Category Archives: TSLA

TeslaMondo weighs kei car purchase, because it’s fun being a lightweight

TeslaMondo likes Tesla as an investment vehicle, but has no interest in owning the company’s vehicular vehicles.

In 2015, TeslaMondo bought a 2000 Toyota Mr2 Spyder and, a year later, urged all car enthusiasts to make a similar move. Buy an old-school sports car, an elemental machine created purely for motoring pleasure, before such machines, and the art of driving them, both disappear. Buy a horse before they go extinct, basically.

Toyota Mr2 Spyder, black with red factory interiorWell, sometimes the Mr2 feels too refined, too slushy, not to mention too large. It’s also too middle-of-the-road ordinary. Where’s the shock value in a Toyota that resembles a first-gen Boxster prototype?

It might be time to turn this knob one more notch, to buy a car so raw, so pure, that the Mr2 is rendered a rolling condominium. Yes, it’s time for the “less is more” mantra to become “the absolute least is the absolute most.” And the absolute least, in many measurable ways, is a Japanese-market kei car. Right away we have a semantics problem, for these aren’t really “cars” by American standards. They’re four-wheel motorbikes powered by tiny, high-revving motorcycle powerplants and wrapped in whimsical car-like bodies. But here’s the kicker: These go-carts are totally legit, designed and assembled by major auto manufacturers instead of your drunken uncle Stan.

Illegal in the US, you say? Wrong. Foreign-market cars of all stripes can be imported and driven in the US — and they’re totally exempt from America’s NHTSA and EPA standards — as long as they’re at least 25 years old. That means these cheeky kei cars, kei vans and kei utility trucks, many costing under $10,000, are yours for the taking. And many have low miles on them.

Who sells them? Importers like Japanese Classics, or JDM Auto Imports, or Montu Motors. They take care of the importation and titling agita. Your only legwork, besides getting the car home, is arraigning insurance and registration. Anecdotal evidence suggests it’s all pretty easy. However, a dry practice run might be a good idea. Advice to self: Run your plans by your insurance agent and local registry to make sure it’s all going to work out.

Here are the Big Four in kei sports cars. Big? Another semantics problem.

  1. Suzuki Cappuccino — a teensy Miata
  2. Honda Beat — a teensy Mr2, mid-engined to boot
  3. Autozam (Mazda) AZ-1 — a teensy Ferrari with gull-wing doors, also mid-engined
  4. Suzuki Alto Works — a teensy Dodge Omni Shelby GLH

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The driving experience appears to be at once exasperating and exhilarating. Exasperating because body roll, wheel hop, stability control — puzzles long ago solved in real cars — are unsolved here. Exhilarating because you hear a revvy motorcycle powerplant making motorcycle sounds while you look at a motorcycle instrument cluster and toss around a vehicle that weighs about 600 lbs less than an Mr2 Spyder. Bonus: driving one in the US means you’ve got the novelty factor of a Ferrari F40 — for under $10,000. In fact, there’s a Yamaha kei car with a Ferrari F40 body kit somewhere in Japan:

Yamaha AMI with F40 body kit

Safety-wise, we could learn from motorcyclists. Choose a brightly-colored car for maximum visibility, make sure the exhaust is loud, drive very defensively, avoid people’s blind spots, wear a helmet, and don’t drive it in bad weather. Also, if you have a short commute to work, consider wrapping every utility pole with foam padding, just in case. At least you needn’t worry much about a head-on collision with an oncoming car. Kei cars are right-hand-drive, so you can precisely hug the curb. Just watch out for potholes. They’re unkind to 12-inch rims. If an oncoming car does cross the center line, there’s plenty of room for error. That’s because your car is narrower than a Miata. Not by a couple inches. By a foot.

Two words about parts and service: Screw them. Actually, with the growing interest in kei cars, there’s a growing online parts network. And service? Some of these cars might make sense to the service techs at your local Suzuki dealer. Suzuki motorcycle dealer, that is.

So let’s say after five years of enjoyment, the thing craps out. Just pick a spot on your front lawn and push it there. Instant feng shui. Sure beats a pair of chintzy lion statues guarding your front stairs. Don’t you have some fond childhood memories of interesting car corpses in people’s yards? Saab Sonett? Fiat Bertone X19? Renault Le Car? Well, you could have the king of all yard ornaments for a new generation of car kids.

And you’ll still have your Mr2, running flawlessly as always, happy to forgive and forget.

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When journalists smoke crack, vol 2382

First — Autocar writes an article consisting entirely of stale crumbs about Tesla’s plans to build a small crossover based on the new Model III platform. It throws in a Model Y rendering that looks like a Porsche Macan. Neither the rendering nor the article deserves a single minute of attention.

Then — Claudia Assis from MarketWatch, who has covered Tesla long enough to know better, pretends the Autocar article is some sort of confirmation that Model Y is coming next year. She writes her own rehash of the source piece, and an editor slaps on a nifty headline about Model Y coming next year. So today we were served two hamburgers containing 100% Hamburger Helper.

