One Tesla owner got a big shock yesterday as his accelerator pedal snapped off while driving.
The story comes from user benjiejr on the Tesla Motor Club forum. He was showing off his Model S P85D to a friend and his nephew. After going through the car’s features it was time to show off the massive acceleration of the P85D’s twin electric motors and 503 horsepower.“I turned around and was going to do another launch, but this time without Launch Mode – just stomp on the pedal – like I do most often. When I punched it, the accelerator pedal broke off.”
by Mark Stevenson and Bozi Tatarevic
A day after former TTAC editor-in-chief and current Daily Kanban blogger Edward Neidermeyer hit out at Tesla regarding suspension failures and Tesla’s supposed customer bullying through a goodwill agreement on Wednesday, the electric vehicle manufacturer hit back.
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?
The Internet is abuzz about a video which purports to show a sleeping driver being chauffeured through stop-and-go traffic by his Tesla Model S on “Autopilot” mode. All sorts of questions have been raised: Is this legal? Is it safe? Could it happen at higher speeds? What happens when you fall asleep behind the wheel of a Model S that is doing 85 mph instead of 10 mph? Who takes vertical videos? Who takes vertical videos seriously, other than the WorldStarHipHop crowd?
I’ll answer most of these questions — below the jump, of course. But the most important question that people are asking goes like so: Is this video faked?
Yes, yes: I’m a Tesla naysayer. Have been right from the start when the media went ape shit for a car that hadn’t been built, repeating performance claims as if they were written on Moses’ stone tablets. (Which were eventually modified.) But I did take them off the “Tesla Birth Watch” when the car deliveries began. And we haven’t posted a “Tesla Death Watch” entry since May 1, 2009. If true, this report from TechCrunch—claiming profitability for the EV maker—indicates that we should cancel the TDW altogether. Cynic that I am, I see some pretty major caveats here. “Silicon Valley’s electric car company, Tesla Motors
, says that it hit profitability in July. The private company reports that it made ‘approximately $1 million of earnings’ on revenues of $20 million, and that it shipped 109 Roadsters, its $109,000 all-electric sports car. The revenues reflect GAAP accounting standards and are only for the month of July.” Given that GM used a predicted (but not realized) Department of Energy (DOE) loan in their financial projections, does Tesla’s half billion dollar-or-so DOE suckle have anything to do with this?
Now you may think that Tesla Motors, makers of the $109K+ lithium-ion powered Roadster, are acting in good faith re: taking deposits for their recently revealed Model S sedan. If so, GreenTech Media’s report that the Musk-scented company has secured 520 advance orders for the vehicle is a good thing: a sign of early adopters’ faith in Tesla’s ability to design, build and, eventually, sell the all-electric foor-door. Leaving aside Tesla’s past history of missing deadlines and changing announced specifications. With eyes wide shut, the fact that Tesla has collected $5K per car from 520 prospective customers, generating some $2.6M, is a good thing. Nothing wrong with raising a little—and in the car business $2.6 million is microscopic—working capital. The fact that Tesla’s first model, the Roadster, isn’t profitable, and that the new money may be helping to prop-up THAT side of the business, is neither here nor there nor the subject of a court case. So . . . good news! There may be more money on Tesla’s table!
Looks like we may have retired the Tesla Deathwatch a bit prematurely. Valleywag reports that Tesla CEO Elon Musk has launched a Nixonian “plumber” offensive aimed at eliminating leaks from the Silicon Valley startup. And boy are the employees happy about it. The plumb-and-purge strategy was launched when Tesla engineer Peng Zhou told Valleywag that the company’s cash reserves had dropped to $9M. According to the blog, Musk “hired an outside IT contractor go through the company’s email and instant messages, and then had an investigator take fingerprints off a printout discarded near a copier used to leak the email.” That investigation implicated Zhou who was asked to confess, apologize and leave the company. This was just the beginning.
