Applauding the Model III scoffathon winners

Now that we’re about to cross the finish line of Tesla’s first master plan, this also marks the end of the Model III Scoffathon. Let’s pause and reflect on the sage words of various experts who flashed their credentials and then swore up and down that Tesla would never get here, to the high-volume $35k car. Sure, the car hasn’t materialized in volume quite yet, but we’re on the home stretch.

Screen Shot 2017-07-30 at 7.15.59 AM

He speaks at events, you know.

Sept, 2014: Battery expert issues “sobering” report. Wanna talk credentials? This guy, Dr. Menahem Anderman, sure has ’em. He’s the chairman of AABC, which stands for Advanced Automotive Battery Conferences. It has a logo and stuff, so if you’ve never heard of it, you must be out to lunch. Anyway, the sobering report says Model III will start at $50,000, PERIOD. So a round of applause for Dr. Anderman as he crosses the finish line. This guy is a battery consultant, you know. His client list contains about every automaker except Tesla. But he’ll sell you his report on Tesla’s batteries for $2,800, the rascal.

Screen Shot 2017-07-30 at 7.21.44 AM

April, 2014: Harvard Business School guy says Tesla “won’t be able to scale.” Again, check those creds. This is hah-vid we’re talking about. So why can’t Tesla scale? Because it lacks the money, clout and experience required to drive down pricing far enough to make Model III hit the tipping point. Round of applause as Tom Bartman, billed as “a member of the Forum for Growth and Innovation, a Harvard Business School think tank studying disruptive innovation,” crosses the finish line. His LinkedIn page is stuffed with Tesla knocks to boot.

max-headroom-bob-lutzFeb. 2, 2014: Bob Lutz goes on his ill-will campaign. Tesla can’t make money on Model III, but can’t afford to lose money on it like a big automaker could, so Tesla is finished. TeslaMondo has chronicled Lutz’s frustrating brushes with EV greatness. He’s the game show contestant who hits the buzzer first but then botches the answer, over and over, while Musk keeps racking up the points. It’s enough to make a man froth at the mouth.

May 18, 2014: Wall St. Journal rounds up battery experts to sweat n’ fret the Gigafactory.

Screen Shot 2017-07-30 at 6.57.37 AM

That stuff in the background means this guy knows what he’s talking about.

K.M. Abraham is a research professor at the Northeastern University Center for Renewable Energy Technology, has worked for 30 years on lithium battery technology, was one of the first to demonstrate rechargeable lithium batteries and invented next-generation lithium air batteries. He also has a battery consulting company called E-KEM Sciences.

 

“I don’t see how they can reduce the cost more than 20%. They are dependent on the whole battery community. We are already reaching the limit on the energy density you can get in the lithium-ion battery. Next-generation chemistries, such as lithium air, are another 25 years away from commercialization.

“It won’t be as simple as it has been so far. We’ll need scientific discoveries in the electrode materials. Usually, from invention of battery materials to production it takes 15 to 20 years, and we haven’t invented it yet.

“As far as scale manufacturing, it’s an already perfected business; just doubling the world production wouldn’t get that much improvement per unit. The major producers in Korea, Japan, are using massive amounts of material already. And battery manufacturing is a very, very low-margin business at scale.

“And [the major producers] are integrated manufacturers, they can put their battery cells into portable consumer devices, and they can make up the price there.”

Screen Shot 2017-07-30 at 7.04.01 AM

He died a few months ago, so he never did see the Model III launch.

Peter Wells is a professor of business and sustainability with a focus on the global automotive industry at Cardiff Business School’s Centre for Automotive Industry Research, in Wales.

“Tesla is taking advantage of the moment to make an enormous roll of the dice.

“You rush into these things at your peril. The reason the car industry has been so conservative is that there are major concerns with safety, reliability, customer confidence. That’s the reason the industry has been very slow with adopting technologies.

“The danger there is if Tesla cannot make this work, the whole electric-vehicle sector will be set back a lot.

