Don’t fear the wafer

TeslaMondo screen

Assuming Tesla sticks with the super-sparse setup above, it’s the riskiest design move in Tesla’s brief history, more challenging than the grille-less fascia. It risks looking like an MIT science experiment instead of a finished commercial product. That is, until we acclimate to it.

The Model S helped us say goodbye to a host of dials and buttons. It wasn’t easy for everyone; still isn’t. Looks like Model III will help us say goodbye to even more automotive givens, such as an instrument cluster, individual air vents and a center “stack.”

Will the screen swivel? Rotate? Detach? More important, will it become cool after a while? TeslaMondo thinks yes, it will become very cool.

Cell phones used to look and feel like granola bars. Buttons, buttons, buttons. Now cell phones are smooth glass wafers. Remember your entertainment center with a CD tower and stacked DVD/VCR shelves? Now you’ve got just a wafer on the wall. Ditto your home office. Do you have a tower CPU on the floor, a copier/scanner/fax behind you and a screen on your desk? No, you probably have just a wafer. Go to your local furniture store and talk to a veteran salesman about the store layout. TeslaMondo did so. The home office and entertainment areas used to take up large chunks of floor plan. Now, virtually nothing.

Leave it to Tesla to unashamedly waferize the automobile. But why not at least embed the wafer as in the Model S and X? A floating wafer must be far easier and cheaper, plus readily compatible for right-and-drive countries. Moreover, the Model III dash area barely exists. The front seats are almost in the frunk, to free up rear legroom. Ergonomic quirks are bound to result. At least the view over the super-low cowl should be excellent. You’ll get a close-up view of bicyclists getting squashed.

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Clickbait headlines “officially” out of hand

Remember this, from a few weeks ago?

Officially in trouble TeslaMondo

Well, it’s going to take a very strong May to reset the nagging suspicion that the Bolt will fall far short of GM’s meager goal of 30k units this year. Here’s the rollout schedule, as a reminder:

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And here are the sales data through April:

Chevy Bolt sales through April TeslaMondo

So the production ramp isn’t causing a commensurate sales ramp. The May figures could turn things around — if New England contains hidden pockets of Bolt fans.

The Bolt is like a little ranch house that’s been totally gutted and updated on the inside, so it excels in everything that really matters for most people. It’s an ideal starter house for a young family, your real estate agent will tell you. But unfortunately it’s priced like a McMansion despite the missing cubic feet and missing curb appeal. It starts in the high $30s and tops out in the low $40s. You can find much sexier stuff for that kind of money, electric and otherwise.

The market agrees:

officially in trouble Bolt ad 1

So what’s going on with this Matthew DeBord character? Years ago he wrote about Tesla in the past tense. A few weeks ago he told us Tesla is officially in trouble because of the Bolt. Soon after, he said Tesla is making huge tactical errors in its product plan. Soon after that, he said Model Y represents a disastrous pivot because it will have a separate platform. Sounds pretty bleak for poor Tesla, eh? But now he’s telling us Tesla has the greatest story in the history of cars and could put bumbling incumbents out of business. Hey, a writer has to eat, you know.

This is a reminder of why TeslaMondo will never spend money or accept money. It corrupts journalism.

Click, click, click, — ka-ching!

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You’ve come a long way, Dieter

Darth Dieter TeslaMondoBack when Daimler had a stake in Tesla, CEO Darth Dieter turned down a chance to invest in the Tesla Gigafactory on grounds that it was too risky. That’s what he told the press, anyway. Well, lo and behold, look who’s breaking ground on his own pseudogigafactory. It’s not as vertically integrated as Tesla’s factory, however, since Daimler is buying off-the-shelf LG batteries. Tesla engineers its own, with Panasonic as production partner.

This is quite a turnaround for Dieter, but it says even more about his ex-Mercedes chief Steve L. Cannon.* He talked trash about Tesla and EVs in general, in April of 2015. “The potential of fully electric vehicles for the rest of my life and a good portion of the rest of your life will be limited.” Cannon was gone by the end of the year. Tesla proceeded to give Mercedes a violent wedgie by capturing a third of the luxury car market.

