Patrick McGee:

“I wouldn’t call [the BMW ad] pathetic, but the two vehicles are not comparable,” says Roland Irle, co-founder of EV-volumes, a consultancy focused on electric cars. “Most people are scratching their head in the green car community.”

Under entrepreneur Elon Musk’s leadership, 13-year-old Tesla has shocked traditional carmakers with each of its four models.

The Roadster, unveiled in 2008, proved electric cars could be cool. The Model S saloon, in 2012, boasted a reassuringly long range of up to 426km.

The Model X, introduced last year, is a sport utility vehicle with Back to the Future-style doors that accelerates from 0 to 60mph in 3.2 seconds. The Model 3 secured orders from almost 400,000 prospective customers within four weeks, and therefore demonstrated there was a mass market for electric cars.

Tesla is now the electric car leader, whether it is measured by vehicle sales, range, battery costs per kilowatt hour, or acceleration, says Mr Irle.

As a result, the BMW ad will not so much lure away Tesla fans but reinforce the common narrative that the big German carmakers are on the defensive after being beaten at their own game, say several analysts.

But while it is widely acknowledged Tesla has been a disruptive force in the automobile industry, it is not clear the German carmakers have actually been upended.

In the years since the financial crisis, Chinese demand for vehicles has surged, enabling traditional carmakers to hit record global sales and operating earnings last year, according to Bernstein analysts.