A year ago, Tesla faced a crisis of confidence that threatened to blow the entire gig sky high. Highway debris was penetrating the Model S battery and causing a “flaming Tesla problem,” as the WSJ termed it. It looked as if the world’s best EV — and purportedly best overall car of any nature — needed more time in the oven. The NHTSA was investigating, and so everyone was whispering the “R” word. An elemental design flaw threatened to send Elon & Co. back to not just the drawing board, but to Staples — to buy a whole new drawing board. Tesla was in trouble.
No problem! Tesla fitted a titanium shield to the bottom of the car, posted videos of it in action and doused the heartburn overnight. Nitsa backed away. Time bore witness to the effectiveness of that shield. It’s now a year later. We’ve heard nothing about highway debris. Or about the overheating charger problem. Remember that one? Another crisis. Solved via OTA update and a cheap adapter overnighted to owners. Done.
But the headlines now say Tesla is in trouble again. Why? Not because the product is blowing up or anything. The problem is China. It’s not the rose garden everyone was expecting. So the Tesla story has changed. The China chapter is going to drag on a bit. The stock is trading near a 52-week low because investors are crybabies and get all pouty when they have to wait too long for their baw-baw and blankie.
But let’s compare this year’s unsolved problem to last year’s solved problem. Last year’s was scarier, what with the imagery of fiery death and all. This China thing isn’t scary. Annoying, yes, because it can’t be quickly engineered away — but not scary. The home battery unveiling, and the Model X unveiling to follow, will provide at least two good psychological boosts this year to nudge China into the background while Elon & Co. slowly work on getting ol’ China aroused. Some partners do take a while, you know, especially if they’ve got anxiety issues.
So what’s up with the headline to this blog post? Tesla’s past performance in the clutch allows us to safely predict more heroics in the clutch. This time victory won’t come in the form of a walk-off homer. It will be a manufactured run, and the inning might drag on for quite some time, but don’t change the channel — unless Elon starts grabbing his crotch and spitting.