For new readers, Dieter Zetsche is Darth Dieter because he saved Tesla’s life during the Great Recession by buying TSLA shares and commissioning a bunch of electric Smart cars. So, like him or not, he’s yo daddy.

Copycat Motors TeslaMondo

Clawing their way back into the game.

*The L is for Loose.

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Chrysler, Daimler the next diesel weasels?

  • Diesel Weasel TeslaMondoScandal fatigue has officially set in. So many automakers are lying and cheating that nobody is keeping score anymore. Hyundai is under investigation for delaying recalls. FCA is getting sued by the feds for stinking up the joint. Daimler is getting probed for the same.

It’s just automotive business as usual. This is why Tesla is thriving while Big Auto is sagging, and why more executive shakeups are on the way for sure. Just as fossil fuel isn’t a sustainable energy source, defrauding regulators and consumers isn’t a sustainable modus operandi.
More diesel weasels TeslaMondo

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Why Musk is so “in” and Fields so “out”

Tesla’s irrational valuation and Mark Fields’ irrational ouster both stem from the same thing: decades of alienation between legacy automakers and the public. A lot of consumers consider big automakers boorish and auto dealers beyond boorish, but had nowhere to turn until lately. Tesla represents a long overdue agent of change in an industry considered padlocked to newcomers. Investors like the story.

Therefore, Musk sells a few cars and gets hoisted onto investors’ shoulders and marched around the stadium while Fields gets tarred and feathered in the parking lot for simply conducting business as usual. Business as usual is simply finished, especially auto business as usual. How Jim Hackett, a 62-year-old furniture design exec, will steer Ford through a sea change in mobility and leapfrog Musk et al remains to be seen.

TeslaMondo thinks the Fields ouster will lead to more shakeups as Big Auto struggles with the Tesla “drop in the bucket” that’s turning into a tsunami. It’s no accident that this is happening just as Model III debuts. The press may refer to spooky mobility overtures by Google and Apple, but those are still abstract. Tesla is concrete. BMW concurs.

Tesla is doing to autos what Amazon is doing to retail, for the same reasons. People generally don’t have a great time at retail stores. The layout sucks. The help sucks. The parking lot sucks. The elapsed time sucks. So they’re keen to ditch the whole scene and try “cloud retail.” Do you have a meaningful relationship with your insurance agent? Probably not, hence the advent of “cloud insurance” like GEICO, Progressive etc.  Tesla sells the closest thing you can get to a cloud car, and it’s going to get a lot “cloudier” when autonomous fleetism takes over.

Do you feel good about auto companies, despite their tendency to skirt recalls, sidestep warranty claims, fudge fuel economy, fudge emissions, retard fuel economy mandates and ignore longstanding problems like the Ford Focus transmission?

How about auto dealers? Do you feel good about them? If so, you’re strange.

Gallup TeslaMondo

So the industry’s figureheads deserve comeuppance for conducting business as usual, in terms of product mix and customer experience. It’s been a long time coming. Who should be next to go? How ’bout Sergio Marchionne, who begs everyone to avoid his electric Fiat compliance car, but will tinkle with glee if you buy a Jeep or a Heck Cat? Sounds like a CEO of the automotive past, not future. How about Akio Toyoda, who foolishly put his chips on fuel cells and hybrids and thereby set Toyota back almost a decade in cultivating the next-level EV tech that Tesla, a mere rookie, now defines.

If Fields is out, why are they still in?

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Ford’s past and, um, future?

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Tesla shows how to massage the media

This week Tesla made two very wise and timely maneuvers.

  1. The obligatory “we’re not worthy” comment. Musk feigned humility by saying Tesla has no right to deserve its valuation. (He also says Tesla will be worth as much as Apple, so whatever). But here’s the trick: He used the exact same wording he used years ago, when TSLA sold for $170. Anyone who listened to him missed an 80 percent run. Nobody is listening this time. So Musk comes off sounding all humble-like, without denting TSLA, by tacitly inviting everyone to ignore him like last time.
  2. The preemptive blog post about the UAW’s imminent media push. Sure enough, right on cue, out came the tales of woe from the factory floor. Investors reacted with a hand wave and bought more TSLA.