And yet — TSLA jumps a few percentage points on the mere mention of an inexpensive crossover, so hot is the segment and so ignorant is the layman investor about Tesla’s long-discussed master plan.

Result — Tesla gains market cap because everyone is stupid. Anton Wahlman, a bumbling TSLA short who would happily write about Elon Musk kicking his cat if he could just get a good hidden video, figured out that today’s TSLA bump hasn’t a toe in reality, assuming the bump came from Model Y speculation. The day has finally come when Wahlman made a non-absurd observation.

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Model III still cloaked for good reasons

Here are four possible reasons why Tesla won’t reveal any details about the Model III until it’s already in production, presumably this summer.

  1. There’s no need to generate more sales.
  2. Why tip your hand to the competition?
  3. Some things might not be finalized. Huh? With just a few months left? Absolutely. This ain’t Detroit we’re talking about. On-the-fly changes are a Tesla hallmark.
  4. Some Model III features may leapfrog the S and X, rendering them stale already. Relentless innovation can shorten the shelf life of your products. With phones or graphic cards costing a few hundred dollars, this isn’t a big consumer problem. They can easily upgrade. With cars, it’s a problem. And retrofitting Tesla’s latest tech into the S/X might be difficult or impossible. So, in short, Tesla might be savoring the last glory days of the S/X. The III might vanguard the “second generation” of Tesla products that make the first look like possum’s peckers.
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The unasked questions from yesterday

  1. The Tesla fleet is about to grow exponentially. The charging network, at least in the US, is about to double. Nice. But what about Tesla service capacity? Isn’t the ratio of cars to service centers about to get pulled into Silly String? Is Tesla banking on a problem-free product? Is Tesla reasoning by analogy by looking at the relatively uneventful recall history of Model S/X? Or is TeslaMondo guilty of reasoning by analogy by assuming Model III is like other cars and will need physical attention like other cars — and will need such attention BEFORE it’s possible to send them back to Tesla autonomously?
  2. If employees are going to drive around this summer in production-spec Model IIIs, what protects them from paparazzi? Even the Gigafactory — a building, folks — attracted aggressive photographers until Tesla put the smack-down on them. Or, seen another way, what’s to prevent these employees from profiting immensely by leaking info?
  3. Why don’t we hear from anyone at Tesla besides the CFO, CTO and CEO? Where’s brand chief Ganesh Srivats, for example?
  4. Why does a powerful technology company like Tesla allow its earnings calls to be force-fed to the public through a raspy audio feed and archived with a cruddy little audio player, so the calls are both hard to hear AND frustrating to rewind/fast forward? Shouldn’t the company that’s tackling massive industries like automotive and electricity show more interest in how it communicates with the investment and journalism communities? Why should it be so effortless to see, hear and manipulate Wonder Woman spin transformations from the 1970s, but so exasperating to study a 2017 Tesla earnings call?

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Uneventful earnings call predicted

What to expect TeslaMondoCriswell predicts TeslaMondoHere’s what we’ll hear: Part III of Model III reveal is coming in a few months. We knew that. The company aims to eke out some production units before the shot clock runs out this year, but production ramp healthier than with Model X in 2015. We knew that. Tesla Energy is growing rapidly. We knew that. Expansion into India and Dubai have lots of promise in coming years. Yeah, yeah. The SolarCity acquisition is like a python digesting a cat — taxing in the short-term but ultimately rewarding.

Anything shocking there? No. TeslaMondo predicts TSLA may let off some steam, given the high pressure, but pressure will re-build as the Model III reveal draws near.

The mainstream press and numerous analysts seem baffled about the recent stock run. It’s very simple. Lots of investors made a new year’s resolution to buy TSLA ahead of Model III. Trump initially gave them pause, but it turns out Tesla and Trump kinda need each other, as TeslaMondo predicted last fall. The immense short interest made the long story all the more enticing. Sure enough, a squeeze is already underway. If anyone is losing sleep over this earnings call, it’s the hapless shorts who are still clinging to the balloon rope as it lifts them fatally high.

Tesla is making chicken shit into chicken salad

India, home to the worst power outages in history, and home to millions of extremely poor people: Tesla somehow aims to debut this summer. United Arab Emirates*, where petroleum cars tend to sell, um, fairly well: Tesla somehow is about to open shop there too. United States of America, where the president thinks being green means rubbing dollars on your skin: Tesla somehow has a key to the White House.

Another day, another surprising boost to sentiment. If this continues, TSLA will be trading north of $500 by year’s end.

*Here’s a must-read account of Tesla demand in the UAE. And if you think gas is super-cheap there, or represents a teensy sliver of household income, both are incorrect.

future-tollbooth

This represents the TeslaMondo portfolio for now, in proper proportion. Both companies own tollbooths to the future, but Nvidia has more lanes, so TeslaMondo allocates investment dollars accordingly.