Category Archives: Model III

Musk’s 11th-hour modesty about Model III rings false

Model III cannibal

Nom nom? No! No!

A year ago, Tesla’s chief tech officer JB Straubel said Model III will have the company’s “next generation” technology. But today Musk downplayed any notion of Model III upstaging the S and X. Cannibalismo non grata!

So then, wherein lies the truth? Obviously somewhere between Straubel and Musk, but probably closer to the Straubel end of the continuum, because a year ago there was no pressing concern about the S or X getting cannibalized. Loaded terms like “next generation” could leave the lips without repercussion. Sigh. Such innocent times.

So if indeed the Model III sports “next generation” technology, and assuming this goes beyond dry stuff like build-friendly design and myriad efficiency improvements, what’s this all about? Any new James Bond features akin to bioweapon defense, falcon wings, ludicrous acceleration, automatic-opening doors? Hyperspace?

Hyperspace Button TeslaMondo

Well, since Model III is super-simple and low-risk, that leaves the user interface and the roof as fertile ground for gee-wiz stuff. The UI is probably a wholly different experience from Model S/X, even without a true heads-up display. Musk did compare it to a spaceship, remember? Was he merely breathing up our pant legs? Unlikely.

And the roof is probably photovoltaic to a useful degree. In fact, TeslaMondo believes Tesla will pioneer photovoltaic density alongside battery density. With time, smaller and smaller surface areas will become more usefully “solar.” Why not start with a car roof?

In a few years, about the only things Tesla won’t be able to solarize will be its Tesla-brand traffic tunnels. Then again, skylights and mirrors could come into play.


There’s blood in the water. Short blood.

model-3-shark-nose-teslamondoWith TSLA short interest at an all-time high, Tesla confirmed today that it’s about to start pilot production of Model III — the very creature that shorts think will never materialize.

Time to bring in Matt Hooper from the oceanographic institute, to talk some sense into them: “I’m familiar with the fact that you are going to ignore this particular problem until it swims up and bites you in the ass.”


But wait — there may be hope for shorts yet. A lone Tesla worker is trying to agitate for a union, just as headlines start to mention Model III. Quite a coincidence. And quite absurd, since Tesla’s job fairs tend to cause stampedes. Conditions can’t be all that bad, now can they?

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The unasked question is now glaring

TeslaMondo, and doubtless many others, never got around to asking a basic question — and very few are asking it even this afternoon. The question:

“Model III will be unveiled in how many parts?”

The popular assumption is two. But tonight it might become clear that Model III will be unveiled in SEVERAL parts. Musk is showing a few more cards tonight, but perhaps not all of them. This assumes, of course, he’s playing with a full deck.


Seven sneaky words make women jump you

You’ve seen the buttock bait everywhere but refuse to click? Well, TeslaMondo has done the probing or you. Here’s the trick: You wait until it’s night time,  and quiet, and you’re alone with your spouse in bed. You’ve been talking about finances: college loans, home improvements, credit card strategies etc. That’s when you utter the sneaky words:

“I put a deposit on a Tesla.”

She will leap on you forthwith and begin hollering. With any luck, you’ll have a moment to explain the refundability clause before your genitals are removed and thrown out the window.


Toyota, Honda losing clicks to Model III

Tesla stealing attention from German automakers? Not news. Stealing from Toyota and Honda? That’s news. Edmunds says consumers are starting to weigh Tesla against the likes of Honda and Toyota, as Model III lowers the $$$ barrier of entry.

The Prius, as predicted here, may become a Prime loser. Pun intended. What pun? Toyota is about to launch the Prius Prime, with plug-in range of 22ish miles and a big iPad-like display inspired by Tesla. Google it. The price and timing will drop the Prius Prime into the boxing ring with Model III, not to mention the updated Leaf, updated BMW i3* and Chevy Re-Volt.

It’s good to see the “affordable” EV segment fleshing out, and it’s good to see Tesla will offer the most potent product in that segment. Toyota and Honda have essentially forfeited this ball game while they pursue the Mirage of fuel cells. Will they one day find Clarity there?

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*BMW’s i-team went AWOL in China. A setback? Probably.

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Model III is getting Ludicrous, and so is the world

It’s 1989. The mailman brings a new issue of Road & Track. You learn about the latest cars, their engine displacements, torque curves, lateral Gs. Then you pore over the spec charts in the back of the magazine. Want some “color”? Catch a MotorWeek episode on cable TV, where you can actually see those cars in motion, see their bodies lean, hear their exhaust notes. You want to try one out? You leave a message at a local dealer. With any luck, they’ll you back when the first shipment arrives. Otherwise, you’ll have to keep on calling back or driving by.

