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on volume to confront TeslaBMW and Mercedes-Benz are betting they can mass-produce new electric cars based on conventional vehicles, defying skeptics who say they will need more radical designs to head off the threat from Tesla and other start-up carmakers. Since BMW started selling the i3 in 2013, vehicle battery performance has improved by 40 percent, allowing carmakers to make electric cars with the same heavy underpinnings used by gasoline-powered cars and still get a range of 500 km from one charge.Germany's three big premium carmakers – Mercedes-Benz, BMW and VW Group's Audi – have most to lose if Tesla's volume assault on the premium car market succeeds.Loss-making Tesla, which made 83,922 cars last year, is already far ahead of the German luxury brands in electric car sales. Overall, Mercedes and BMW sold more than 2 million cars apiece last year.Breitfeld sees the German carmakers' answer to the expected surge in electric car demand – putting an electric motor in a conventional car – as a mistake.
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