According to Neidermeyer’s post, a 2013 Tesla Model S owner on the Tesla Motors Owners forum experienced a ball joint failure at around the 70,000-mile mark, and the owner referred to Tesla for a fix. The automaker offered what’s commonly known in the industry as “goodwill assistance,” which covered half the $3,100 total cost of the repair, as the Model S was out of warranty.
However, the vehicle owner and Neidermeyer took exception to part of the written goodwill agreement as it seems to include a non-disclosure clause, which Neidermeyer contends could dissuade other Tesla issues from reporting issues to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and subvert the federal vehicle issue reporting process.
Is Tesla silencing its customers via threat of litigation? And is this ball joint issue even a problem in the first place?
Here’s some gutsy news from one of the gutsier companies around. Tesla filed papers for an initial public offering (IPO) today, hoping to raise up to $100 million. In its Form S-1 registration statement with the SEC, the Silicon Valley start up said the stock would be issued “as soon as possible”. That part is not very surprising, coming on the heels of securing a $465 million loan from the DOE to help build the Model S. But deeper in the that filing comes a couple of juicier facts: Tesla has lost some $236 million so far, and plans to kill the Roadster, its only product on sale, in 2011. Read More >
There are a lot of places you’d expect to find a defense of trickle down economics (the idea that wealthy people create jobs for people further down the food chain). National Public Radio is not one of them. And yet there it is: the publicly-funded [via rich people] bastion of liberalism ran a piece thanking Mr. and Mrs. Moneybags for . . . buying the Tesla Roadster. Otherwise, Tesla wouldn’t have the capital to build cheaper Teslas for the rest of us (providing you exclude their applications for federal funding, paid for by rich people). “Using money from rich customers to fuel mass-market production is a fairly common business model,” NPR’s reporter reports. “Think of the Tesla Roadster as the $2000 cell phone of 1985,” Tesla spinmeister, Diarmuid O’Connell, suggests helpfully. Is it a coincidence that the DeLorean-lauding movie Back to the Future came out that year? Probably. Anyway, “O’Connell says we take for granted our easy access to cheap products, and forget the role of the rich in making it happen. He says we wouldn’t enjoy such low airfares today if it weren’t for the initial wealthy travelers.” Me, I worship first class passengers. Anyway, big news! New car!
Saturday’s San Jose Mercury News carried a short piece on the swift conclusion of the Tesla v. Fisker arbitration hearings. “Tesla had alleged that Fisker stole trade secrets to create his Fisker Karma while working under contract to design a car for Tesla.”Somehow the notion that a bunch of automotive neophytes were generating significant trade secrets and that said secrets were whisked out the back door by industry veteran Fisker never did smell right. Sure enough, “retired Judge William McDonald found in November that Tesla’s case was ‘baseless.'” Tesla says it will pay up, someday. Not that Fisker needs the cash. In September, Fisker closed a $65 million investment round led by the Qatar Investment Authority on top of two previous Kleiner-Perkins led venture investment rounds.
Now that the economic downturn has liberated Tesla Motors’ inner Curly– we’re a victim of coimcumstance!– CEO Elon Musk has finally admitted what TTAC said all along: they’re not making a dime on the $109k Tesla Roadster. OK, the self-annointed CEO says they weren’t making a profit. In fact, Musk tells BusinessWeek that the EV maker was $40k over budget per vehicle. Which would make it a break-even proposition. Yes, “Tesla had to delay the launch by six months while it looked for a way to make the car profitably. Musk fired founding CEO Martin Eberhard and brought in as interim chief Michael Marks, an executive at electronics maker Flextronics International.” And now Musk is busy re-writing recent history. “A few weeks ago, Tesla seemed to be on the road to making that [world domination] happen. Musk had verbal commitments for $100 million in private capital, federal loan guarantees geared at jump-starting development of alternative vehicles, and thoughts of going public next year.” OK, that brings up to Musk’s favorite time period: the future!
