the view through the windshield car blog

Tesla Motors

In Development: It should be noted that even traditional vehicle manufacturers have start-up problems. The new Thunderbird of the early 21st Century suffered significant production delays following troublesome start-up problems. Many blamed the delay on Ford CEO Jac Nasser's 1999 diversity initiative. He once told an audience of Ford employees, "I do not like the sea of white faces (I'm seeing here)."

Under Nasser's reign of incompetence, many experienced Ford engineers were forced out and replaced by inexperienced youngsters who fit Nasser's multicultural objectives. These new engineers may have been intelligent but lacked the production floor savvy and bend-the-rules techniques used to de-bug new models on automotive assembly lines.

In the case of the Tesla Model 3 - the overpriced smaller car which is supposed to "save" Tesla Motors, lack of experience with down-to-earth, get-er-done auto production techniques seem to be causing significant delays in getting from development stage to full production.

Ed Niedermeyer wrote that "it seems likely that Tesla is hand-building Model 3 using prototype tooling. Dave Sullivan, an analyst at AutoPacific, tells Daily Kanban that the typical rate of production for hand-built vehicles is about 5-8 per day, or between 150 and 250 units per month. The fact that Tesla produced just 220 vehicles over the last three months suggests that Tesla is producing vehicles at or below this rate."

Ed concluded, "It's not easy to believe that 5,000 units per week will happen this year or that 10,000 units per week will happen next year."

On the other hand, Jack Baruth - a writer I respect, makes an interesting case for Tesla. I'm not sure I agree, but his article at TTAC is worth a read because it offers an insightful viewpoint. Jack noted that in Europe, "Tesla is a legitimate presence, doing about 15,000 sales per year in Britain and the Continent combined."

In other Tesla-related news, the company fired hundreds of employees last week. "The dismissals were a result of a company-wide annual review," Tesla said in an e-mailed statement, without confirming the number of employees leaving the company. "It's about 400 people ranging from associates to team leaders to supervisors. We don't know how high up it went," said a former employee, who worked on the assembly line and did not want to be identified. Though Tesla cited performance as the reason for the firings, the source said he was fired in spite of never having been given a bad review. (posted 10/18/17, permalink)


Lifeline For Tesla: The California State Assembly passed a $3-billion subsidy program for electric vehicles, dwarfing the existing program. The bill is now in the state Senate. "If passed, it will head to Governor Jerry Brown, who has not yet indicated if he'd sign what is ostensibly an effort to put EV sales into high gear, but below the surface appears to be a Tesla bailout."

Why? Because Tesla will soon hit the limit of the federal tax rebates, which are good for the first 200,000 EVs sold in the US per manufacturer beginning in December 2009. "In the second quarter after the manufacturer hits the limit, the subsidy gets cut in half, from $7,500 to $3,750; two quarters later, it gets cut to $1,875. Two quarters later, it goes to zero."

If you believe Tesla's U.S. sales forecast for its Model 3, it will hit the 200,000 vehicle limit in 2018; by 2019, the subsidies are gone. Removing a $7,500 government subsidy on a $35,000 car is likely a deal-killer for most prospective buyers. And the only Model 3s being delivered at present are the more-expensive, $44,000 long-range models. And, if you want your Model3 in any color but black, you'll have to pay an extra $1,000.

But wait - there's more: "The Enhanced Autopilot package costs an extra $5,000, with full autonomy capability requiring a further $3,000, even though the option (which Musk promises) isn't yet a available. Power adjustable (heated) seats, premium audio, tinted roof glass, and other luxury appointments - many would call them "necessities" - are all bundled into another $5,000 package. Of course, you can also choose to upgrade the wheels to 19-inchers. All told, the Model 3 tops out at $59,500 with every option on board, which still places it below the lowest-rung Model S."

Almost $60 grand for a compact car??!! Take away the subsidy and it's closer to $70,000. Anyone remember the fate of the far-more-stylish Cadillac ELR?

