesla, which was, at the time, the emerging EV player," said Fred Jamieson, global vice president of Henniges sales, marketing and program management.