Pull up a chair, get some popcorn. The fireworks have been flying fast and furious. New York Times reporter John Broder wrote a piece about his press loaner Tesla running out of juice. Tesla, already smarting from the perceived slight given them by BBC’s Top Gear, decided they needed an ace up their sleeve: data logging. Chairman Elon Musk penned a response that included detailed data logs from the press car. Broder responded in general terms and then with a point-by-point response to Musk’s charges. The NYT’s public editor, Margaret Sullivan, has also chimed in with the opening of her own investigation. Notably, Musk hasn’t returned her calls. Her tentative conclusion? “I reject Mr. Musk’s central contention that Mr. Broder’s Sunday piece was faked in order to sabotage the Model S or the electric-car industry.” She also called for Tesla to release all the data they’ve got in proper machine-readable form, not just their pretty annotated graphs with the circles and the arrows and the paragraph on the back of each one. (Read More…)
Tag: Model S
Tesla has officially launched their long-awaited “Supercharging” network last night to a star-studded crowd in Southern California. (We assume it was star-studded since our invitation got lost in the mail.) The EV network promises to enable Model S and Model X owners to charge 150 miles of range in 30 minutes. What about your Roadster? Sorry, you aren’t invited to this charging party. Have a Tesla and a LEAF? You’ll have to be satisfied with separate but equal charging facilities as the Tesla proprietary charging connector restricts access to Tesla shoppers only. Is this class warfare or do we parallel the computer industry where connectors come and go with the seasons?
Tesla’s 10 minutes test drives have received a lot of flak in the press. The Fourth Estate (at least parts of it) is trying to get to the core of that car, and that is its stellar battery performance. What is wrong with the tried and true practice of having the car for the day? A weekend? This would give a tester time to find out when the battery runs out. 300 miles as per Tesla? 265 miles as per EPA? How much as per reality? Until journalists drive the Model S more than just a few times around the block, we have to go the unorthodox route of asking an inferential statistician. (Read More…)
Brokerage Wunderlich Securities downgraded Tesla to “sell” from “buy.” The reason: Tesla has downshifted its production plans, reports Reuters.
“While initially saying that it would produce and sell 1,000 cars in the third quarter, Tesla now says it will certainly be 500 cars,” Wunderlich analyst, Theodore O’Neill, said in a research note. (Read More…)
Tesla is sitting on more than 10,000 orders for its all-electric Model S sedan. Tesla might finally deliver the first units next month, slightly ahead of plan, says Reuters. The only thing that keeps the production from starting is a successful completion of crash tests required by U.S. safety regulators. If the car doesn’t bomb during the crash, customers can soon flaunt their high-priced environmental responsibility while tooling down the car-pool lanes in solitary fashion. (Read More…)
Tesla released the finalized features and pricing for the Model S sedan this week, with deliveries of the most expensive variants to begin in “mid-2012,” the others to follow by the end of next year. More than a few people who thought they were going to be able to buy a “premium electric sedan” for $50,000 seem miffed by the final pricing. Yes, there will eventually be a $50,000 car (after a $7,500 tax credit). But it won’t have full motor power, leather, nav, or the ability to use fast-charging stations. Tick off all the boxes, and the Model S pushes double the hyped number. But, let’s face it, these guys have to turn a profit and must pay at least as much for parts as the big established car companies, on top of that big expensive battery pack. So does the announced pricing seem reasonable?
[Editor's note: videos are from Youtube, and were not taken by the author]
“THE BETAS ARE COMING!” The mid-August e-mail from Tesla Motors breathlessly touted “the most exciting automotive event of the year:” an exclusive owners-only unveiling of the Model S. All 6,000 of us who’d put down $5K deposits on the electric sedan would be invited out to Tesla’s sprawling new plant in Fremont, Calif. to see, touch, and ride in the Beta version of the car, described as “over 90 percent production intent.”
