By on November 16, 2007

teslamotors_newsletter.jpgSo here we are, living large in the fourth financial quarter. Those of you keeping track of the thrice-revised date for the first delivery of an all-electric Tesla Roadster to a paying customer will note that the Silicon Valley start-up has 45 days to meet their last promise. To review: "While we expect to produce a limited number of production cars in the fourth quarter," Michael E. Marks wrote in a customer email back in September. "I have set a production goal of shipping fifty cars in the first quarter of 2008, with an additional 600 cars in the 2008 model year." Just today, we received our "requested update from Tesla Motors." This latest communication put the "miss" in "missive," making no mention of '07 customer deliveries. But hey, "nearly 90" (89? 85?) customers have logged some seat time in the prototype, including The Red Hot Chili Peppers' Michael "Flea" Balzary. And more great news! Despite having taken 600 orders from customers without delivering a single car, closing-out the order book for '08 model year Roadsters (last time we heard they were talking about producing one car per week), Tesla's now taking deposits for '09! While your money only puts you on the Wait List, where else can well-heeled eco-warriors buy a dream– and little else– for five grand?

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14 Comments on “Tesla Roadster Birth Watch 7: ’08′s Not Here, All Gone...”


  • avatar
    dean

    Is Max Bob working at Tesla now? ;)

    I hope they can make this work, but to borrow a great line from Star Wars: “I don’t have a good feeling about this.”

  • avatar
    quasimondo

    I guess in the meantime they’ll have to make do with a LS 600hL.

  • avatar
    Steve_K

    haha, Birth Watch. Many opportunities for humor!

    The Tesla’s been in labor for so long, that baby had better perform when it gets here!
    Does this make a Chevy Volt the afterbirth?
    It seems people waiting to adopt a Tesla Roadster will be on social security before their baby arrives!

    And so on.

  • avatar
    streamliner

    Do you spell this roadster D-E-L-O-R-E-A-N, or
    V-E-C-T-O-R? I cannot remember which is correct.

  • avatar
    NBK-Boston

    To be fair, the earlier letter never promised any Q4 2007 deliveries to begin with. All it said was that “we expect to produce a limited number” of units in the fourth quarter. Nothing about shipping them out as soon as the paint is dry. They could have built a dozen by now, and are refusing to ship them because of, um, further quality control testing.

    On the other hand, the real world may be catching up with Silicon Valley, and they may be learning the hard way that you can’t ship a product that’s only 85% complete just to meet a release date, and then rely on periodic software patches sent over the internet to cure the bugs as they start causing problems. Well, you can, but it’s called a “recall,” and it generates bad press, and if you’re too cavalier about it you could attract some “tort liability.” Aren’t software licenses, with their disclaimers of consequential damages, just nifty?

    I might also add that the reality of production process engineering might be catching up with the wonderboys as well. Mass producing a car is not like mass producing software — i.e. get the master copy right, and then fire up a room full of CD burners. Process engineering, component subcontracting / supply chain management and overall quality control are real killers. While hardware companies like Intel and Dell actaully have to deal with this at some point in their corporate chains, the pesky and dirty work of actually having to build anything on a production scale is rarely done these days in Silicon Valley. It’s often farmed out to Malaysia and China and other such places that don’t worry too much about the heavy metals and toxic solvents used in electronics production. So who knows where the people with actual hands-on production knowledge are located, and if the Tesla folks managed to recruit any of them, or any of the good ones?

    While I’m sure that many subassemblies are similarly farmed out in this case, final assembly is sure to be fun. I suppose they’ve farmed out this task too — to Lotus. But there’s a limit to what quality control Lotus can do when they’re dealing with a technology they haven’t designd and in which they are inexpert. They may even learn why traditional automobile companies tend to attract a flock of component manufacturers who set up shop in close physical proximity to the main, branded, final assembly plant. They may also learn why many technology start-ups wisely elect to sell out to the majors once they’ve got a workable technology ironed out and demonstrated in prototype form, but before they have to go through the bother of re-inventing the assembly line.

    I’m looking forward to future “Birth Watch” installments. The labor pains are sure to be far from over.

  • avatar
    packv12

    Shades of the Tucker.

    Taking deposits just to get on the waiting list, where do I sign up? Now, finally, a place to put my Tucker radio.

    At least DeLorean had a slight production run.

  • avatar
    guyincognito

    @ NBK Boston, well said. This is why I think deliveries are a long way off for them. Looking through the website they only mention a few VP (verification prototypes?) in test and the 1 prototype they let people drive. Range numbers were also quoted based on very limited testing. And there was no mention of a ship date. Having been through a couple of launches I can guarantee changes will have to be made and further delays are due.