It can be so hard to tell when the firm’s CEO is so notoriously at odds with reality. So let’s just say that we’re entering Elon Musk’s world, grains of salt available upon request. In fact, the news comes from a Musk email that Jason Calcanis has posted verbatim to his blog (cross posted at Tesla Motors). The main point of the email seems to be to convince the reader that Tesla isn’t about to disappear with the credit market, citing a deal with Daimler to electrify the Smart, a $40m investment round and the near sellout of all 2009 Roadsters. Even better, if you lay out $100k for a Roadster now, you might just have a new cashflow opportunity to get you through the hard times. “Due to our order backlog, it seems that owning a Roadster can be a good investment,” writes Musk. “Last September, as the financial and real estate markets began crashing, a Roadster was sold at the Sonoma Paradiso in California wine country for $160,000, well above the current list price of $109,000.” And if you buy that, I’ve got some mortgage-backed structured invesment vehicles that you might be interested in. But the big news is that Tesla may or may not get funding from the biggest sucker of them all: the US Federal Government. Or not. (Hat Tip: minion444)
Tesla Motors recently caused a kerfuffle amongst its earliest and most faithful supporters by raising the price of its Roadster. More precisely, the Silicon Valley automaker turned some of the car’s standard features into options, and then raised the prices on those (e.g. the fast charge power cord). Customers who’d provided Tesla with hefty deposits– up to $50k– were none-too-pleased to discover that their “locked-in price guarantee” wasn’t worth the paper it was printed on. Uh, it was printed, yes? Anyway, to quell the ensuing PR shit-storm, self-appointed (anointed?) Tesla CEO and Product Architect Elon Musk has emailed an explanation to his rapidly aging customers [full text after the jump]. Musk has also scheduled a town hall-style meeting for the 26th and 27th. In short, to ensure federal teat suckling for the WhiteElephant sedan, Tesla has to prove that it’s “viable” (there’s that word again). As Tesla was losing $31k per car, something had to change. In other words, take a hit for the team guys, Oh, and Musk points out that there’s a $7500 tax credit for customers who take delivery of their Roadster between January 2009 and March 2027. Just kidding. I think.
Top Gear presenter and Times carmudgeon Jeremy Clarkson is not one to walk away form a fight. In fact, you could say he never met a fist he didn’t lunge his towards. After Tesla and the MSM knocked Clarkson for pretending that a Roadster ran out of juice in an episode of the shark jumping car show, Clarkson mounted Ye Olde “Valid Yet Undeclared Fictional Recreation of Theoretical Facts” defense. And that, one presumed, was that. Only, of course, it wasn’t. In Clarkson’s Times column, the world’s most famous pistonhead attempts to disprove the English maxim “the first thing you do when you’re in a hole is stop digging.” “Tesla, when contacted by reporters, gave its account of what happened and it was exactly the same as ours. It explained that the brakes had stopped working because of a blown fuse and didn’t question at all our claim that the car would have run out of electricity after 55 miles.” Uh, yes it did. Anyway… “The problem is, though, that really and honestly, the US-made Tesla works only at dinner parties. Tell someone you have one and in minutes you will be having sex. But as a device for moving you and your things around, it is about as much use as a bag of muddy spinach.” Dodgy handling, high price, yada, yada, yada. And the Roadster’s greatest sin?
From egmcartech.com: “For the record: Thanks to The Stig’s impressive turn behind the wheel, the Tesla Roadster gets a higher ranking in Top Gear’s performance board than a Porsche 911 GT3. Jeremy Clarkson, a die-hard ‘petrol head’ with a clear bias against green cars generally, said that it must be ‘snowing in hell’ because he had such a great time driving the Roadster and now considers himself a “volt head” thanks to the Roadster’s amazing performance. This is amazingly high praise from Clarkson, whose entire schtick is to savage even his most beloved petrol-guzzling sports cars.
Bloomberg reports that Tesla Motors’ self-appointed CEO Elon Musk is threatening to not build its [theoretical] $57,499 four-door electric vehicle at a $250m San Jose factory if Uncle Sugar doesn’t fork-over $350m from the soon-to-be-depleted (or not) U.S. Department of Energy $25b loan program. This must please CA officials no end, as they risked the wrath of the entire Golden State business community by extending “special” tax credits galore to Tesla to “convince” the EV maker to locate production of their [theoretical] WhiteElephant sedan in The People’s Republic of California. (Hey! Didn’t New Mexico do the same thing? With the same result?) “We can’t move forward with that without a major amount of capital,” Musk told Bloomies. “If we don’t get any government funding then what we need to do is we need to wait until the capital markets recover, which could be a year or two years from now.” Or, in Tesla’s case, never. Hang on; $350m? Wasn’t that $400m the last time we looked?
Tesla’s hubris knows no bounds. Not only has the Silicon Valley manufacturer of $109k lithium-ion-powered carbon fiber sports cars applied for a $400m federal grant to sustain its oft-delayed and hugely unprofitable quest to “reinvent the automobile,” but they’ve also publicly declared that Detroit’s bailout-seeking beancounters should keep their NSFWing hands off Uncle Sam’s $25b retooling loans. (I’d cut and paste the exact quote from their website, but ten seconds of their white-on-black text is enough to short-circuit my optic nerves). The New York Times fired back, pointing out that taxpayer funds should not subsidize expensive toys. Tesla owner Jason Calacanis retaliated in a fit of “just you wait” pique. “The fact is that Tesla could–right now–produce a car that is 1/3rd to half the price if they set it to go only 100 miles. In nine years, they will easily be able to produce a $40k car that does this. Is nine years too long to wait for this technology to reach the price point that 80% of the new-car-buying country could afford? I don’t think so.” Meanwhile, Toyota has seen the EV’s Li-ion Promised Land, and declared “I may not get there with you.”