“But it could change the way we buy cars, we use cars, the revenue streams, the business models. In an industry that has hitherto been riddled by conservatism, this is a disruptive idea.

“There’s a lot of cost that can be taken out at larger scales of battery manufacturing. But it’s all about the capacity utilization. A battery plant that’s not running will cost you a fortune.”

Screen Shot 2017-07-30 at 7.06.50 AM

Here’s looking (askance) at you, kid.

Bill Reinert was national manager of Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A. Inc.’s advanced-technology group from 1990 to 2013. He co-led the U.S. product-planning team for the second-generation Prius and worked on several advanced hybrid electric products, direct hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles and plug-in hybrid concepts, among others.

“We didn’t anticipate Prius would sell like it did. There was at least a year or more where we couldn’t increase sales because not just the battery but a whole host of other parts couldn’t be ramped up quickly enough.

“But the worst thing in the world you can do is plan for a high volume and not reach it. Then you’ve got all these factories that are idle, and all these workers who are idle, and all these parts that you ordered. It’s better to slowly add to production when you are making a profit than to shut down lines when you are losing money.

“Toyota can take a suspension they use on hundreds of thousands of cars and put it on a low-volume car. Volkswagen is the king of this. Tesla doesn’t have that ability. It has to be bespoke, built from the ground up.

“If I were in [Tesla Chief Executive Elon] Musk’s shoes, I’d be on a jet tomorrow to go to [battery makers] LG Chem, Panasonic, GS Yuasa, and telling them this is our long-term projection. But if [they couldn’t commit to meeting my needs], I wouldn’t be discussing this grand design, this mythical plant.

“What I would start out with would be bare-bones manufacturing and make sure that we are making as many of the product as we need.”

Screen Shot 2017-07-30 at 7.09.08 AM

Musk succeed where I failed? Impossible.

David Vieau served as chief executive of A123 Systems from 2002 to 2012. The company, which manufactured lithium-ion batteries for electric cars, power tools and utility grid applications, raised more than $1 billion in venture capital, public equity and government funds. In 2012, the company filed for bankruptcy, and its assets were acquired at auction by China-based Wanxiang Group.

“It was very clear back in 2008 that there would be in the long term a market for electrified vehicles. The question was, how long would it take to develop? It was also very clear that if left on its own, without some stimulus, it would take quite a long time.

“The difficult part is if you get out in front of demand and the industry just doesn’t make it. It could be a tremendous success in five years, but if you are caught with a factory at the wrong time, that’s where the obituary comes in.

“What [Tesla] is saying is that they need the capacity. It’s unlikely their suppliers are going to take the risk. They are going to have to take it themselves. The risk associated with their growth will be theirs.”

And bringing up the rear, in a swirl of dust, arms and legs, is the Tasmanian Devil from Looney Tunes. He never entered the Model III Scoffathon, but only because wildlife can’t conceive of such things.

Tagged , , , , ,

Daimler recall is a double-shot of “duh”

Diesel Weasel TeslaMondo

The company now looks super-stupid thanks to its massive diesel recall.

  1. It’s basically admitting it tried to defraud regulators, just like fellow diesel weasels VW and FCA. Chalk up a another demerit for “clean” diesel tech, and for ICEs in general.
  2. And, of course, Daimler can’t fix anything with an elegant over-the-air update like you-know-who. It has to drag millions of customers into its service centers for software updates. It’s another free advertisement for Tesla.

So in one recall action, Daimler has doubly dumbed-down itself in the public mind. Then again, the public is so scandal-fatigued that nobody cares anymore. “They’re all scumbags.” A fitting dismissal.

Tagged

Chevy Bolt “officially” in trouble

Despite the media narrative of late, the Bolt is stinking up the joint. GM is idling its Bolt plant and has a 111-day supply. So who beat whom? Remember, the Honda Insight beat the Prius to the US market by a few months. And the rest is history.

