Double the performance, half the price. That’s what Jia Yueting says he’s going to deliver in a few years. If he’s talking about doubling Model S performance, this means the LeEco Let’s See, and perhaps a US version from its Faraday Future brand,* will cost roughly $40k, hit 60mph in two seconds, get a 10-star NHTSA rating, travel about 600 miles per charge and carry 10 adults and four children. Or maybe Yueting is talking about doubling the performance and halving the price of the average ICE car, not a Tesla. And only in the Chinese market. Yes, that must be it.
Still, this evokes the bluster from Lu Guanqiu, chairman of Wanxiang, a couple years ago. Remember him? He’s the Chinese money behind the reborn Fisker. Not the Corvette/Fisker rebirth** involving Bob Lutz and Fisker himself, but the other rebirth involving Fisker’s assets and assembly plant. Confused? No shit. Anyway, here’s a direct quote from Guanqiu in 2014: “I’ll put every cent that Wanxiang earns into making electric vehicles. I’ll burn as much cash as it takes to succeed, or until Wanxiang goes bust.” Ok, let’s fast-forward to 2016. Supposedly a new US-built Fisker car, a hybrid, is coming this summer. In China, the company has a trial run underway for electric buses. If things don’t work out for him, says Guanqiu, his son and even his grandson will continue trying to build cars. TeslaMondo doubts they will share this Quixotic motivation to build cars if gramps blows the family fortune on it.
The US isn’t immune from verbal grandiosity. Ford CEO Mark Fields slapped his chest a couple years ago too, saying Ford, not Tesla, would make EVs “attainable to the masses.” That’s not very grandiose, you say? Well, it’s grandiose compared to what Ford has actually done since then, which is nothing. Just a few days ago, Ford said it will stick to 100 miles of range instead of the 200ish pegged by its rivals. Not because Ford lacks the technology. Heck no. It’s for two other reasons. First, 100 miles is the consumer’s real “sweet spot” that only Ford understands. And second, because more range would require a bigger, costlier and heavier battery pack. In other words, Ford lacks the technology and is defaulting to compliance-car mentality, thereby forfeiting the game that Fields talked about winning. Who is going to buy a 100-mile Ford for anywhere near the same dough as a 200-mile Bolt or Leaf? Or Tesla? Nobody, and that’s probably how Ford wants it. Ditto for FCA, except they admit it.
Compared with these guys, Musk sounded borderline humble three years ago. Skip to 27:55 here: “If the big car companies see that our sales are good, and that we’re actually taking a little bit of market share — I mean we’re a tiny company, so a drop in the bucket — but if they see how people are buying these cars, they will have no choice but to conclude that electric cars are the right way to go, and that will accelerate the transition to sustainable transport.” Little did he know that even in 2016, many big auto companies, even the ones hemorrhaging market share to Tesla, would be just starting to come around to the reality that they have no choice.
*Confused? TeslaMondo is. Not just about Yueting’s goal, but about the branding strategy among FF, LeSEE, Yueting, LeEco etc. The company needs to shed this alphabet soup pronto, or hope the moniker “FF” catches on here in the US. Otherwise the company will be unsearchable, unmemorable, unmarketable, and known as simply “That Chinese company,” and that’s surely what the company does not want given the overwhelmingly negative connotation ’round these parts.
**This WSJ piece about the new Fisker leaves out Bob Lutz’s effort entirely. Why?