×

Titans take aim at Tesla

Tesla has enjoyed critical acclaim within the technology and automobile spheres. But as CEO Elon Musk's brainchild vies to move beyond the luxury car market, two formidable competitors are moving in.

The electric carmaker, which has won top scores from accountability groups such as Consumer Reports and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, recently expanded from its niche luxury sedans toward midmarket cars and SUVs. But now, fellow automakers Porsche and Audi are debuting electric vehicles, at the same time as tech giant Apple is reportedly poaching key Tesla employees.

"What we've found is that the Tesla buyer is that typical luxury buyer, so they compete with Porsche now," Andrea James, analyst at Dougherty, said Tuesday on CNBC's "Closing Bell." "Tesla competes with Audi right now, and they are competing very well. But I think these other automakers are seeing that there are certain advantages to driving electric, and if you can harness those advantages, you can make a really great vehicle."

If household names such as Apple and Google have autonomous vehicles in the works, it may be enough to gain the leading edge, James Albertine, researcher at Stifel, told CNBC. And Porche's new model, Mission E, may have a more powerful battery, charging to 80 percent capacity in half the time of Tesla's Model S.

Still, Tesla does have a "first mover" advantage over companies such as Apple and Porsche, James said, especially when it comes to manufacturing and battery supply.

"With Apple and Google, the one thing that remains to be seen is how they are going to incorporate manufacturing," James said. "It's one thing to design a car, and quite another to build it, and I think that Tesla has learned a lot about building vehicles over the past five years."

Tesla also has a potential supply chain advantage over traditional automakers by producing their own batteries, the analysts said.

"Where's Porsche going to get their battery sales, and how are they going to turn a profit on these vehicles? That's our question," Albertine said.

Consumers will have to wait for a verdict; it could be years before vehicles announced at Tuesday's trade show in Frankfurt hit the lot, James said.

"You're going to get more alternative fuel vehicles over time," James said. "I think Tesla's got a great seat at the table."