Elon Musk went on Kara Swisher’s podcast recently and complained about the media coverage of Battery Day and I have to say, Elon, in the highly unlikely event that you’re reading this, hire a real honest-to-God comms shop.
Let me hit you, dear reader, with some inside baseball. You probably know that just about every large company, including every automaker, has some kind of communications/public relations department.
Tesla, it seems, does not.
Update: Now we know it does not, not anymore.
Tesla Inc. has reportedly disbanded its U.S. media relations team in the United States, fitting since the only journalists that seem to have any direct contact with the company suffer from a condition where they unquestionably praise its products and business model. While access journalism appears to be on the rise in all industries, the automotive realm was relatively free of the phenomenon until fairly recently. Now its getting to a point where just finding someone in the PR department to respond to you within 48 hours is a minor miracle — and it makes little difference whether you’re one of the big boys or a smaller outfit, like ours.
While Tesla used to be wildly proactive in reaching out to authors, sometimes just to complain about articles, it’s been enacting radio silence for quite some time. Other automakers will at least provide you with a boilerplate corporate response — assuming they haven’t issued one already. But it has been complete static from Tesla for what feels like years, leaving the firm little reason to continue paying people whose sole responsibility was to totally ignore the media.
Tesla continues their aggressive plans for dominance in the EV market. As we reported last week, the company has ambitious plans to enter the Indian market next year. While that market will certainly require a cheaper model than what the company sells now, Tesla’s on it. The brand intends to drive toward EV adoption with better, longer-lasting batteries and less expensive models.
And on Friday, word leaked of a deal over in Germany that’s an important part of Tesla’s expansion plan.
The European New Car Assessment Programme (Euro NCAP) has finished a study on driver assistance systems and issued some moderately surprising results. While nowhere near comprehensive enough to be the ultimate authority on self-driving cars, it did give us a taste of Europe’s new grading system and how it will be implemented as more vehicles are tested. For now, NCAP is focused on a handful of models ranging from the pedestrian Renault Clio to the much more expensive Mercedes-Benz GLE.
While one might expect the moral of the study to be roughly ‘you get what you pay for,’ the reality seemed much more complicated after the Tesla Model 3 ended up in sixth place out of a possible ten. Anybody who has ever used Tesla’s Autopilot will tell you it’s probably the most impressive advanced driving suite currently on sale. This author certainly would before the smile dissolved and he was forced to you that it (and other) driving assistance packages are horrible, misleading inventions that need to be gotten rid of as soon as possible.
Tabless batteries and a Plaid trim level of the Model S made the biggest news at Tesla’s much-hyped “Battery Day.”
Batteries that last longer, cost less, and have more power will help drive EV adoption, and the new 4680 tabless battery cells, which are cylindrical and larger, are claimed to provide five times as much energy as before, with six times the power and up to 16 percent more range. Tesla says production on these batteries has already begun.
The New York Times, or one writer paid by the New York Times (one journalist’s take or analysis or opinion doesn’t represent the entire paper, you know), had a piece out a couple days ago claiming the dawn of the EV age is now.
Somehow, I missed this article until now. But let’s a look at its assertions, shall we, and see what is and is not accurate?
A criminal complaint filed this week details a very Cold War-like plot to cripple Tesla from the inside. Federal prosecutors and the automaker claim a Russian “tourist” attempted to coerce an employee of Tesla’s Nevada Gigafactory to infect the company’s system with malware, and in doing so receive a payment of $1 million.
The employee reportedly turned down the offer and squealed on the so-called tourist, leading to an FBI sting operation — as well as this week’s criminal complaint.
Frequently on the cutting edges of technology, the automotive industry has been slamming chips into vehicles to facilitate communications ever since General Motors launched OnStar back in 1996. This evolved into cars boasting reliable navigation systems and remote vehicle diagnostics until they literally started becoming mobile internet hot spots.
Now the industry wants to further ingrain connectivity by equipping all vehicles with 5G — opening the road for new features and the ability to harvest your personal data more effectively.
