So we have two daddies, eh?

imageEarly 2009: Tesla is snatched from the abyss when Daimler buys batteries for the electric Smart, and also buys shares of TSLA. Daimler CEO Darth Dieter becomes yo’ daddy.
Early 2013: Google agrees to buy Tesla, but before the details can be ironed out, Tesla embarks on a company-wide telemarketing effort and posts a shocker Q2 profit, causing the stock to go parabolic and making the whole Google thing unnecessary. Still, Larry Page is yo’ other daddy.

The first one isn’t news. The second one certainly is news, assuming Bloomberg’s info is accurate. Is it good news or bad news? Both. It’s scary to think Tesla was so close to death just a couple of years ago. But it’s good to see any headline that pairs Tesla with Google. So call it even. And it’s good to read yet another account of Musk’s tenacity. He ordered everyone in the company, regardless of job title, to get on the phone and sell cars. So began the virtuous cycle that turned the game around in the bottom of the ninth inning. Gotta cheer that.

Also, this means TeslaMondo played a small part in Tesla’s turnaround, by buying more than a few shares of TSLA just 48 hours before the big Q2 surprise, followed by several more acquisitions in the immediate aftermath.

Just look how far we’ve come since then. We’ve reached the absolute zenith, for now we have an aftermarket company trying to tack icky “enhancements” onto the Model S, defying the smooth, muscular aesthetic conceived by its designer. This is the hazing ritual for any iconic car.

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Epcot Center can’t snub Tesla forever

Volt at Epcot Center TeslaMondo

Epcot Center exhibit

Tesla at Epcot Center, TeslaMondo

Epcot Center parking lot

Today TeslaMondo is reporting from the Epcot Center. Turns out there’s a renewable energy mini-exhibit, with a wall full of facts/figures about solar energy n’ stuff, and with a Chevy Volt serving as the token EV. Interesting. A few steps away sits a big amusement park ride called the Test Track. There’s a big bowtie symbol in front of it. It’s a combination roller coaster and “educational” look at the rigors of General Motors product testing.


A few minutes of Googling reveals GM sponsored a Disney flick called Tomorrowland and product-placed the Volt throughout the movie.


In fact, the two companies go all the way back to the 1964 World’s Fair.


Meanwhile, near the Epcot pedestrian entrance, Tesla has strategically planted a P85D below the monorail. It’s just kinda sitting there, plugged into a generic charger, attracting an occasional gawker.


This little scene — a Volt onstage and a Tesla kicked to the curb — begs an important question about not only the Epcot Center, but any large-scale exhibition that purports to expand our appreciation of the world around us: When do exhibitions cross the line and become straight-up, unadulterated, unfiltered, unabashed . . . advertisements? Granted, we can’t expect anything but whorish behavior from the likes of Disney. But for how much longer can Disney pretend Tesla doesn’t exist? Eventually it will have to cave in and replace the Volt — or perhaps the Bolt — with a Tesla as a valid representation of humanity’s EV frontier.

But this begs another question. Let’s say Disney decides to bite the bullet and make a serious attempt at an EV exhibit. How could it possibly keep the information fresh? No sooner would the paint dry on the exhibit than it would need updating, what with Silicon Valley’s innovative pace. So here’s the ONLY WAY to do it:

Step 1. Replace Chevy product with Tesla product.
Step 2. Install dry-erase whiteboard on the wall.
Step 3. Monitor Tesla’s website daily, and update whiteboard as necessary.

This will ensure accurate information about cost, performance, range, volume, solar integration and so on. But a whiteboard display would look pretty silly, wouldn’t it? No sillier than an adult wearing mouse ears, and Epcot has plenty of those walking around.

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Bidness Etc. gaffe rivals 60 Minutes

Tesla nickel demand TeslaMondoRemember when 60 Minutes dubbed revvy engine sounds into its piece on Tesla? It suggested that those 60 Minutes guys know nothing about cars. Well, this morning Bidness Etc. has joined the dope-a-thon by confusing the Model S with an old BMW 5-Series.

Meanwhile, the web is crawling with articles about Tesla’s plans to pay $25/hr at the Gigafactory — all of these stories stemming from a report in the Reno Gazette-Journal. Tesla says the report is false, though the company’s denial borders on non-denial denial. A few months ago, the same paper briefly misled everyone about an alleged Gigafactory construction shutdown/delay.

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GM, Tesla compromise in Maryland

Schoolhouse Rock Bill TeslaMondoTesla can now open four stores in Maryland, assuming the governor signs up as expected. GM tried to limit Tesla to two stores. Yes, General Motors, a mastodon, is trying to limit the roaming range of Tesla, a mouse. Let’s look a little closer at this big, shaggy mess of a creature.

* First, it tried and failed to go factory-direct in 1999. Result? A much more entrenched and vigilant dealer lobby. Thanks a lot.
* Then it literally crushed the EV-1 in an infamous show of no confidence in electric vehicles.
* Then Tesla inspired GM to build the Volt.
* Then GM set up a special team to study Tesla’s business model.
* And now GM vocally opposes Tesla’s factory-direct business model, not because dealers are better for the consumer — that’s dealer lobby’s laughable premise — but on grounds of, “Hey, no fair. How come Tesla can skip the middleman but we can’t?”

Basically, Tesla has done everything GM tried and failed to do, but now GM has the balls to lobby against Tesla? Time to boycott the Caddy ELR. On second thought, that’s already well underway.


Battery costs in freefall: good or bad?