  • avatar
    pfingst

    streamliner:
    Do you spell this roadster D-E-L-O-R-E-A-N, or
    V-E-C-T-O-R? I cannot remember which is correct.

    B-R-I-C-K-L-I-N

  • avatar
    mkeenly

    There was some Tesla event last night at the
    previously abandoned dealership that they plan to
    take over in Menlo Park.

    Lots of people there as well as a few cars.

  • avatar
    starlightmica

    Even more rich IT guys trying to get in on the action: Taking a whack at making a car

  • avatar
    f8

    It’s really hard to care about this car at this point – extremely expensive, mostly pointless, not even in production

  • avatar

    Twice delayed. By my count, the Roadster’s schedule has slipped twice since it was announced, not three times. (I’ve tried to correct this before, but TTAC never seems to get it straight.)

    The current schedule calls for “maybe” producing a few cars before Jan 1. But remember, once built it takes a few weeks to put them on a boat from England to the USA and then deliver them. The first roughly 25 or so are the “founders series” which go to the company’s top officers, major investors, and a few special individuals such as the Governator.

    Still waiting for TTAC to correct previous errors and blatant bias in reporting. Let’s look at the record, shall we?

    “. . .it doesn’t have room for a suitcase or a couple of bags of groceries.” Not true. It’s small, but not that small.

    “Replacement battery pack price is unknown.” Estimated $12,000 according to Tesla — keeping in mind we’re still five years away from any of them needing replacement, so it’s subject to the changing price of Li-ion cells.

    “Safety is unknown.” It’s been fully crash-tested, and the battery has been designed to survive a cell catching fire without ensuing drama.

    “The dirty little ‘secret’ in Tesla’s closet: li-ion batteries start losing capacity from the get-go.” It’s no secret, this has been told by Tesla since day one.

    “Would you purchase a sports car that can only drive 90 miles between 12 hour recharges?” EPA range is 245 miles, recharge time is 3.5 hours.

    “. . .if one of its batteries ignites, it could cause a virtually unstoppable series of fires and/or explosions.” Tesla designed it specifically to prevent this, and then set cells on fire to demonstrate that it worked as intended.

    “But the end result won’t change: a ludicrously expensive (if fast) EV with serious range and safety issues.” It’s much less expensive than other performance cars that TTAC reports on without resorting to such comments. 245 miles range doesn’t seem like a serious problem to me. TTAC hasn’t explained why the Roadster is any less safe than gasoline-powered cars in a similar category.

    The irony here is that TTAC has been working so hard to dream up insinuations and negative conjecture that they’ve sailed blithely past real problems that Tesla has had to deal with — like the persistent transmission problems, and their attempts to get an exemption from the advanced airbag requirements for 2008.