This has required deals with tech chip manufacturers like Qualcomm, which requires companies to sign a patent license agreement before actually selling any of its hardware or software. But regulators around the globe worried the practice may be monopolistic, violating antitrust laws. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) brought a case against the business in 2017. Despite winning that case in 2019, a U.S. appeals court overturned the decision earlier this month, deciding Qualcomm could continue conducting business as usual. Now, tech companies (mainly Qualcomm rivals) and a gaggle of automakers are urging the FTC to seek an appeal following the loss.
There’s another B-Day set to occur next month, and this one has nothing to do with the Ford Bronco. “Battery Day” is what Tesla dubs September 22nd — the day of its annual shareholder’s meeting, but also the date of a planned technology reveal.
Tesla has suggested its near future holds great advancements in energy density, meaning far greater miles from a same-sized battery. In response to an online query, company CEO Elon Musk hinted that the EV maker’s batteries could travel 50 percent longer on a charge.
Man, this is really something. The 145,000th piece of evidence just landed in support of the hypothesis that Tesla is, in fact, a cult, and that activism and ideology has replaced religion in the wealthier, progressive, and more youthful corners of America.
Which brings us to Tesla Dating.
One of the strangest anomalies in the automotive industry is the way electric vehicle startups (like technology companies in general) seem to draw limitless support from investors while established automakers don’t receive nearly the same kind of love — even when transitioning toward EVs.
There’s a logic behind this, however. Green tech is overwhelmingly trendy at the moment, even if some of it lacks a comprehensive game plan to actually save the environment, and financial backers are always looking to get in on the next big thing before anybody else — resulting in scattershot investing that sometimes coalesces into a major victory for new firms possessing sufficient moxie.
But it hasn’t helped the auto industry’s largest players, who are seen as dinosaurs using the blood of their forebears to amass their fortunes. They lack the presumed purity of brands like Tesla or Nikola (clever name), even though their financial goals seem largely the same.
A potential solution to this problem is to distance tech-focused entities from the core business.
Tesla CEO Elon Musk was on top of his game during an interview with Automotive News last week. By that, we mean his ego and various personality quirks came through like a shaft of sunlight parting a fog bank.
Musk announced during the talk that his company performed no customer research before designing and revealing the polarizing and still-not-clearly-legal Cybertruck to would-be buyers, laughing at the idea. If folks don’t like it, he said, there’s a plan.
Tesla is accusing Rivian Automotive of poaching its employees and lifting trade secrets in a recent complaint filed in San Jose, CA. Founded in 2009 by Massachusetts Institute of Technology alum R.J. Scaringe, Rivian has made inroads with the automotive sector and established partnerships with entities like Amazon and Ford Motor Company ( we think).
While its home base is presently TBD, as the company considers shifting more of its staff to the West Coast, its mission has remained consistent — manufacture all-electric SUVs and pickups so they can wash over North America.
Rivian is one of those “Tesla killers” you keep hearing about before they suddenly blip out of existence, but it has enough weight behind it to potentially offer real competition in the future it plays its cards right. Tesla is just worried that some of those cards might not belong to Rivian.
Everything was moving in Tesla’s favor Wednesday night, with the electric automaker reporting an unexpected quarterly profit — its fourth in a row — for Q2 2020. This positive financial news, made possible by other automakers’ hunger for regulatory credits, sent the company’s already elevated (overvalued?) stock closer to the face of God.
At the same time, CEO Elon Musk announced something long suspected: That Tesla’s next domestic assembly plant will set up shop in Austin, Texas.
If you happen to find yourself running a section of this country and would like an automaker to build a factory there, we’ve got a couple of tips to help improve your odds. It might be unfair to call them tips, however, as they’re common knowledge and realistically the only way to get a business to settle on your land. Step One involves promising as much money and as little regulation as possible. Step Two involves waiting for their response.
Hoping to beat out Oklahoma as the home of Tesla’s Cybertruck, Texas is attempting to dazzle the electric automaker with the tax breaks it knew the company wanted. All the automaker has to do is spend over a billion dollars to build its facility in Travis County.