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Tesla to slip to 7th in EV leadership by 2021, forecast says

As Elon Musk's company struggles to iron out Model 3 production issues, a consultancy says Tesla is about to get overtaken.

As Tesla continues to grapple with production and quality issues hamstringing its innovative Model 3 sedan, the competition is looming larger in the Silicon Valley automaker's rearview mirror.

According to a new study by the London-based PA Consulting Group, the manufacturer's leadership position in electric cars will be overtaken by a raft of legacy automakers by 2021, the consultancy said in its findings earlier this week.

The study predicts that by that year, Tesla will be surpassed by Daimler (makers of Mercedes-Benz and Smart), as well as BMW, the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi alliance, Volkswagen, Volvo and Toyota, leaving it in seventh place.

The forecast's methodology weighs factors including production, financials, technology, ecosystem and partners (including charging tech and third-party services), as well as culture (including corporate leadership) and incentives.

PA Consulting says Tesla "faces an uncertain future due to production problems of Model 3 and its profit expectations." Those continued assembly issues and a muddy financial picture contributed to the brand's slide in its evaluations.

Regardless of whether PA Consulting's crystal ball is accurate, there's no getting around the fact that beginning later this year, Tesla will begin to face massively increased pressure from traditional luxury automakers, all of which are getting serious about EVs. 

While BMW has nibbled around the edges of Elon Musk's company with models like its unusual i3 city car, it's getting ready to double down with new battery-powered offerings like the BMW iX3 SUV and an electric Mini. In the near term, the Jaguar i-Pace (seen below) and Audi E-Tron will be in showrooms soon, and literally dozens of other battery-electric vehicles are in the pipeline from well-funded and profitable automakers. 

For 2019, PA Consulting Group anticipates that Tesla will hold on to its No. 1 ranking, followed by the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi alliance, BMW, Hyundai-Kia and Daimler. After Tesla, the next-ranking American brand is General Motors (makers of the Chevrolet Bolt EV), which PA predicts will be in ninth place in 2019 and slip to tenth by 2021.

A Tesla spokesperson declined a request for comment on this story.