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Early in the morning after the lap session for our Tesla vs. Jaguar vs. Alfa Romeo story, I grabbed a couple minutes with Motor Trend staff pro driver Randy Post before he dashed to catch a flight home. Without spoiling Kim Reynolds’ excellent feature, I want to relay just a snippet of our resident racer’s thoughts on Tesla’s new Track mode feature.

“An aggressive full-speed track entrance led to inconsistencies. It wouldn’t always do the same thing. I go down the straightaway, and I’m heading to a corner, I’m thinking in the back of my mind, I wonder what is going to happen. It was an uneasy feeling.”

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What struck me about Randy’s critique of the Model 3‘s high-performance mode is that he could have been describing the recent behavior of the guy most responsible for Tesla‘s very existence. Aggressive, full-speed, and inconsistent: Elon Musk’s approach to the auto industry has been all of those things, and, more recently, wildly erratic and confusing. From a cringe-worthy spat with a British rescue diver in Thailand, to claims of taking Tesla private with the backing of Saudi investment (that subsequently prompted an SEC investigation, lawsuit, and settlement), to smoking a spliff while appearing on The Joe Rogan Experience podcast, it is understandable why many Tesla customers and investors are filled with unease and wonder.

No longer in the back of my mind is this other thought: When will a true Tesla rival emerge? Coke has Pepsi, Nike has Adidas, Chevy has Ford ( and Toyota and Hyundai and VW, but that’s a different story). But where is the real Tesla challenger? And who will be its smart, sober, visionary leader?

I believe the true challenger won’t be one of the large, traditional OEMs, but rather a startup as single-focused and committed to the future of electric vehicles as Tesla. A quick survey of leading contenders including Faraday Future, Lucid Motors, NIO, and Rivian reveals a few fascinating combinations of familiar faces from across the auto industry. Plus there are a slew of China-based EV startups, any of which could claim a stake to the new technology. In particular, though, Lucid and Rivian boast impressive rosters.

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