Although Tesla Motors sold fewer than 23,000 cars last year, an almost immeasurable amount of the 15.6 million vehicles Americans purchased last year, the electric car company is pushing technological change throughout the auto industry, according to Barclays Capital.
In a report to investors, Barclays analyst Brian Johnson identified five ways Tesla's Model S luxury sports sedan is transforming automotive design and noted other companies that might be good investments as other car companies catch up.
"While Tesla has mainly focused investor attention on the growth prospects for electric vehicles, we believe there are five key connected car technologies in or planned for the Model S that are worth investor attention," Johnson said.
Reconfigurable clusters: Rather than traditional bezels, gauges and dials, the Model S has a fully reconfigurable instrument cluster, or dashboard screen.
Large center infotainment touchscreens: Tesla's use of a large center infotainment touchscreen has raised the bar for size and functionality of center screens.
"We expect this to be reflected in the broader small/mid car market going forward," Johnson said.
Embedded telematics: Inclusion in the Model S of an embedded connection link -- as opposed to connectivity via smartphone tethering -- demonstrates that embedded connectivity is the way drivers will communicate with the digital world outside their car.
Assisted driver/autopilot: While the Model S trails the German manufacturers in advanced driver assistance systems for now, Johnson said he expects the Palo Alto automaker to catch up rapidly. He predicted that Tesla will offer some form of autopilot for limited situations in the next three to five years.
Cloud-based software: It is being used by Tesla not only to update software, but in the future will harvest critical "Big Data" on vehicle performance.
Johnson said you don't need to invest in Tesla to capture the gains from its innovation.
Three companies, Delphi Automotive, Harman International Industries and Visteon Corp. offer best exposure to these new technologies, he said.
Johnson sees Harman as "the Connected Car pureplay, as the vast majority of its revenue is driven by Connected Car technologies."
Visteon is big in reconfigurable instrument clusters and "has built itself into one of the top players in the cockpit electronics space," he said.
Delphi "offers exposure to each of these technologies, with strength in both the infotainment and assisted driving/active safety fields," Johnson said.