BMW i3 TeslaMondoBad? Tesla is wasting its time with the Gigafactory because costs are dropping so fast — faster than every “expert” predicted — that the Model III would have hit its pre-incentive price target of $35k without the Gig.
Good? The Gig should drive costs down even further, making the III more profitable at $35k or inviting an even lower retail price, and making Tesla home batteries all the more compelling. Plus Tesla needs the Gig anyway just for volume’s sake. Without it, Tesla is forever confined to niche status and cannot hope to branch into clean energy storage.

TeslaMondo sayeth: Good! Imagine if costs were skyrocketing? That would stifle EV acceptance overall and make Tesla’s advantage both less impressive and less relevant because the retail price tipping point would still elude. We saw what happened when the Prius hit the tipping point. Early adopters of 1997-2003 were run over by a stampede of middle adopters from 2004 – 2007, and now the Prius has four successful variants for late adopters and repeat buyers, a true “franchise.” So it’s very good to see pure EVs fast-approaching a tipping point of their own. But what of those old-school hybrids, and neo-hybrids like the BMW i series (pictured)? Are they, as Elon has opined, mere “amphibians,” vulnerable and awkward creatures with limited walking ability and a constant need to stay wet? An evolutionary curiosity? Seems so. Yes, it seems Tesla will lead us to walk the earth, and stay dry, a lot sooner than imagined.


Recent spook theories are nonsense

Tesla cannibalism TeslaMondoCannibalism. Will the new Model S lineup, featuring a less-basic base model, merely shuffle existing orders instead of generating new ones? Well, if there’s any harmful overlap, it won’t last long because Tesla will just tweak the lineup again. If you had to pick one word to describe Tesla, it’s “dynamic.” Yes, that word is nearly worn out, but it’s accurate here. The company doesn’t let grass grow under its feet, to quote Lance Gilman, the guy who runs the Tahoe-Reno Industrial Center where the Gig is under construction. Tesla generates more news in a month than most automakers generate in a year. Its most frequent venue for public announcements? Twitter. That suggests extreme nimbleness and real-time responsiveness. So if the product mix — the recipe, if you will — isn’t exactly right, hyper-sensitive Tesla will modify the recipe pronto without worrying about the next spook theory:

Tesla buyer's remorse, TeslaMondoBuyer’s remorse. Yes, some TSLA shorts are hoping for a mutiny among fresh Tesla customers who feel gypped by Gypsy Musk because a new Model S variant has hit the web — gypped despite the freshness guarantee of OTA updates, apparently. But let’s back up the camera and look at the overall. We see that Tesla’s customers are happy. They don’t just advocate — they proselytize. Every customer satisfaction survey has Tesla at the top of the charts. Thus, Tesla is oft-maligned as a cult.

Strategic vision (second year at top of charts)
Consumer Reports sales survey (second year at top of charts)
Consumer Reports service satisfaction survey

But now we’re supposed to believe Tesla is on the verge of a coup d’état, with customers grabbing pitchforks and studying diagrams of the castle. So which is it, Mr. Internet? Pick one theory and stick with it. You can’t have both.

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Tesla coverage reaches nadir

24/7 Wall St FUD, TeslaMondoHere’s a scary headline for ya. However, the writer can’t offer one speck of supporting evidence, never mind a clear definition of what “sell out” is supposed to mean. No facts or figures or links to ANYTHING that corroborates the headline. Oh, and no comment section to point out those, um, shortcomings. Does it get any worse than this? Click image to read article.

Runner up: This unsupported nonsense from last year.


Motion sickness to hinder autopia

Add another to the list of unappreciated hindrances to autonomous driving. See the last entry. It’s new information.

The override button. Surely every car, no matter how smart, will have a manual override. Your life could depend on it. Sometimes you simply MUST commandeer your car to get yourself out of harm’s way. But if there’s an override available, surely it will be abused. So we’ll always have to deal with people riding “bareback” and messing up the flow.

The desire to drive. Think it will ever go away? Not a chance.

Crime. Idle hands are the devil’s workshop.

Old cars. Until the roads are free of “dumb” cars that require a driver — and that could take a century — car travel will have to cater to the lowest common denominator.

Pedestrians. Ever drive through Manhattan? It’s you versus them. If your car politely defers to them, you’ll be sitting there at a green light. And the next green light. And the next green light.

Poor infrastructure. No car can read signs and road markings that don’t exist, or have been deftly vandalized so that 30mph says 80mph.

Cognitive distraction. If you let your guard down while the car drives itself, your reaction time to an emergency — one that the car can’t dodge — is dangerously bad. You might as well be drunk. And surely people will be exactly that — not to mention nude.

Balloon boys. If cars require almost no input to move around, some cars will end up sailing down the highway with a thoroughly confused and frightened guest on board.

Litigiousness. No need to elaborate on this one.

Motion sickness. Some people get queasy when they’re not driving. And it gets much worse when they try to read or do anything besides look out the windshield. So says a University of Michigan study. So for these people, how much freedom can be gained inside an autonomous car? They won’t be engaged in driving, but won’t be able to really disengage either. What fun.


The Gig, then and now

It’s not just Leon. The Gigafactory is also getting LLLLAAAARRRRGER. The first image is from early January. The second is from today. Young people are banging down the door to work there. What door, you ask? Oh just . . . shush.

Tesla Gigafactory TeslaMondo

Screen Shot 2015-04-10 at 12.51.33 PM

Tesla is expanding