  • avatar

    tonybelding : Normally, TTAC doesn’t allow accusations of bias against the website, due to their incendiary effects. I usually delete all such comments and attempt to initiate a private email conversation about our editorial stance and/or style. In this case, I’m going to let it slide. Clearly, you’re not happy with our reporting on the Tesla Roadster, and I don’t want you or anyone else to think TTAC is engaged in an anti-EV vendetta. Now, to answer (or un-spin) your observations… 1. By my count, the Roadster’s schedule has slipped twice since it was announced, not three times. Since the Roadster was officially announced, there have been three different delivery dates. Here’s the exact time line: 1) At official unveiling, the company promised to deliver the Roadster in mid-’07 2) In April ‘07, Daryl Siry moved the delivery date to Oct ‘07 3) In September ‘07, CEO Michael Marks set "a production goal of shipping fifty cars in the first quarter of 2008.” This time line doesn’t include the Roadsters supposedly due before the end of the year. Should Tesla not deliver these cars, that will make it four missed delivery dates. Oh and there’s also this comment from Autobloggreen, which we’re not counting because we’ve been unable to verify it: “Martin also explains Tesla was delayed a year (from the original schedule) because they added safety equipment to the battery to absorb the heat of a burning cell.” Suffice it to say even if it’s “just” two delays, the Roadster remains considerably overdue and resolutely under-delivered. 2. The current schedule calls for “maybe” producing a few cars before Jan 1. But remember, once built it takes a few weeks to put them on a boat from England to the USA and then deliver them. The recent email from Tesla to its potential customers didn’t say “maybe” we’ll deliver a few cars by the end of '07. It said “We expect.” And it didn’t say “We’ll have them on the boat by January.” Sure, the email's weasel words created wiggle room (which brings no honor to the company). But if this objection is any guide, both you and Tesla are guilty of splitting hairs, obfuscation and prevarication. 3. “. . .it doesn’t have room for a suitcase or a couple of bags of groceries.” Not true. It’s small, but not that small.” In your efforts to discredit TTAC, you’re being pedantic. And you're taking the comment out of context. The actual text: “Hard-core EV freaks and eco-poseurs are going to love the Tesla, despite the fact it doesn’t have room for a suitcase or a couple of bags of groceries. The Elise, on which the Tesla is based, wasn’t exactly designed for practicality (or 6’4” middle-aged guys like me). Never mind the $100k price.” I can’t think of any reason why you’d want to defend the day-to-day practicality of a Tesla Roadster. As Mr. Neidermeyer’s quote says, the car’s target market couldn’t give a damn. What the problem? 4. “Replacement battery pack price is unknown.” Estimated $12,000 according to Tesla — keeping in mind we’re still five years away from any of them needing replacement, so it’s subject to the changing price of Li-ion cells. At the time the quoted comment was written (June ‘07), the battery pack price was unknown. Be that as it may, you’ve answered your own objection. If the Roadster’s batteries are subject to the changing price of Li-Ion cells, their price is unknown. Ipso facto. 5. “Safety is unknown.” It’s been fully crash-tested, and the battery has been designed to survive a cell catching fire without ensuing drama. We don’t accept ANY manufacturer’s crash data unless it has been independently verified. The gold standard in this regard is the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). Show me an IIHS crash test rating for Roadster and THEN I'll believe it's safe (if it receives a good or better rating). I’d also suggest you step away from the Kool-Aid long enough to realize that just because a battery has been designed to be safe doesn’t make it so. 6. “The dirty little ’secret’ in Tesla’s closet: li-ion batteries start losing capacity from the get-go.” It’s no secret, this has been told by Tesla since day one. Again, you’re being disingenuous. The article was referring to the breathless media’s lack of reporting on the Roadster’s inherent limitations. 7. “Would you purchase a sports car that can only drive 90 miles between 12 hour recharges?” EPA range is 245 miles, recharge time is 3.5 hours. Unbelievable. We were not saying that WAS the Roadster’s range and recharge time. We were asking a hypothetical question, as Tesla has yet to prove either mission critical capability. You say the Roadster will go 245 miles (a meaningless claim without consideration of test conditions) between 3.5-hour recharges. Prove it. And I urge both you and Tesla to stop using the term "EPA" in this unverified range claim. The EPA doesn't even have a standardized mpg test for EVs. And they have not approved any data submitted by Tesla– as none has been submitted. 8. “. . .if one of its batteries ignites, it could cause a virtually unstoppable series of fires and/or explosions.” Tesla designed it specifically to prevent this, and then set cells on fire to demonstrate that it worked as intended. We said it “could” cause a dangerous fire because Li-Ion batteries have been known to ignite and burn dangerously (water actually feeds the fire). Again, simply stating that Tesla designed and tested a system to prevent this eventuality doesn’t pass the smell test. Until and unless an independent agency verifies Tesla’s safety claims, the nature of the Li-ion beast makes the Roadster guilty until proven innocent. 9. “But the end result won’t change: a ludicrously expensive (if fast) EV with serious range and safety issues.” It’s much less expensive than other performance cars that TTAC reports on without resorting to such comments. I’m amused that you’re attacking this quote on the basis of cost. Nowhere did our writer say that Tesla shouldn’t charge whatever it likes for its car. As you’re well aware, the point being made: the Tesla Roadster doesn't represent any serious step forwards in the pursuit of a practical, mass-produced EV. And before you go all White Star on me, please don’t expect me to believe in the NEXT car when Tesla can’t even deliver THIS one– even if they’ve hoodwinked New Mexico into enormous tax credits. The irony here is that TTAC has been working so hard to dream up insinuations and negative conjecture that they’ve sailed blithely past real problems that Tesla has had to deal with — like the persistent transmission problems, and their attempts to get an exemption from the advanced airbag requirements for 2008. Thanks for the compliment; we do work hard. And thanks for the heads-up on the airbag exemption. It kinda backs-up our statement about safety problems, but we appreciate the tip. If you have any more information about this or any other news about “teething troubles,” please let us know. Meanwhile, we stand by our coverage.  

  • avatar

    I for one hope they do succeed. I rode in the thing a little over a month and a half ago, and found the torque and handling extremely impressive–i.e. I didn’t die of fright going at ridiculous speeds on the winding roads through the Calif hills as I probably would have in a lesser car.

    But if I were one of the people interested in buying one, I would find TTAC’s reporting to be a valuable service.


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