By on February 17, 2010

TTAC officially retired its Tesla Deathwatch series over a year ago, after the firm delivered its 100th Roadster. Indeed, we’ve generally turned away from the “Deathwatch” tag in recent months, as the bankruptcies of GM and Chrysler have removed the immediacy of many of their original criticisms. Over the years, the Deathwatch label has been a challenging mistress, often confusing readers as to TTAC’s intentions: though they were intended to document the slow-motion bellyflop of America’s automakers, they’ve often been interpreted as a sign that TTAC actually wishes tragedy upon the automakers it identifies as being in danger of shuffling off this mortal coil. Incidents like the one today, in which three Tesla employees were apparently killed when an light aircraft owned by Tesla senior electrical engineer Doug Bourn crashed into a Palo Alto neighborhood, serve as an important reminder that nothing could be further from the case. TTAC criticizes automakers because responsibly buying, owning and operating motor vehicles requires that consumers be well-armed with the facts. When real tragedy strikes the companies that build the vehicles we discuss here, our thoughts go out to the families of those lost, and we hope that the company’s operations soon return to some semblance of normality. Today we mourn for Tesla’s as-yet unidentified employees (apparently CEO Elon Musk was not on board) who will not be at work tomorrow, working on new ways to respond to criticisms and improve the firm’s products.

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34 Comments on “TTAC “Tesla Deathwatch” Series Rendered Tragically Ironic...”


  • avatar
    baabthesaab

    Thank you, Edward. Nicely said!

  • avatar
    gslippy

    +1, EN.

  • avatar
    crash sled

    Classy.

    That’s a decent looking vehicle. They’ve borrowed a lot, but nothing wrong with that if done right.

  • avatar
    BDB

    So no more Ford Deathwatches?

    • 0 avatar

      Not necessarily, and in any case, TTAC will never stop critically examining all automakers for the reasons I give in the post. Whether or not some pieces will bear the “deathwatch” or the more recent “zombie watch” tags is something that I am still fairly ambivalent about. The attitude of the deathwatch is clearly core to TTAC’s brand, but is the name?
      I welcome your opinions on this issue.

  • avatar

    Yeah well, they get problems with airplanes: http://www.wired.com/autopia/2010/02/elon-musk-private-jet/

  • avatar
    Jeff Waingrow

    The word “Deathwatch” is too fraught to have ever sensibly been used; it’s more a part of the former regime’s way of phrasing than this one’s, and a good thing too.

  • avatar
    troonbop

    The Deathwatch title was accurate and compelling, and certainly no more “fraught” than calling a respected prior website administration a “regime”. I and many others began watching this site under that so-called regime and respect the work that was done.
    (BTW, anyone else notice that fraught has become the new F word?)

  • avatar
    porschespeed

    EN,

    I would offer that a “Deathwatch” monniker remains core to the TTAC brand.

    I realize that money is the quickest way to dull any rapier, and hey, we all gotta make a livin’. I also appreciate that you’re not RF, and that TTAC is now the kindler, gentler, purveyor of “Truth”.

    But, really? No “Deathwatch”?

    The fact that the term is open to discussion/debate is the root of it’s utility. The whole point of a discussion forum is to have a discussion. Controversy, coupled with a modicum of respect and civility, is at the heart of every great conversation, is it not?

    Just a thought…

    • 0 avatar
      gslippy

      Agreed. The “deathwatch” term is entirely appropriate for the industry, and the purposes for which TTAC stands – that is, to tell the truth even when a business appears to be on life support without hope of recovery (i.e., “deathwatch”).

      Just in the past year, Pontiac, Hummer, Saturn, and Saab (nearly) have died, so it isn’t merely theoretical.

  • avatar
    BDB

    Well GM and Chrysler already “died” in that they went through bankruptcy.

    It doesn’t look like Ford is going to go BK barring some kind of horrid double-dip recession and the return of $4 gas–at the same time.

    Chrysler isn’t even a zombie at this point, I think it’s really, truly going the way of AMC. We’ll get Fiats and Jeeps
    and RAM trucks, but Chrysler and Dodge are toast.

    I don’t know what to make of GM. They’re not as far gone as Chrysler and have some good new products, but they’re still making some boneheaded decisions like giving the LaCrosse a trim level with an I-4, cloth, and steelies. Have to wait for the IPO, I guess.