That was car enthusiasm back then. No YouTube. No cell phones (well, not really). No internet (well, not really). Let’s stay in 1989 for a minute. A guy sitting next to you on the bus tells you the following:

“About 27 years from now, your pocket will buzz. It’ll be your phone doing the buzzing. It’s telling you an auto CEO, who incidentally aspires to die on Mars, has confirmed via Twitter that his forthcoming electric car will have Ludicrous mode, which annihilates the gas sports cars you used to fantasize about. You’ll tap your phone to scroll down an online Reddit discussion — that’s part of the internet , but no time to explain that now — anyway, you’ll read about the ramifications of this announcement. A year later, you’ll tap your screen to fine-tune your order. Ludicrous mode for you. Car arrives at a mall store, not a dealership. You take it home without touching the wheel much. A month later, an update arrives over the air — the first of many to come, each materially improving the car. You touch a screen and wait a minute. Suddenly the car has new cognitive functions. Think I’m crazy? I had an epiphany in the shower this morning, about all if this stuff.”

You would probably pull the emergency stop cord on the bus and let yourself off a mile early. Better to walk than sit next to a nitwit who might blow up the bus.

So when people warn of another sea change approaching, this time involving self-driving cars or maybe even self-teaching nonhuman beings (ASI), it’s probably not poppycock. TeslaMondo thinks the shift to autonomy will take several decades, if only because of the slow attrition rate of “dumb” cars and the lagging pace of regulation and infrastructure. But just imagine if the next three decades bring at least as much change as the last three.


Tesla should cap Model III pre-orders

Nobody likes traffic jams, or crowded airports, or busy supermarkets. We use the term “cattle house” to describe the feeling of being dehumanized in herds.

In the interest of preserving what’s left of Tesla’s unusual intimacy with previous customers, and preserving any chance of a positive introduction for newcomers, Tesla should freeze pre-orders. What’s wrong with shutting off the faucet at 400,000, and then reopening it for a “second wave” after half of the first wave is delivered?

Mutual funds sometimes close to new investors temporarily, for a host of good reasons. Want a more relevant example? Retailers do turn customers away if they know they cannot deliver the product in a timely manner. It doesn’t happen often, but it happens. Taking a deposit with no clear path to filling the order only guarantees agita later.

Overall customer experience is an unglamorous metric. In fact, it wasn’t a “metric” in the auto world at all until recently. So it’s not likely to generate headlines, or make history, or provide bragging rights. But overall customer experience, in all its dry glory, is what moves Tesla along.

In its short life, Tesla has established personal rapport with customers. People feel personally invested in the brand. That’s a precious thing in the auto world, where defensive mistrust is, justifiably, the default customer attitude toward the entire business from dealers all the way to corporate HQ in some cases. But letting Model III orders outstrip, say, three years of production threatens to erode that rapport by making people feel like livestock. It also makes Tesla look overwhelmed, even if it’s not yet. Tesla should look confident at all times, not overwhelmed.

So TeslaMondo pounds on this pulpit in the middle of the internet forest with nobody around, and says Wave One of Model III pre-orders should be declared a success and ended.


This time, the car of the century may exist

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In the 70s, you see, this all made perfect sense. The car, the outfit, the whole thing.

The last “car of the century” didn’t quite work out. The head of a phony car company called Twentieth Century Motors ran off with millions in venture capital without building anything. Her name was Liz Carmichael as a woman, Jerry Dean Michael as a man. Same person. Her rogue “women’s libber” persona perhaps helped gain credibility with us Americans who, in the grip of the mid-1970s fuel crisis, were wondering how to beat the high cost of living. We even made a movie by that name soon afterward.

The answer to our mid-70s motoring problem was the Dale, the debut car from Twentieth Century Motors.

Desperation does funny things to human judgement. We believed en masse that this mother of five was the widow of a NASA engineer. This lent credence to her alleged epiphany about a three-wheeled, super-thrifty, super-safe car. We believed she had secured the necessary funds to build it, and a 150,000 square-foot factory, and a couple hundred employees, and 250 franchisees in the bag, with several hundred more awaiting her stringent quality control check.

Screen Shot 2016-04-02 at 11.58.02 PMWhy is TeslaMondo writing about this embarrassing episode in American auto history? The parallels between the Dale and Model ☰ are absolutely uncanny. The same story that has drawn a quarter-million Model ☰ depositors in 48 hours also sold the Dale.

