Why do we gawk?

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Drifting is like pornography, but it’s an even more ignoble form of gawking.

Drifting: Brazen violation of the product owner’s manual.
Porn: Human body lacks an owner’s manual.

Drifting: Waste of rubber.
Porn: No rubbers.

Drifting: Performer needs to employ aggression and yet restraint, lest the show end early.
Porn: Ok, ditto.

Drifting: Horrible wailing sound.
Porn: The same, but easily muted.

Neither pursuit would earn a prominent position on the resume of the human race, but you know what’s even more embarrassing? Gawking at other people’s income.

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Harvard preppie knows Tesla can’t scale

Gigafactory advice for TeslaA young, nose-picking academic has decided he knows more about Tesla’s business than Tesla does. The company has painted itself into a corner, says Harvard Business School think tank newcomer Tom Bartman. What corner? The one it’s stuck in. You haven’t noticed? Well then, you’re not think tank material.

Yes, Tesla is moribund. That relentless growth Tesla has targeted and thus far achieved — it’s done. Why? Because the product array should have started cheap and then gone upscale. Yes, Tesla came in through the wrong door and will soon feel the noose. Big automakers will put Tesla in a sleeper hold any minute, now that Tesla has dared try to venture outside its little alcove and build a mainstream car. Boy, you won’t hear that theory — Tesla facing imminent rivalry — anywhere except in a Harvard think tank, because it’s tankeriffic thinking.

And the Gigafactory, the embodiment of scale? It doesn’t exist. There’s no mention of it in Bartman’s piece. And if someone who got himself a fresh MBA in 2014, and graduated Magnum P.I. to boot — if he deems the Gig irrelevant, well then, fuggetaboutit.

Wait. Get this — Bartman thinks Tesla salespeople will shun the Model III and try to push the more expensive stuff. Yes, we all know people looking in the $30k range are just a sales pitch away from spending more than double. What sales pitch? The pushy one you get at Tesla stores. You’re not aware of it because you’re not a tanker like Tommy.

Harvard Square panhandler TeslaMondo

Harvard in background. Not sure what’s in foreground, but he was very articulate. And he writes fairly well, too. Harvard grad?

Want an education? Avoid think tanks.

But do visit Harvard Square and mingle with the wildlife there. It’s a tank-free sociology field trip every time. You’ll discover there’s a fine line between professors and bums, men and women, genius and drunkenness. Clothing? For some, a crucial extension of self. For others, a nuisance such that T-shirts are worn inadvertently inside-out and butt cracks peer above wrong-sized pants. Harvard Square is an acid trip with the acid optional.

And do eat at Mr. Bartley’s, a burger joint so old that it predates bylaws requiring restaurants to have bathrooms. No joke! You have to sprint to the nearby Dunkin’ Donuts if you want to go wee wee. That’s if you can wrestle your way out the door. There’s always a line waiting to get in.

And that’s because Mr. Bartley’s serves the best burger in the world. It’s so big that you won’t be able to drop your mandible low enough to separate your teeth enough to park the darned thing in your mouth. And when you do attempt to bite it, warm meat juice dribbles down your chin and then down your neck. When was the last time that happened at BK?

Why is this post lapsing into a rant about Harvard Square? Because The Square is among the most eye-opening, mind-opening spots in the world, while Tom Bartman reminds us that just a few feet from the square, Harvard itself is stuck in a tank.

Edmunds Knows What’s Best for Tesla
Daimler and Bosch Know What’s Best for Tesla
Battery Guys Know What’s Best for Tesla
Lux Knows What’s Best for Tesla
Battery Guru Knows Model III is $50k
EV Expert Knows What’s Best for Tesla

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Second Gigafactory inevitable

Criswell predicts TeslaMondoTesla tends to misjudge public response to its wares. And with the exception of China, it’s always been a pleasant surprise. It was forced to “anti-sell” the Model X to retain any hope of filling orders this century. It had to hurriedly adjust the Model S product mix to meet dual-motor demand. And now stationary storage is going to quickly outstrip the 30-percent allotment at the Gigafactory. In fact, Criswell predicts that before Gig One has spit forth a single vehicle, Tesla will already be taking bids for Gig Two.

The wholesale cost of a Li-ion/solar tag team is falling far faster than anyone predicted, even without the Gig. And Tesla’s brand equity is rising far faster than anyone predicted. Put this stuff together, and you have a very hip brand name selling a very affordable and very green power solution to an addressable market of, um . . . every entity you can think of, be it a school, big-box retailer, small business, homeowner, landlord, tenant.

Even if these entities haven’t yet “gone solar,” they could “go Tesla” — and gain instant credibility with business partners and/or retail customers and/or shareholders, not to mention save $$. You can’t afford a Tesla car, even the III? You can still own a Tesla. Show it off on your wall, even.

By 2020, the world will demand a lot more capacity than one third of one G. We’re going to need a bigger boat, captain. And eventually, a vast fleet of boats.Bigger Boat TeslaMondo

Other Criswell predictions:

Tesla will leave the mall
Tesla will leave the mall, part II
Tesla will build a wiki car
Musk will shed Tesla, aim for Mars

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Time for a battery storage review

JB Straubel talks battery storage TeslaMondoHere’s a primer before the April 30 battery reveal. It’s JB Straubel in fine form. He might run the show someday, you know, as Tesla’s sphere of influence will eventually spread well beyond vehicles.

UPDATE: That spread is already well underway, according to fresh info on Bloomberg. Wal-Mart is on board, and it’s not alone. Schools, wineries, etc. are looking to Tesla for energy storage, part of a California government-sponsored program of which Tesla is shaping up to be a prime beneficiary.

The dumb money will start pouring into TSLA in the next few days. Dumb as in uninformed investors who are just now figuring out that Tesla is going to be a very large and savvy company that is going to change our relationship with energy.

Dumb as in the Bloomberg panel this morning that just doesn’t get it at all — even thinks Wal-Mart is “selling” Tesla batteries. Sigh. Bloomberg has impressed lately with some Tesla scoops, but this morning’s performance was sophomoric at best. On the other hand, TeslaMondo would glady drink Betty Liu’s bath water.

Look for mid-$200s even before the Model X launch (see the Model X going through highway lane-keeping rigors here), and low $300s by year-end.

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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.

Interesting.

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

Interesting.

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

Interesting.

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.

Interesting.

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.
* Tesla announces it’s going to unveil its stationary storage solution April 30. GM then decides to fire up its old battery storage business it all but abandoned years ago.
* 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.

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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.

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