Last week was something of a problem for Tesla Motors. After self-appointed CEO Elon Musk announced cutbacks (i.e. fired a bunch of people and closed their Detroit office), Valleywag (amongst others) reported that the Silicon Valley EV maker was down to its last $9m. For a carmaker, that’s like driving on fumes. Well, it turns out that Tesla had a mole in their midst, who fed the Valleywag website inside info. Which is fair enough. God knows TTAC has its spies friends throughout the industry. And the fact that this grass, Principal Thermal Engineer Peng Zhou was outed within the company, is also no big surprise. But the fact that Elon Musk chose to forward Peng’s mea culpa to everyone in the company [full text after the jump], knowing full well someone would leak THAT, is more than slightly worrying. Then again, discretion is not the better part of fanaticism, egomania and old-fashioned cruelty. Or TTAC’s remit, come to think of it. But then we’re in the muckraking business, not EV manufacture.
If you didn’t know better, you’d read Huffington Post writer (and HUMMER apologist) Matthew DeBord’s essay on Tesla’s travails as a post mortem. “But even though the downfall of Tesla seems like a disaster for boosters of all-electric vehicles, it should be a welcome development for the green-transportation movement. Tesla symbolized a science-fiction view of our future: it seemed like an instant cure for the problems of oil consumption and greenhouse emissions. In reality, it was a well-marketed distraction from a strategy that would yield more immediate results.” In other words, TTAC called it. But it looks like it’s gonna take a while before Tesla’s unsubstantiated claims for its Roadster/ WhiteElephant will R.I.P. “The big knock on electrics was always that they lacked the range of IC-powered cars. Then Tesla came along and not only unveiled a vehicle that could travel hundreds of miles on a single charge, but that could do 0-60 in four seconds. The gorgeous two-seater design, provided by Lotus and crafted in exotic carbon fiber, also didn’t hurt.” But DeBord has a more frightening message– at least for Tesla.
The worm has turned. The unabashed adulation given the Tesla Roadster and its wide-eyed progenitors has turned into something altogether vitriolic. In other words, payback’s a bitch. Even before the first demo Tesla prototype hit the streets, TTAC called on the media to stop the love fest and wait and see if the company’s product lived-up to the hype (250 miles to a charge! Recharge in three hours! Ready by spring!) The “you can only ride with us but not drive or test” press teasers set off ALL our alarm bells. When Tesla spinmeister Daryl Siry withdrew his offer of a TTAC test drive, we knew the company was full of shit (to use the technical term). In fact, the Roadster STILL HASN’T BEEN FULLY INDEPENDENTLY TESTED FOR SAFETY, RANGE AND RECHARGE TIMES. But the unwinding process has begun. And this shot across Tesla’s bow, via Tony’s Climate Change Blog, could leave a mark.
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.
The San Jose Mercury reports that the credit and stock market meltdowns have finally taken their toll on Tesla’s plucky startup plans. No sooner had the ink dried on its deal with San Jose to build a giant headquarters and production facility then everything went to shit (i.e. got put on hold thanks to the dry-up in venture capital). The Model S Sedan (formerly Whitestar) is in development Hell, Tesla’s Michigan engineering facility has been closed and an undisclosed number of employees have been laid off. But cuts and delays are just the start of the shake-up. Tesla Chairman Elon Musk has installed himself as CEO of the firm, ousting Ze’ev Drori, the second such ouster since Musk booted Tesla founder Martin Eberhart last year. Owen Thomas of Valleywag thinks this news could be more dangerous for Tesla than any credit market issues.
What if you built an Elise-based, lithium-ion powered, re-bodied Lotus Elise and loads of people wanted to buy one but you couldn’t actually build the God damn things? At least not in enough quantity to make a profit. What would you do? Meanwhile, Tesla continues to hype its Roadster, hoping that its production problems will continue to be seen as “exclusivity.” The Seattle Times does its part to keep the dream alive, hyping the arrival of the Roadster into the great Northwest. “The company is bringing at least one of its Roadsters to Seattle for the first time this weekend for private events with several dozen buyers, many of whom paid huge deposits years ago to help the company get rolling and secure the earliest cars.” When the wait becomes “years,” you know Tesla’s got trouble. By the same token, “They’ll still have to wait months or more [our italics] to take delivery of the $109,000 cars, which only began regular production in March.” Only seven months ago, eh? Anyway, Tesla’s talking about a Seattle showroom and Microsoft’s million and billionaires are all over this thing. In theory. As a PC user, I find that deeply worrying. [thanks to Ryan for the link]
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]
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