<p><img src="https://static6.businessinsider.com/image/5f0dd1d82618b91aef7e2aa6-2400/reuters tesla plant.jpg" border="0" alt="Reuters tesla plant.JPG" data-mce-source="Aly Song/Reuters" data-mce-caption="Elon Musk."></p><p></p><bi-shortcode id="summary-shortcode" data-type="summary-shortcode" class="mceNonEditable" contenteditable="false">Summary List Placement</bi-shortcode><p>The biggest mistake that auto-industry analysts and observers have made in the relatively short history of the modern electric car is to assume that the consumer is all that matters. Demand, their flawed argument went, would bring buyers into the market and enable EV sales to explode. Competition would follow, and Tesla's first-mover advantage would erode.</p><p>That hasn't happened. EV sales remain a tiny percentage of annual, worldwide totals, a disappointment to electrification enthusiasts for the better part of a decade. Despite the arrival of compelling EVs from the likes of Chevy, Audi, Jaguar, and others, Tesla continues to dominate.</p><p>However, the EV race has entered a new phase, with established automakers putting some serious money behind their ambitions. General Motors plans to spend $27 billion on its electric future, and CEO Mary Barra has repeatedly declared that the <a href="https://www.businessinsider.com/general-motors-pivot-to-electric-cars-begins-analysis-2020-3">automaker wants to shift decisively away from the internal-combustion engine</a>.</p><p><a href="https://media.ford.com/content/fordmedia/fna/us/en/news/2020/09/17/ford-deepens-commitment-to-american-manufacturing.html">Ford announced a new, $700-million factory</a> dedicated to building the all-electric version of its best-selling F-150 pickup truck, scheduled to launch in 2022. The plant will be part of <a href="https://www.businessinsider.com/tesla-factory-like-ford-plant-2017-8">Ford's legendary River Rouge complex in Michigan,</a> possibly the most famous auto manufacturing site in the history of the American industry.</p><p>Tesla is keeping pace. In September, the company hosted its "Battery Day" event, where CEO Elon Musk briefed the public on a <a href="https://www.businessinsider.com/tesla-battery-day-announcements-highlights-elon-musk-annual-shareholder-meeting-2020-9">host of new technological efforts</a> and explained a <a href="https://www.businessinsider.com/teslas-new-battery-design-is-brilliant-says-a-top-researcher-2020-9">new "tabless" cell design</a> one battery researcher called "brilliant."</p><p>GM, Ford, and Tesla are each attacking the EV game in different ways, with one common feature: a focus on not the much-debated competition they'll eventually have, but instead the creation of distinctive strategies.</p><h2>GM: Creating a pervasive operating system for EVs</h2><p><img src="https://static2.businessinsider.com/image/5e600696fee23d68b900fef2-2000/gmevbarra01.jpg" border="0" alt="GM EV Barra" data-mce-source="GM"></p><p>In early 2020, GM <a href="https://www.businessinsider.com/gms-new-ultium-battery-is-for-electric-car-gearheads-2020-3">unveiled its Ultium battery technology</a> and, at an event near Detroit, executives and engineers outlined how Ultium might evolveespecially in terms of limiting dependence on so-called "rare earth" elements such as cobalt.</p><p>More recently, GM has: <a href="https://media.gm.com/media/us/en/gm/news.detail.html/content/Pages/news/us/en/2020/sep/0916-ultium-drive.html">showcased the Ultium powertrains</a> that will be paired with the battery tech for 30 electrified vehicles <a href="https://www.businessinsider.com/gm-details-22-electric-vehicles-plans-to-launch-by-2023-2020-3">slated to arrive by 2025</a>; and revealed that it would be using <a href="https://media.gm.com/media/us/en/gm/home.detail.html/content/Pages/news/us/en/2020/sep/0909-wbms.html">wireless battery management</a> to cut down on manufacturing complexity.</p><p>With Ultium, GM is in effect creating an operating system for EVs, sort of like an Apple iOS or an Android in the smartphone world. GM's big bet here is that Ultium will power not just its EVs, but potentially many other non-GM EVs. GM also partnered with Honda.</p><p>So ultimately, if you'll pardon the pun, GM could have Ultium inside a wide range of electric vehicles, to extend the operating-system analogy into the computer chip realm and borrow Intel's famous slogan. The upshot is that GM will control a critical part of the EV ecosystem.