Officially in trouble TeslaMondo

Screen Shot 2017-07-18 at 5.23.02 PM.png

Screen Shot 2017-07-18 at 5.23.19 PM.png

Tagged

Korea tweaks incentives to include Tesla

Tesla debuted in Korea this spring, with some fanfare — but with zero tax incentives because Tesla charging time exceeded the max allowed. Today the local news says the Korean Ministry of Environment will stretch the charging time standard to get Tesla under the umbrella. The changes take effect in September.

You win some, you lose some (Hong Kong).

Tagged

Don’t fear the wafer, vol 2

 

Screen Shot 2017-07-15 at 11.58.25 PM.png

2018 Accord interior

Screen Shot 2017-07-16 at 12.17.18 AM.png

Tesla Model III interior

We’d better get used to this “afterthought” floating screen thing, for it has found a home in the ubiquitous, bread n’ butter Accord. But holy moly, look at the buttons, switches, dials and vents in the Accord. Compared to the super-sparse III, the Accord smacks of airplane cockpit if you want to be nice, or Rube Goldberg if you don’t.

You must click the images and view them full-size to really appreciate the stark difference.

Now that Tesla is making a mainstream car, it’s awfully unusual to see a mainstream car flatly ignore what everyone else is doing and chart a totally new path. Usually designs tend to exert gravity on other designs until everyone meets near the middle. But right now, Tesla has an orbit all to itself.

So the point of this post is: Look at the new Accord! It has a whiff of Model III. The other point of this post is: Look at the new Accord! It’s nothing like the Model III.

Further reading: Don’t fear the wafer.

Tesla’s Master Plan contains dark matter

In a couple months, while everyone fusses about the Model III ramp, the Tesla Semi will rush from the shadows and shock us. Tesla’s vast commercial applications will suddenly tickle the brain more than the bland ol’ Model III ramp.

It’s tempting to say the Semi kicks off the second part of Tesla’s master plan, but the plan never mentions big rigs at all*. It never mentions the Roadster either. Yet we know both are coming. This means the master plan is like Loch Ness. It’s vast and inky. Big things could lurk within. Things as big as a city bus, or a school bus. BYD currently builds the former, and now Blue Bird has a contract for the latter.

What creatures lurk in Tesla’s Loch Ness Master Plan? Paging Mr. Nimoy . . .

Screen Shot 2017-07-13 at 12.43.11 AM

*Bullshit. Read comments below.

Tagged ,

Faraday Future is Finally Futureless

The Nevada factory isn’t going to happen. The company itself isn’t going to happen either. Why? Because it never had a clear focus. If you have 1:28:47 to kill, go ahead and watch FF’s big ceremonial launch at the would-be Nevada factory site. Better yet, don’t watch. Turn down the brightness on your screen and just listen. Do you hear anything — even one sentence — that actually means anything?

By the way, Faraday Future didn’t bother trimming away the first 33 minutes of the video, which consist of dead air. To boot, the company shut down the comments section so it can’t hear feedback from viewers. Feedback such as, “Ever heard of editing?”

Toyota still snug in its “ICE” castle

count-carlos-teslamondo

Count Carlos

Last fall, Count Carlos over at Nissan surveyed his moat and laughed at the notion of an invasion. “I know the media love to say we have a new superman coming here, and it’s going to make all of you look like dinosaurs. But frankly, the likelihood that this is going to happen in our industry, in my opinion, is very limited.”

Well, now Toyota’s Jim Lentz is proclaiming much the same thing from the walls of his castle. Here’s what he just told The Street:

“At gas at less than $2 a gallon, no [I’m not worried]. I think [the Model 3] is going to be great but today less than half of one percent of the industry are pure electric vehicles.” Lentz is also fond of Volvo’s move to compete with Tesla and offer an electric version on its portfolio of cars. “I think it’s a good move on their part,” Lentz added. “I think [Volvo] sells about 100,000 [vehicles] here in the U.S, – we sell about 2.5 million here in the U.S. When you have a much smaller portfolio of product, it allows you to concentrate in a much smaller niche of the marketplace.” 

