According to Tesla CEO Elon Musk, the EV luxury brand has pre-sold all 6,500 units of its new Model S to be built next year, and the company is on-track for a 2013 profit. Bt if you’re comparing Tesla to the erstwhile EV darling BYD in order for it to look good, you have to wonder how good things really are. If anything, Tesla should be compared to Audi, an established (and hot) luxury brand with the same EV technology and one of Tesla’s founders on board. Losses for this fiscal year are estimated at $437m, and Tesla’s crucial loans from the Department of Energy are attracting a distracting investigation in the wake of the Solyndra scandal (but hey, Musk is “personally guaranteeing” those loans, so no worries…). And, in a truly puzzling move, Tesla is ignoring the SAE J1772 protocol for rapid EV charging because it isn’t sexy looking enough. As EV guru Chelsea Sexton puts it to the New York Times
It’s hardly unusual for Tesla to zig where the rest of the industry zags. But it’s particularly counterintuitive not to use the J1772 standard, since Model S drivers will be more interested in public charging than Roadster owners. Tesla’s proprietary connector choice requires getting customers to care about form over function on one of the most utilitarian aspects of the car. How many people stare at a gas nozzle and think, ‘If only that were better looking’?
Selling out of a first-year production run is good news, but hardly surprising (all plug-in vehicles are currently capacity-constrained). Preventing buyers from using public charging infrastructure because it’s unsexy is the kind of surprising news that could seriously damage Tesla’s long-term efforts. Meanwhile, we still don’t know how this company will do with regards to manufacturing quality and reliability, especially as volumes ramp up to 20k units per year. After all, Tesla’s hype and niche marketing efforts are well-proven… it’s all the other aspects of building and selling cars that we’re still unsure about.