  • avatar
    mikey

    Yes… “Deathwatch” should stay retired. That was then,this is now.

  • avatar
    Ingvar

    My personal thought is that the deathwatch label was retired way too prematurely in the case of Tesla. Tesla is and has always been a scam, a greenwashing ponzi-scheme this world has not seen the likes of since the Twentienth Century Motor Corporation went public.

  • avatar
    the_gamper

    I never much minded the “Deathwatch” headline so much as I did the subtle bias that went into many of the old TTAC’s reporting and commentary. I left the site for a long time (I am sure I was missed by all), but recently returned as I like the new “regime” much better. RF is actually a pretty nice guy, we traded e-mails a few times, but a bit delusional in that he would never admit (even privately) that the reporting, commentary and vast majority of TTAC’s membership was…..a bit….. slanted toward certain ends.

  • avatar
    porschespeed

    OK, how ’bout “Hospicewatch”?

    Does that make everyone all warm and fuzzy?

    Reality check:

    Ford – They have a prayer. But still carry a huge debt load, and yes, the next wave of the recession is just over the horizon.

    GM- Government Motors either goes on full Leyland support when the next wave hits, or is allowed to finally slip beneath the waves. If we get 10% of our ‘investment’ back, I’ll be amazed.

    Chryco- How many years before they get some new product to sell? How many?

    To be blunt, we avoided Great Depression Extreme Edition by a whole lotta luck, sweat, and generous application of borrowed money.

    Also, in a consumer economy you need consumers. What wealth we haven’t exported (didja know we have had a net negative balance of trade EVERY year since 1975?) continues to get shifted to a smaller and smaller number of people every year?(One billionaire does not replace the financial impact 1000 people who make $100K in our economy.)

    If we’re to survive, we must develop a killer energy product and export it to the whole world. If we can pull back maybe $40T that we have thrown to the rest of the world over the last 30 years – we could regain our position as top dawg.

    Otherwise, welcome to the UK, V2.0.

    • 0 avatar
      tauronmaikar

      I am working on it!!

    • 0 avatar
      BDB

      The recession is over, unemployment is still high but everybody knows it’s a lagging indicator. The economy grew by about 3% in the 3rd Quarter and a nearly 6% clip in the 4th Quarter.

      The stock market went up for six months, then in the next six months the economy grew, by summer we should see some real job creation. So far this recession has just been a very, very bad recession, other than it’s severity it’s followed the same course of every recession since the ’80s.

      As for GM being Leyland, I’m sorry but GM has much a stronger product lineup at this point and their quality and reliability is nowhere near as downright atrocious as, say, Rover was in it’s dying days.

  • avatar
    tauronmaikar

    TTAC may not have wished death for GM, Chrysler and Tesla… but I did and I loved the Deathwatch moniker.

    Also, I would submit that Tesla engineers didn’t know how to operate a plane, what makes them qualified to design and build a car?

    My thoughts go out to their families, who had nothing to do with their ponzi scheme.

    • 0 avatar
      baabthesaab

      My first thought was that this comment doesn’t deserve reading, let alone a reply, but… “didn’t know how to operate a plane,” ??!!! Wow. I’m sorry for you.

    • 0 avatar

      There was extreme fog around the bay area this morning (and yet most idiots were still driving without their lights on). The Palo Alto airfield is surrounded by power lines and its airspace is sandwiched between and under the class B of San Francisco and class C of San Jose. Put that all together and you don’t get much of a margin for error.

    • 0 avatar
      Mark out West

      The owner, and presumed PIC, was an instrument rated commercial pilot and instructor. Almost all the departures out of Palo Alto are right turns out over the Bay. This guy was a mile out and turning LEFT at low altitude when he struck a 93′ high power line. At best, he was experiencing an right engine failure and attempting to return to the airport. At worst, he took off VFR into IFR conditions and simply lost it (which I doubt). In either case he technically exhibited bad judgement, but he almost certainly knew how to operate the aircraft. Cessna 310s ain’t simple.

  • avatar
    Norman Yarvin

    Wishing death on a company is nothing like wishing death on a person. Wishing death on a company just means you wish the people involved would start doing something more useful than what they are doing now.

  • avatar
    porschespeed

    Wait till you see the final revisions to the GDP numbers before looking at those happy (imaginary) growth figures. They’ll be lower in the final analysis. they almost always are.