In this breathless interview by an adoring newswoman, Elon Musk says that the Tesla Roadster is doing great! And that Tesla’s OEM supply business is doing great! And that the Silicon Valley electric vehicle maker (retrofitter? is slowing down on WhiteElephant sedan development because it’s the fiscally prudent thing to do so. Musk anticipates some cheap government capital in six months (courtesy of tax payers just like you), so why raise more money now? In other words of wisdom, Tesla’ self-appointed CEO says falling gas prices aren’t a concern for the company’s business plan because gas prices “aren’t the main reason” for buying a hot sports car which is “environmentally friendly.” (Hint: it’s all about green cred.) Officially, Musk has “no comment” about specific time frames for an IPO, but says it’s “within the realm of possibilities” that Tesla will fleece more investors let outsiders buy a piece of the automaker’s mean, green dream sometime next year. Meanwhile, if your idea of great reporting is a newsbabe hanging on every word of a sanctimonious rich guy, today’s your lucky day.
Tesla Motors says it’s secured 90 acres between San Jose and Santa Clara, CA to build its world headquarters. Oh, and production facilities for its (supposedly) upcoming Model S (nee White Star) sedan. The announcement is creating all kinds of excitement among the kind of people who use terms like “green collar jobs” and “cleantech.” “It’s not just another solar company,” says San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed. “It’s an electric car, which has tremendous upside for us, and a whole new area of job potential.” And of course that excitement translates into taxpayer handout. The San Jose Mercury reports that the City of San Jose will sign a 40-year lease with Tesla for the land, providing the first 10 years rent-free. “In years 11 to 20, Tesla will pay $1.5 million a year for the property, and then see rent increases of 2 percent a year in years 21 to 40. Tesla will pay the usual development fees… but the city will look for a way to rebate them over time once tax revenues start flowing in from the company.” Governator Schwarzenegger has already offered to waive sales taxes on the first $100m of equipment purchased for the factory (angering not a few non-automotive manufacturers). And the plant is being built using a $150m federal Department of Energy loan guarantee. Hey, what happened to the whole Tesla in New Mexico deal? Nothing.
Actually, we're not sure what number Tesla Roadster is chronicled here. But a private and likely very well off citizen in California has procured one and put a video of himself driving it on Ye Olde YouTube. What we can see from the video is: (1) The carbon fiber hood is very light and (2) mother of god, it's quick. A confidential source confirms that the customer paid sticker ($120k) for his lithium-ion-powered automotive trinket. No word on recharge time or range in the video. (As this guy's stable probably includes a fleet of slick cars, I doubt it's of very much consequence.) Now, if Tesla can just amp-up production, not "fad out," keep costs under control (have you seen that showroom?), raise more money, build a more profitable product and fend off competitors, we can take them off the Death Watch. [hat tip to Jonny Lieberman]
When we started the Tesla Birth Watch last August, we said "we'll be following this developing story as it develops." Then, in January, we stated "we're obliged to quit carping under this title when one- count it ONE- Roadster enters its owner's climate-controlled garage." Well, it's happened. After several false starts, revised delivery dates and lots of PR tap dancing, the first Tesla is in the hands of a paying customer. (We know Tesla CEO Elon Musk got his Roadster three months ago, and supposedly paid full price for the honor, but we don't see that as a "real" delivery.) According to Tesla Comms Veep Darryl Siry, "Car #3 was delivered to someone (who prefers not to be named) who is not associated with the company on a day to day basis, but whose investment fund put money into Tesla very early." Of course, RF is grumbling, asking for independent verification of Siry's assertion. But I've convinced him it's time to call it a day. The Tesla Birth Watch is officially over. The Tesla Death Watch begins.