Screen Shot 2017-07-10 at 1.13.33 AM

Jim Lentz

Let’s look more carefully:

Cheap gas, eh Jim? Don’t get TeslaMondo started on this subject. Cheap gas is obviously not a hindrance for Tesla, because it primarily sells excitement. Lentz is grasping.

The “N” word, eh Jim? If Lentz is unaware of the Model III’s niche-busting order bank, he’s aloof. If he’s pretending to be unaware, that’s even worse. And if he’s never heard of the Prius, the biggest automotive niche-buster of all time, then The Street must have interviewed a Jim Lentz clone from another planet.

Let’s contrast Nissan’s and Toyota’s hand-wave with BMW’s recent alarmism. The company showed its employees a horror film of sorts, with Musk as the monster — an attempt to shock them out of complacency.

Musk at window TeslaMondo

The odds are very high that behind their fortified castle doors, Toyota and Nissan are NOT in a state of blissful myopia. They’re every bit as rattled as BMW and hear the same scratching at their windows. Nissan resorted to tapping people on the shoulder — people waiting in line for a Model III — and trying to sell them a Leaf. BMW did the same.

nissan-leaf-ad-teslamondo

Toyota should try it too. It’s losing a lot of would-be Prius customers, at least, to the Model III. TeslaMondo talks to car buyers every day, so don’t attempt to argue. The brand new plug-in Prius Prime, billed as the most advanced Prius ever, isn’t moving the needle whatsoever. According to Edmunds.com, it has $3,000 on the hood in some markets, same as the lame duck, soon-to-be-replaced, all-but-forgotten 2017 Camry.

Tagged ,

So, about Los Angeles

While vacationing in LA, TeslaMondo was so unconcerned about the TSLA selloff, and so unintrigued by the anticlimactic* Model III kickoff, that both warrant no more than this single sentence.

So let’s chat about LA. Unfamiliar experiences make life worth living, yes? Here’s what, say, an East Coaster may find unfamiliar in LA:

  1. Sometimes back east, if you want fresh air, you open the windows. Sometimes in LA, you close them.
  2. Back east, when you go to Pizza Hut to pick up your order, you simply walk through the door, state your name, take your food and pay the clerk. At the Pizza Hut on West Temple St. in Silver Lake, it’s a little different. You wait behind a wall of bulletproof glass, yell your name, wait for the guy to slide your food under the bulletproof wall via a bulletproof tray, then you slide your credit card back to him. Sounds like a rough city, right?
  3. Yet a short drive away, on Rodeo Drive, you’ll become so sick of seeing Bentleys, Lambos and Aston Martins that you’ll start taking pics of the interesting fire hydrants instead.IMG_7428
  4. Back to Silver Lake for a second. Can anyone explain why McDonald’s would have daily market pricing for oatmeal? McDonald’s is several steps removed from the oat harvest.IMG_7405
  5. Back to Rodeo Drive. You’ll spend more than a few seconds per day looking directly at women’s** nipples. That’s for two reasons. First, because bras aren’t quite the staple they are back east. And second, because female tallness isn’t awkward like it is back east. In fact, tallish women in LA use strategic footwear to make themselves even taller. So, in fact, you’re staring right at ’em. Sorry, no pics.
  6. Why? How? Here’s some typical Doug fare.IMG_7245
  7. Back east, in Times Square especially, hawkers try to hand out pamphlets about restaurants or comedy clubs. On Hollywood Boulevard, hawkers try to hand out CDs of their own performances. Other examples of self-promotion abound.IMG_7285
  8. In LA you’ll see very old car models that the East Coast has totally forgotten. Some are quaint. Others just ain’t.IMG_7339
  9. But the most unfamiliar experience is seeing this phrase painted on every single exotic car you encounter:

If you ask around, you’ll find it’s a reference to the fact that the quiet new guy in town makes all of ’em seem slightly, but notably, bygone.

 

*We’ve learned much more from man-in-the-street pics than from Tesla’s official images.

**Gender in LA falls on a spectrum, so TeslaMondo is really just referring to unspecified humanoid nipples.