    Coupla things to keep in mind – half of that “growth” in GDP was simply the effect of rising valuations of stocks on GDP. Nothing was produced, just stocks went up.

    The other thing is that there was a virtual ceasing of inventory building across all industries. Most of that little bump was replenishing of inventories that had been drawn down to the bare minimum.

    Beyond that, just think about the macro. We live in a consumer-driven economy. As reliant as we are on it, a completely untenable model, but let’s leave that aside.

    We have exported a great deal of our wealth since 1975 and we haven’t gotten it, back so that is not here to circulate around.

    Beyond that we have concentrated wealth in a tiny minority, at about the same level as the last Depression. So that money is not circulating.

    In the intervening years (’75 to present), we have maintained some of our growth by borrowing back the money that we sent abroad.
    The era of growing government debts as a percentage of GDP (in constant dollars) really took off during the Reagan years.

    Real estate has a huge shadow inventory of residential foreclosures that has yet to hit the market – twice as many as have hit so far. And just watch as commercial real estate unravels over the next 2 years. (Yet another $750B to $1.2T hit will be coming in comm. At best.)

    The world will keep turning and our country will survive. But, we will be paying for the excesses of the last 30 years for a very long time.

    10% unemployment is here to stay for the forseeable future. Like the next decade.

    The new car market has nothing to suggest growth in numbers. In fact, now that C4C has passed, 2010 numbers will probably be lower than 2009.

    • 0 avatar
      BDB

      Well I agree that something has to give in international trade. Paying workers in China in India wages so low they can’t afford to buy the products they make, but making it up by exporting to developed countries is unsustainable. Why? Well, because since their jobs have all gone to China and India the only way they can afford these products is by borrowing–and that only works for a while.

      The business class needs to realize, as they did in the early and mid-20th Century but have forgotten since the ’80s, that it is in your interest to pay wages high enough that your workers can afford the products they’re making. Your short term profits may not be as high, but long term you will be much better off.

    • 0 avatar
      Thinx

      I must say that the illusion of an economic ‘recovery’ has been maintained far longer than I imagined possible. Optimistic fake numbers released and publicized by a complicit media, with quiet downward revisions a few weeks later, suspension of mark-to-market accounting, no transparency w.r.t. Fed purchases of absolute garbage at full face-value… unbelievable.

      The next leg down is going to resemble the flight path of that poor Cessna over East Palo Alto this morning.

  • avatar
    porschespeed

    True, true about wages. The whole offshoring of almost all of our manufacturing in the name of short-term profits has been a bad thing for the country as a whole.

    If you want some good reading, google up a coupla Buffet articles. He spins the analogy a bit more eloquently than I do, and takes it out to the inevitable end – if nothing changes.

    He also railed against derivatives and CDOs and CDSs, back in the day. Everybody with a brain knew they were a ticking bomb, but the traitors, err, traders on Wall St. quashed the regs that would have reigned those little gifts in…

  • avatar
    HerrKaLeun

    Deathwatch would imply failed companies actually let die. “Tax-funded life support watch” might be a better name because that is where failed companies end up. Maybe not Tesla due to the lack of union employees, but the thing that made capitalism successful (let bad companies fail) won’t happen too often.

  • avatar
    Campisi

    So… Three people die in a plane crash, and TTAC uses it as a weak subtext to glorify Farago-style sensationalism? The very first thing they teach in Journalism classes is that deaths always dominate event coverage.

  • avatar
    don1967

    “Deathwatch” seems like a poor choice of words when taken out of context. But I don’t see it as a “wish” in any way, either in the human or corporate sense. It is simply part of TTAC’s trademark to call things as they appear, which is why many of us are here.

    May I suggest “Chaptersevenwatch” in the future?

  • avatar
    Thinx

    “Deathwatch” is fine by me. We are grown-ups here, and know exactly what it means. Don’t be a politically-correct eunuch, man. Say it like it is, if you really want to be called Truth About Cars.

  • avatar
    AccAzda

    SO wait…

    Tesla selling a 100 of these 100k car built off the backs of the Lotus Elise.

    And Tesla canning the coupe to concentrate on a larger and unrelated platformed car almost unmonitored by Elon..

    That doesn’t bring a deathwatch?

    I’m totally confused.

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