AutoblogGreen sets 'em up. We knock 'em down. This time, Tesla's cheerleaders are hailing the fact that Larry Sonsini has joined Tesla's Board of Directors. "The presence of Sonsini as a member of the Tesla team is of particular importance moving forward because of his area of expertise. Sonsini is Chairman of Silicon Valley law firm Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati and a specialist in IPOs and mergers and acquisitions. This is important because Tesla chairman Elon Musk has previously declared that the company will be going public, likely sometime in 2009." So the car company that's allegedly delivered two car to a single paying customer, a Silicon Valley start-up that's lighting cigars with $100 bills, wants some more cash to burn. Some more of someone else's cash to burn. And Sonsini, a man hauled in front of the House for investing in whilst advising companies who backdated options, is just the shark they need to find and devour the whales. You know, as "Tesla Motors drives forward the electric transport revolution and grows to become one of the great car companies of the 21st century." Call me cynical, but Silicon star IPO guy or no, how can anyone trust a lawyer who says his "yardstick of success" is "inner peace?"
AuoblogGreen is at it again, doing whatever it can to support Tesla Motors in this, their decade of need. This time 'round, the tree hugger's favorite automotive website is trying to referee what the Brits call a "slanging match" between ousted Tesla founder Martin Eberhard and Tesla mouthpiece Darryl Siry re: Eberhard's Roadster. As in where the Hell is it? Is Eberhard's Roadster VIN number 2 or the second car produced or both or neither? What did the company promise him? Why did Tesla build VIN 3 and 4 first? Feel free to click over and get the "he said, she said" version. Suffice it to say, I couldn't give a shit. And I have a very hard time understanding why anyone would. The reason I'm blogging this: we still don't know whether or not to end this Birth Watch (and convert to Death Watch). Hard to believe, but Tesla hasn't announced a single "real" customer delivery. We've heard unconfirmed reports that Autoblog founder Jason Calacanis got his (so to speak). Tesla should either promote this fact or tell Calacanis to shut up, while Autobloggreen should focus on what's really going on (or not) at Tesla. IMHO.
I know it's a small point, but it's worth making. Of course, first you gotta party like its 1999! Automotive News [sub] follows the Tesla-friendly PR template, kicking-off their coverage by putting the Silicon start-up's failure to deliver ONE customer car into its improper context. "Close to the crawling 405 freeway and the congested corner of Santa Monica and Sepulveda boulevards, the Tesla factory store makes a potent statement for gridlocked Angelenos to buy an electric car. Of course, Tesla needs to get its two-seat roadster into serial production to give its dealership something to sell. The company has 600 sold orders and a waiting list for 400 more, but only four production cars have been built. A development glitch with the Magna two-speed transmission has forced a rapid redesign of a one-speed transmission in collaboration with Ricardo UK Ltd." Not so rapid, Mr. Bond. But that's OK. Ish. "By December, Tesla hopes to have 300 cars built. At that time, serial production of 150 cars a month should begin, said Darryl Siry, Tesla vice president of sales, marketing and service." [emphasis added]. Meanwhile, you want to hear something funny, in a "we're not entirely drunk on Tesla Kool-Aid" kind of way? "The sales staff is salaried," Mark Rechtin reports. "Not commissioned."
In a comment on Tesla Birth Watch 43, Tesla flackmeister Daryl Siry addressed some of the questions about Tesla's tranny problems. "The Xtrac transmission never had reliability issues. It has proven rock solid over the years and for that reason we are using an Xtrac box for our interim transmission. The reason we moved away from that design was that we had originally tried to design the gearbox to have clutchless shifting and to accomplish the shifts entirely through motor control but this proved difficult on our end due in part to the time it takes to spin down a heavy rotor that is rotating very quickly." Gotcha. So what precipitated the Magna lawsuit? "We’ve established the fact that the units delivered were not working well so that led to a disagreement between the parties as to what was owed on the contract. These types of disagreements sometimes end up in court." Siry also mentioned that he'll be in Monaco next week, showing production car number four before it's shipped to the states and placed in the loving arms of its more-than-patient owner. This led us to wonder: if car number four will be ready to show off next week, what happened to Tesla Roadsters two and three? Have they been delivered yet? If not, where are they in the pipeline? And how long before they'll be on the streets? Over to you, Daryl…