A few weeks later came the e-mail invitation itself. I RSVPed the same day. Tesla had expected attendance in the hundreds, and had made initial plans for 1,000 just to be safe. But when 300 RSVPs came back in the first 23 minutes, they realized they had a tsunami of customer enthusiasm on their hands. In the end, about 2,000 owners showed up, including one guy from Kazakhstan.
Driving my rented Prius up I-880 toward Fremont on the big day, I passed a factory with huge letters on the side: SOLYNDRA. Not a good omen. The start-up Silicon Valley manufacturer of high-tech cutting-edge solar panels, the recipient of half a billion dollars in government loans, had lost hundreds of millions of dollars and just gone bankrupt amid cries of political favoritism and financial fraud.
A mile or so up the road, another sprawling factory festooned with giant letters: TESLA. A start-up Silicon Valley manufacturer of high-tech cutting edge automobiles, recipient of half a billion dollars in government loans, currently reporting annual losses of hundreds of millions of dollars….oh, never mind.
We’re really trying to put together a world-class manufacturing team. We’re trying to create a Spartan army of expertise.
Tesla CEO Elon Musk give Automotive News [sub] his most inspirational metaphor for Tesla’s effort to ready production of its $50k Model S sedan. And though Musk is quick to call outsourced production “wishful thinking,” the vehicle’s transmission and battery cells as well as “wiring harnesses, skeletal mechanisms for the seats, and glass for the windows” will be supplied by outside firms. Musk says that sourcing for 80 percent of the Model S’s components has been narrowed down to one or two companies, and a plant location in Southern California will be announced shortly. But, he notes, the factory deal isn’t done yet. Or, as Musk puts it:
It hasn’t yet been finalized. We’ve almost fully negotiated the deal, but it has not been signed yet
We overlooked a key point in our write-up on Tesla’s IPO plans: the profits Elon Musk has been touting are a mirage. As this balance sheet from Tesla’s IPO prospectus [read the whole thing at the SEC here, it's a giggle] proves, Tesla might have fudged a one-month profit, but the company is hardly on a sustainable footing. Unless you consider seven million bucks in “gross profit” (including Zero Emissions Vehicle credits) enough to offset a nearly $29m operating loss, in which case, I’d like to talk to you about underwriting TTAC’s budget. This also puts into Tesla’s disclosure that it faces declining revenue into some scary perspective. Notch another one up for Farragoian skepticism…
Speaking to MarketWatch at the Detroit Auto Show, Tesla Chairman Elon Musk apparently just revealed that the Tesla Model S sedan will be released “within two and a half years.” Which is interesting considering Musk claimed that production would start in 2011 at the Model S launch last March. But then, Tesla is still trying to decide on a factory location, apparently waffling between former aeronautical manufacturing locations in Downey and Long Beach. And apparently Tesla’s mere consideration of a brownfield site in Downey has drawn protests from a group calling themselves The Raging Grannies.
Reuters reports that Tesla is planning an Initial Public Offering, after postponing planned IPOs in 2008 and 2009. Tesla reportedly hopes to capitalize on the recent success of battery developer A123 Systems, on the assumption that the A123 IPO has raised interest in electric auto firms. According to one of Reuters’ sources, Tesla’s IPO filing could be made “within days.” And the Silicon Valley startup, which currently has only one product, the $100k+ Tesla Roadster, will most likely have to hurry. Both Nissan and General Motors plan to enter the electric car market this year, marking the initial entries by established auto OEMs into the American EV market. Both of their initial products, the estimated $30k Nissan Leaf and the estimated $40k Chevrolet Volt, will cost considerably less than Tesla’s estimated $50k Model S sedan and will beat it to market by at least a year. Acquiring funding after cheaper competing models go on sale could be extremely challenging for a boutique automaker like Tesla.
It’s now been four months since I sent in my $5,000 deposit on a Tesla S all-electric four-door sedan. I still think it’s a cool car, but so far I’m very disappointed in Tesla’s communications with us S owners. After an initial flurry of messages confirming the order, assigning me a production number, and inviting me to the opening of the New York Tesla store, I’ve heard exactly zilch from the factory.