Musk Sees Tesla Profit In 2013, But Losses (And Issues) Are Still Piling Up

Edward Niedermeyer
by Edward Niedermeyer

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.

Join the conversation
5 of 10 comments
  • Redliner Redliner on Oct 31, 2011

    We all like to dump on Musk (wow, that sounds kinda funny if you say it out loud) because he says and does things that have no basis in reality, but I really would like Tesla to work out. It would be nice to have a domestic brand that makes money based off of electrified sedans instead of fleet truck sales.

  • David Dennis David Dennis on Oct 31, 2011

    I'm not sure what all the negativity is about. He sold about the number of Roadsters he expected to sell, Model S seems to be progressing well, and he's already sold his first year's production. Furthermore, he's gained some revenue by licensing technology, and he has all the capital he needs to see through Model S production. The only real concern I would have is that he's discontinuing the Roadster. Mercedes doesn't discontinue the SL550 roadster because they are now working on their E550 sedan, or even the CLS550 coupe-style sedan. It seems to me he would be much better positioned if he had a product line of two vehicles than just one. I gather Lotus discontinued the underlying Elise but I'm a little surprised they could not update the Roadster to deal with this. He did look pretty nervous in the interview. He's no Bob Lutz, that's for sure. I could imagine Maximum Bob towering over the interviewer, saying directly and forcefully "We all know BYD is a piece of junk ... it is in no way comparable to our beautiful Model S ...". That happens to be true, and that's the kind of thing that makes interviews fun. That being said, so far, so good. I like the styling of the Model S. I'm not so sure about the instrument panel being all digital. I like handling real buttons and knobs. On the other hand, I said that of the iPod before the iPhone came out and showed us how interfaces were really done. D [Not an investor in Tesla or any other automaker at this time. Frankly, I think Tesla stock is awfully pricey for what it is.]

    • See 2 previous
    • Protomech Protomech on Nov 03, 2011

      @CarnotCycle Roadster curb weight is about 2700 lbs, Model S will weigh around 3800-4000 lbs. Heavy, but pretty close to purported competition (MB E-Class, BMW 5 series, etc).

  • Nrd515 I don't really see the point of annual inspections, especially when the car is under 3 years (warranty) old. Inspections should be safety related, ONLY, none of the nonsensical CA ARB rules that end up being something like, "Your air intake doesn't have an ARB sticker on it, so you have to remove it and buy one just like it that does have the ARB sticker on it!". If the car or whatever isn't puking smoke out of it, and it doesn't make your eyes water, like an old Chevy Bel-Air I was behind on Wed did, it's fine. I was stuck in traffic behind that old car, and wow, the gasoline smell was super potent. It was in nice shape, but man, it was choking me. I was amused by the 80 something old guy driving it, he even had a hat with a feather in it, THE sign of someone you don't want to be driving anywhere near you.
  • Lou_BC "15mpg EPA" The 2023 ZR2 Colorado is supposed to be 16 mpg
  • ToolGuy "The more aerodynamic, organic shape of the Mark VIII meant ride height was slightly lower than before at 53.6 inches, over 54.2” for the Mark VII."• I am not sure that ride height means what you think it means.Elaboration: There is some possible disagreement about what "ride height" refers to. Some say ground clearance, some say H point (without calling it that), some say something else. But none of those people would use a number of over 4 feet for a stock Mark anything.Then you go on to use it correctly ("A notable advancement in the Mark VIII’s suspension was programming to lower the ride height slightly at high speeds, which assisted fuel economy via improved aerodynamics.") so what do I know. Plus, I ended a sentence with a preposition. 🙂
  • ToolGuy The dealer knows best. 🙂
  • ToolGuy Cool.