</p><h2>Ford: Building on the legacy of its icons</h2><p><img src="https://static4.businessinsider.com/image/5f63c1c757b7da001ee12581-2048/Ford-Rouge-Electric-Vehicle-Center-Rendering.jpg" border="0" alt="Ford Rouge Electric Vehicle Center Rendering" data-mce-source="Ford" data-mce-caption="Ford Rouge Electric Vehicle Center Rendering"></p><p>The electric F-150 plant at River Rouge is just the latest instance of Ford leveraging its numerous in-house brands to support its EV efforts. In 2019, the company <a href="https://www.businessinsider.com/ford-mustang-mach-e-revealed-los-angeles-photos-features-2019-11">unveiled the Mustang Mach-E</a>, a critically important all-electric vehicle that began deliveries last year. </p><p>It was the first expansion of the iconic Mustang brand since the car debuted in 1964 and a clear indication that Ford wanted to lead with its strengths as it joins the EV hootenanny. The electric F-150 is another shining example: That full-size pickup nameplate has been at the heart of the the top-selling lineup of vehicles in the US for nearly four decades, the F-Series.</p><p>GM is a collection of brandsChevy, Buick, GMC, Cadillacso it makes sense for Ultium to join that lineup. Ford, on the other hand, is a collection of icons, such as the Mustang, the F-150, and River Rouge. So the logical way to turbocharge its EVs, if you will, is to leverage those icons to capture attention and generate excitement. </p><p>Ford's bet, then, is that it can transition the accumulated greatness of the F-150 and Mustang from the gas-burning era to the all-electric one.</p><h2>Tesla: Riding wave after wave of buzz</h2><p><img src="https://static1.businessinsider.com/image/5f64c02c323fc4001e0d7118-2400/Tesla Model 34.jpg" border="0" alt="Tesla Model 3_4" data-mce-source="Tesla" data-mce-caption="Tesla Model 3."></p><p>Tesla went on an epic stock rally in 2020, minting a market cap that made it the most valuable automaker in the world and worth far more than GM and Ford. Critics pointed out that GM and Ford have been pretty steadily profitable since the Great Recession ended, and that those automakers sell millions of cars and trucks annually, while Tesla only managed to sell 500,000 in 2020.</p><p>But Tesla has the buzz, and it isn't afraid to use it. At the beginning of September, the company said it would <a href="https://www.businessinsider.com/teslas-5-billion-capital-raisewill-drive-the-auto-industry-crazy-2020-9">raise $5 billion by issuing new equity</a>, not long after it announced a 5-for-1 stock split. The raise would take its cash-on-hand position to about $14 billion, a historic high for the company, which is less than two decades old.</p><p>That's just one case of Tesla turning buzz into billions. The carmaker's entire future hinges on the passionate loyalty of its customers and significant growth in the number of customers in whom it can engender new levels of passionate loyalty.</p><p>Note that it isn't simply consumers with money to buy EVs whom Tesla is looking for; rather, it wants its owners to have an experience that drives beneficial buzz and continues a virtuous process of people loving their Teslas begetting more people who love their Teslas.</p><p>That buzz, not incidentally, extends to Wall Street, where investor enthusiasm is a vital type of currencyas demonstrated by the stock rally, which enabled the big capital raise.</p><h2>Different strokes</h2><p><img src="https://static1.businessinsider.com/image/5f63c292323fc4001e0d6fbe-2400/BILL-FORDSV17022.jpg" border="0" alt="Ford Chairman Bill Ford" data-mce-source="Ford" data-mce-caption="Ford Chairman Bill Ford"></p><p>GM, Ford, and Tesla are proof that there are multiple strategies available to attack business opportunities. Why does this matter' Simple: If your strategic choice is successful, the strategy <em>itself</em> becomes valuable.</p><p>Classic examples would include Ford's creation of River Rouge from <a href="https://www.thehenryford.org/visit/ford-rouge-factory-tour/history-and-timeline/fords-rouge/">1917 through 1928</a>, developing a model of so-called "vertical integration" in manufacturinga model that would endure until the 1980s, when it was displaced by "just in time" systems; and GM's ladder of brands, starting customers out with Chevy and sending them off to their final rewards in Cadillacs, with Pontiacs and Buicks in between.</p><p>In the 21st century, Tesla has become the first new US car brand to make it since Chrysler in the 20th century, by assiduously and skillfully courting popular support. That game plan got it from making almost no vehicles in 2010 to selling more than 360,000 in 2019.</p><p>It's entirely possible that all three could succeed, in one form or another. But what's clear is that electric carmakers now need a lot more than a dreamthey need a deeper think about how they can use what they've got to define a market whose potential could be enormous, but whose shape remains uncertain.</p><p><strong>FOLLOW US: <a href="https://www.facebook.com/BusinessInsider.Cars/" >On Facebook for more car and transportation content!</a></strong></p><p><a href="https://www.businessinsider.com/tesla-gm-ford-taking-different-approaches-electric-vehicle-ev-market-2020-9#comments">Join the conversation about this story »</a></p> <p>NOW WATCH: <a href="https://www.businessinsider.com/why-china-loves-tesla-elon-musk-2020-5">Why China Loves Tesla</a></p> Click here to read full news..