If Model III information comes to us in crumbs, at this point we have enough crumbs to assemble a muffin. Our knowledge now extends well beyond the offensive name, target price and target driving range.
1. Twenty percent smaller than Model S.
2. But more than just a smaller Model S. Musk: “One easy thing to do would be to make a 20 percent smaller Model S. That would be easy to do, but I think we might be able to do a few more interesting things that just that.”
3. It won’t look like other cars.
4. A timely launch is crucial. Musk: “We don’t want the delays that affected the X to affect the Model III. We’re really being quite conscientious about this.”
5. At least two versions. One tame, the other not. Musk: “There are things we could do with the Model III platform that are really adventurous but would put the schedule at risk. So what we’re going to do is have something that’s going to be an amazing car, but it won’t be the most adventurous version the Model III to being with. But we will then have the more different version of the Model III, on the Model III platform, following the initial version.”
6. The smaller motor in the P85D, or a disciple of it, will power the III. Musk: “That smaller drive unit in many ways is a precursor for the Model III. Because it represents a significant improvement in cost, and in steady state power, and a number of other factors. It’s a second generation motor, essentially, and that’s a good pathfinder for Model III on the powertrain side. And obviously the Gigafactory is very much geared toward the Model III pack needs.”
7. A concept version might debut early next year.
8. It’s going to compete with Tesla Energy for Gigafactory 1 allocation.
So let’s ignore headlines suggesting the Model III is shrouded in mystery. It’s not. The only big unknown is styling. TeslaMondo will now walk the plank blindfolded, naked, with sharks thrashing below, and make some predictions. Ready?
First of all, both versions of Model III will be hatchbacks, the platform that best exploits the benefits of Tesla’s powertrain by creating copious “opportunity space.” Also, since the Model S and X are both hatchbacks of sorts, it’s safe territory. Can a smallish car company really afford to try an unfamiliar configuration that might cause delays and introduce gremlins? Too risky. Remember the margin for error here: ZERO. So TeslaMondo predicts a Model S-like sedan/hatch followed by a Model X-like crossover with AWD, but with tow-row seating and non-falcon doors.
Second, it will indeed look like other cars eventually, no matter how crazy the design appears at first. To wit: the Mercedes CLS500 with is four-door coupe approach and “droopy butt,” and the new Jeep Cherokee. Both caused triple-takes at first. Now? Nary a double-take. We adapt quickly. Seems when we’re presented with a startling auto design, we simply develop a callous on the brain. So every car ends up looking like other cars soon enough.
How much will Tesla push the envelope? Not as much as Ralph Gilles did with the Cherokee. The Model III will probably look no crazier among its peers than the Model S does among its own. Here’s what Tesla designer Franz von Holzhausen said about the Model S: “If we created the Jetsons-mobile, we would have catered to the early-adopters and stopped right there. We would not have been able to appeal to more of a mass market and had a confident car that could carry itself next to BMW, Audi, Mercedes, Lexus and these types of products and have the owners feel confident in their daily life with this product.” A few years have passed, but the context hasn’t changed. All-electric vehicles still face a similar degree of cynicism. Tesla still cannot expect to draw customers from the ICE world by building a Jetsons-mobile.
However . . .
It will have at least one signature design element. Expect a James Bond “Q” factor that affects both style and function. Nothing as radical, expensive, or engineering-intensive as falcon-wing doors, but more radical than retracting door handles. Side cameras in lieu of mirrors? A year ago, the 12-member Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers asked the NHTSA to get off its ass and rule on them. Well, unless the agency has its buttocks surgically separated from its couch very soon, it’s too late for Model III side cameras. How about a 360-degree “Bird’s Eye View” option? Toyota will introduce it in its RAV4 Hybrid next year. Ah, but that’s hardly a styling element. We’re looking for something that will boost Model III form and function. How about a non-linear beltline, as seen in the renderings above? That’s form but not function. And heck, it’s not even new. It dates back to 2010 with Honda’s Odyssey concept and its “lightning bolt” beltline. Then BMW kinda borrowed it for the i3.
So then, what “gotta-have-it” form-and-function element could Tesla introduce on time and on budget? That question goes out to TeslaMondo readers — all six of them.
Riddle me this, Batman. When is an illegal store no longer a store, and therefore no longer illegal? When it has wheels. Surely Tesla’s surprise 20’x35′ mobile showrooms are the secret weapon teased by Musk in February. You might recall the weapon had a dual purpose:
1. “Demand generation.” Also known as selling.
2. Castrating the dealer lobby.
Direct quote: “I do have sort of a secret weapon on the demand side that I’ll probably start to deploy later this year, for demand generation, and we’ll see how that goes. It isn’t totally necessary, but it could get pretty interesting, and I could work it against the dealers.”
Will these container stores invade anti-Tesla zones, setting up shop like micro-carnivals, raking in a few dozen deals and then hitting the road before the cops show up? Gypsies, Tramps and Thieves? Will Cher tag along?
It’s all too funny. The company of the future, smacked by century-old retail regulations, counter-attacks with a business model that’s even older: the good ol’ road show! If no landlord will take you in, just make like The Who and go mobile. Surely that song would provide the backdrop for a Tesla road show advertisement, if only such a thing existed.
Here’s a mobile pop-up store in England, where laws already allow factory-direct auto sales. Apparently skirting the law isn’t the only raison d’être for these stores. They’re really about taking the product to the consumer instead of vice-versa. Ever-trippy Global Equities Research analyst Trip Chowdhry adds color here.