Regarding number 2:

Social media tend to ferret out the truth, often despite the Ruperts of the world. In fact, Tesla credited social media for correcting “misperceptions” during the Tesla fire scare a few years back. So if Tesla were running its factories like prison camps, it would struggle to attract bodies, especially young ones, yes? The company’s image would suffer, especially among the social media-savvy young, yes? Instead, Tesla job fairs cause crowd control problems. One was shut down by police. And Tesla’s brand stature among the young could not possibly get better, as multiple surveys attest. Tesla is also the number one stock owned by people aged 25 to 49. Would slave drivers achieve this status?

Tesla job fair Fremont 5-3-14 TeslaMondo

Tesla job fair on May 3, 2014 just before getting shut down.  Lambs to the slaughter? Doubt it.

Tesla’s fascia not so jarring anymore

A year and a half ago, when the production Model X first rolled onstage, it looked weird-o-rama. That duct-taped face! No expression! The Matrix guy with the missing mouth! Such were the comments on Reddit and everywhere else.

Model X debut TeslaMondo

Nevertheless, the Model S adopted the same mutism soon afterward. Now the super-slick S/X fascia has become a signature Tesla styling cue. Model III carries it forth. The old Model S nose cone? It’s merely a time stamp that partitions new from old units, and it reeks of genuflection to ICE tradition. See ya.

The lesson: Sometimes automotive designers actually earn their pay, by correctly guessing what will look “right” a few years forward. Hooray for a long shelf life, even if the product startles at first.

Another example:

Jeep Cherokee TeslaMondo

Upon first sight in 2013, the Jeep faithful barfed en masse. Google it. Travesty! Heresy! What did Jeep designer Mark Allen have to say for himself, the fool? “Our head was in 2019,” he told Ward’s Auto, while an angry mob waited outside the office, holding pitchforks. Four years later, sure enough, Allen was right-on. The Cherokee has sold quite well and doesn’t yet look desperate for a replacement. It could indeed stay fresh into 2019.

By contrast, here’s an example of not designing for the future.

2012 Civic TeslaMondo

The conspicuously inconspicuous 2012 Civic lasted only a few months before Honda dragged it offstage at great embarrassment and expense. A couple iterations later, good times have returned. Uh, if you like Japanese sci-fi. The latest Civic looks ideal for shooting missiles at Godzilla. Same goes for other new Japanese vehicles, and some American ones. The Corvette is turning Japanese.

This image contains a Civic and a Corvette. It’s true! What does that tell us?

stage 2

Please, Tesla, stick to the simple n’ smooth aesthetic. Don’t succumb to this monster madness unless you plan to make your cars launch real missiles to complement bioweapon defense mode. The best defense, you know, is a good offense.

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TSLA bears overlooking Tesla’s utility

Billy Mays pitch

But wait — there’s more! Here are some search terms that landed people on TeslaMondo today. So Teslas have even more uses! Send pics!

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BMW fire story smacks of money grab

Screen Shot 2017-05-12 at 4.00.25 AMStand and deliver, BMW! Behold the latest attack by the posse TeslaMondo has repeatedly warned about:

  • Plaintiff attorney looking for airtime
  • Journalist with airtime to lend
  • “Safety expert” on plaintiff payroll but never identified that way

This skunk team is responsible for a long string of automotive spook stories going back decades, some well-known, some not, all of them concocted to squeeze settlements from Big Auto. Here are some you might not remember. More recently, the Toyota acceleration farce, the Tesla autopilot farce, and now the BMW fire farce.

Does the auto industry sometimes screw the public whilst chasing $$$? Of course: GM ignition scandal, VW diesel weasel scandal, Takata airbag scandal. Sometimes it’s a borderline case of malfeasance with no clear culprit, as in the Ford/Firestone fiasco. But we should never allow ourselves to be informed by the likes of Brian Ross from ABC News, plaintiff attorneys like Joseph Santoli (where this BMW story likely originated despite his low placement in the story) or bespoke “safety experts” like Sean Kane, dissected in detail here.

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