Carmichael had allegedly set up manufacturing in California with R/D in Nevada. She was taking on GM with this fixed-price 70-mpg car made from rocket structural resin. The association with rockets ran deep. Her chief engineer had worked on the Saturn program for seven years. The Dale sported a super-low center of gravity so it was un-tippable. It was also super-simple to build and had almost no moving parts to fix. It centralized all kinds of functions because the radio, heater, HVAC all plugged into its printed circuit dashboard. The entire drivetrain could be dropped and repaired by backing off four bolts. Efficiency in production, you see? Keeps cost down. Crash safety? The best of the best. In fact, it boasted four inches of foam in the cockpit, so it protected occupants like a crash helmet. Advertising budget? Zero. Word of mouth carried the day.

Screen Shot 2016-04-03 at 12.02.36 AM“Dollar for dollar, the Dale is the best car ever built.” That’s a direct quote from Carmichael, who described herself as natural tinkerer with a long history of designing and building experimental cars, always with an eye for milking better efficiency. A straight-up JB Straubel of the 70s. The established auto world hadn’t delivered any meaningful advancements in a very long time. It was time for the Dale to inject some innovation, she said. Sure, the Dale didn’t look like other cars, but “only because people normally tend to be wedded to the conventional.” You see? She reasoned by first principles instead of analogy, a core Muskian trait.

Carmichael ran help wanted ads, rejected the applicants but managed to sell them shares of the company as a consolation. Eventually, concerned investors started to drop dimes to various authorities. It was time for Carmichael to make a decision:

1: Shit.
2: Get off the pot.

She chose option 3: Escape down the toilet. With about $6 million.

Just as Jerry Dean Michael was absolutely sure he was a woman, it’s very possible that he was absolutely sure he was building a real car. How else could he have radiated enough self-confidence to sway investors his way? Sure, he still had a growly voice and male genitals, and his car was held together with two-by-fours and coat hangers, but human conviction outweighs all empirical feedback, and it’s contagious. Even his escape might have simply been a necessary move underground, where his work could continue more discreetly — in his mind.

Fast-forward 43 years. Tesla has no fuel crisis to help nudge customers its way. Just the opposite. Plus, heavyweights like the Koch brothers are trying to sway people against electric cars. A goodly geographical chunk of Tesla’s home country BANS the brand. Some rival companies, most notably GM, lobby against Tesla. And most importantly, there is simply no need for a miracle car because we have some proven, affordable, safe, efficient and clean-burning cars.

And yet we lay our money down for a chance to be eligible to one day enter a sweepstakes to get on a waiting list years long for a chance to eventually order a car that will ultimately, pending the completion of the largest building in the world, exist. That’s how we feel about Tesla. Why? It must have something to do with one-upping GM and the other big boyz, and the association with rocketry, and the low COG, and the crashworthiness, and the mechanical simplicity, and the centralization of functions, and our overall eagerness to see new blood in the auto world. In short, we still want a Dale — just not from the Twentieth Century.

Further reading:

Excellent article, though transphobic
Dale brochure
An article by journalists who were totally duped
About the unraveling 


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The Apple-ification of the car is now complete


Teslas are now, more obviously than ever, gadgets that you order from a store, sometimes after waiting in line. Then you wait for delivery, show off the product to friends and family, provide feedback about bugs, get OTA updates etc. and basically enjoy an improved life thereafter.

A couple years back, Apple said it was working on something that would give Tesla a run for its money. Well, today’s Apple-tastic stampede for the Model III invites the question: What could Apple possibly do with the automobile that Tesla isn’t already doing? Who needs Tim?

It invites another question too: Does chief designer Franz von Holzhausen have the easiest job in the business, or the hardest? On the one hand, people are ordering a car that’s still under a black cloak. Easy job, yes? On the other hand, he’s kinda forging a new template for the automobile as we know it. Hard job.

And what about Tesla brand chief Ganesh Srivats, hired from Burberry? People are lined up to order a car sight unseen, price unknown. Does Ganesh even have to show up for work? Or does he have to work overtime to manage a juggernaut brand?

But these are questions for another time and place. Today is for reveling in the remarkable ascent of an auto marque that, for most people, DID NOT EXIST until five years ago. And reveling in the sight of an auto CEO high-fiving his fans. Do be careful, Mr. Musk. John Lennon liked to do the same.