Want to read some single-minded praise for Tesla? Just look for any URL with an “au” suffix. Australia is shaping up to be California or Norway writ large. Every Aussie publication loves the Model S, which debuted in December. And now it seems Australia is saying to Tesla Energy, “Where’ve you been all my life?” About 2.4 million Australian households are willing to spend up to $10,000 on a home battery system, even if payback takes a decade, says here.
The island is the birthplace of the Green Party and does have some active EV advocacy. Government incentives? Not exactly Norway-caliber, as expressed here. This blogger makes a convincing case for Australia to eliminate its luxury car tax for zero-emissions vehicles, since it already rewards lower emissions. But maybe it doesn’t matter. Australians are the richest people in the world.
Sounds pretty ripe for Tesla, eh? Investors rejoice! It’s raining spiders! Hallelujah!
Shanghai, Hangzhou, Guangzhou, Shenzhen, and now Tianjin. All now usher Tesla buyers past the agita of license plate rationing, thanks to their intriguing zeroemissionishness. Beijing next? Nobody even asked about China during the last conference call. It seems analysts have put the subject on ice for a while. And as for the press, well, it’s too busy pondering the really important stuff, such as . . . door handles. Consumer Reports says its P85D tester had a faulty door handle. Tesla fixed it on the spot. Yet for much of the day yesterday, USA Today illustrated the story with an image of a Model S on a flatbed. Someone needs to tell USA Today about implicative imagery. No, about journalism in general. Then again, we all know USA Today isn’t exactly the New York Times. Or is it?
First the Model S broke the mold for electric vehicles. Then it broke a roof-strength testing machine, or at least overwhelmed it. Now it has broken a dynamometer. But none of this derring-do makes Tesla the future of electric vehicles. No, for a peek at the future, you should avert your eyes from Tesla and focus on the other end of the EV spectrum: golf carts.
The meek shall inherit the Earth. So says Harvard think tanker Tom Bartman. He’s already opined that Tesla will never scale up like other automakers, and now he says golf carts, not Teslas, represent our electric future. In his first piece, the one about Tesla failing to scale, he neglects to mention the Gigafactory. And in this latter piece, about golf carts stealing the show, he neglects to mention NHTSA regulations on golf carts and their fancier brethren called neighborhood electric vehicles.
Bartman is now a repeat gold medalist in the 200-meter avoid-the-elephant-in-the-room.
Hey, In some parts of the world, e-carts are indeed becoming de rigeur for quick errands — an efficient and safe alternative to raspy rickshaws, raspy mopeds, raspy scooters and poopy livestock. These nominal “cars” just might make it big. But in developed nations with developed restrictions on vehicular transport, they’ll always be golf carts. That is, unless they grow crashworthy bodies, airbags, vehicle-to-vehicle awareness, stuff like that. In other words, become cars.
The future of EVs certainly isn’t the P85D or Model X. Those represent the extreme end of the EV spectrum where super-heroism wins kudos. But the future isn’t golf carts either. Those represent the extreme OTHER end of the spectrum where merely getting a few bushels of potatoes across town without buying gas wins kudos.
The future lies in the middle, with a widely-affordable, safe, street-legal, compellingly-spiffy electric car that won’t break any dynamometers, but will do much more than merely transport mangoes (Sri Lanka) or your fat ass (USA).
It’s set to bow in concept form next year, with a familiar “T” logo on its nose.
The FTC’s latest strongly-worded letter is nice, but will it matter? TeslaMondo has compiled a recent history of strongly-worded letters about Tesla and its retailing endeavors. With any luck, these strongly-worded letters will mount to the point where they threaten to bury the dealer lobby in a landslide of strongly-worded letters. They do weigh something, you know, en masse, and carry the threat of paper cuts too.
* Consumer groups issued a strongly-worded letter.
* A motley crew from various backgrounds issued a strongly-worded letter.
* The FTC issued this strongly-worded letter a while back. Yes, the recent strongly-worded letter to Michigan was actually the second.
* A posse of economists and law professors threw their intellectual weight behind this strongly-worded letter.
* The Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers isn’t happy with dealers either. Even they issued a strongly worded letter, or a least a strongly-worded statement to the press.
* And GM cried “No fair” in this strongly-worded letter arguing that if Tesla can sell factory-direct, why can’t GM? TeslaMondo readers know GM and Ford both tried and failed in 1999.
Ranked by potency, the FTC’s strongly-worded letters probably pack the most punch. Since the FTC is all about fostering competition for consumer benefit, it’s hard to trust dealer arguments that they foster competition. You may recall that nobody trusts dealerships or their only chums: politicians. Both consistently rank lowest in Gallup polls on professional ethics. And we also know that dealers do a poor job of peddling electric vehicles.
Say, this compilation of SWLs could, by proxy, render this a strongly-worded post.
The last post was all about ruffled egos and fragile feathers, or something like that. This one is about Fiat Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne, who tells Reuters he met with Elon Musk and is “incredibly impressed with what that kid has done.” There now. It is indeed possible to give credit where it’s due, without harming your own image. Marchionne does peddle the Maserati line, you know, so he has something to lose by giving props to Tesla. You should reward Marchionne by buying a Fiat 500e. Make it two. But reading between the lines, perhaps Marchionne is pumping up Tesla because there’s a Maserati-Tesla “thing” in the works. If that’s the case, then he’s really not conceding anything, the sly dog. You should punish him by buying a Fiat 500e.
In the same Reuters interview, Marchionne tattle-taled on Apple, confirming that Apple is indeed working on a car. He knows because he met with Tim Cook. Well now, if Apple’s car will be electric, it’s going to be pretty hard to benchmark Tesla, given Tesla’s massive lead, sustained pace, and soon to be home-grown battery supply. Apple needs a slower-moving benchmark. A bit of an also-ran. Let’s see. How ’bout the Fiat 500e?