"No other EV manufacturer is anywhere near their 200,000 limit. Their customers are going to benefit from the subsidy; Tesla buyers won't." This little Tesla isn't such a bargain, even with subsidies.

Without the subsidy, it is doubtful that the Model 3, or Tesla itself, will survive. Here's why: In the second quarter of '17, Tesla lost a ton of money - 8% of its sales revenues. My back-of-the-envelope calculations indicate that the company currently loses almost $10,000 on every vehicle it sells. This is absolutely unsustainable and, in my view, this extreme level of unit unprofitability will not go away by simply ramping up output. In fact, the more cars Tesla produces, the worse its losses. In 2015, Reuters reported that Tesla was losing $4,000 on each car it sold.

Furthermore, Tesla plans to make 500,000 vehicles/year by 2020. How? The firm has one assembly plant - a 61 year-old former GM assembly facility in Fremont, CA. That plant's capacity is, at best, 300,000 units/year.

Forget the hype. When you examine the facts, Tesla just doesn't pencil out as a viable auto business. (posted 8/9/17, permalink)


The Fall Of St. Elon: If you want to read a well-written takedown of Tesla and its peculiar leader, you'll find it here.

Francesco Segredo wrote, "Under Elon Musk's leadership Tesla's Model X arrived two years late and subjected the company to six months of self described production hell, only to tie for last place in Consumer Reports’ luxury SUV ratings with a score of 59/100 (Nov 2016). Delays for the falcon winged albatross will allow the Chevy Bolt and second-generation Nissan Leaf to both beat the Model 3 to widespread availability by the end of the year. Tesla's quality has been poor, the UAW is circling, and Mr. Musk recently tweeted about mixing alcohol and Ambien (zolpidem) - a drug combination not only dangerous in its own right, but that increases the risk of long-term zolpidem addiction. How is this man still Tesla's CEO?" Read the whole article - it gets even better.

I've been a critic of the electrified scam known as Tesla for years. I've previously referred to this government-funded disaster as Solyndra On Wheels. And, don't forget, Tesla still loses money on every vehicle it produces.

Furthermore, second-quarter production fell, with just over 22,000 Model S and X vehicles rolling out of the Fremont, CA plant - considerably less than the nearly 26,000 produced in 2017's first quarter. (posted 7/20/17, permalink)


Electric Fantasy: Peter De Lorenzo is still not a fan of Tesla. He wrote, "Wall Street ... overvalues Tesla by about 75% in a cessation of all rational thought that is simply mind-boggling to behold. With the serious automobile manufacturers lining up with a series of formidable all-electric machines, Elon Musk's days are numbered as the P.T. Barnum of the business. It won't matter, he will get bored and declare the whole automotive exercise as tedious, and move on to colonizing Mars."

In one form or another, the internal combustion engine will power - directly or indirectly - the majority vehicles for a long time. (posted 9/20/16, permalink)


Super Charger, Super Pricing: If Tesla's pricing doesn't scare you off and Tesla's Supercharging subscription pricing doesn't frighten you, then - I guess - you won't be dismayed by its planned $40 car wash.

AutoBlog noted that "as with almost everything associated with Tesla, a Supercharger car wash is not cheap. Tesla is proposing a hand-wash subscription service at Supercharger stations for its owners that would charge $80 a month for Model S owners and $90 a month for Model X owners.

Think of it this way: Teslas cost about three times the average new-vehicle costs, and under this program, their car washes would also be about triple the typical trip to the car wash." (posted 7/19/16, permalink)


Noisy, Expensive ... and Deadly: Recently, MotorWeek tested the Tesla Model X, the all-electric crossover with the gullwing rear doors. The top-of-the-line P90D model with the $10,000 Ludicrous performance option costs nearly $127,000. Yet, MW complained about numerous rattles and squeaks in this brand-new car.

These days, even the cheapest car sold in America doesn't rattle or squeak when new. My wife's Toyota Avalon has been bumping down various roads and hitting unexpected potholes for over 11 years now and has nary a rattle or squeak.

For $127,000 the only squeak this electric car should make is when a mouse gets caught in the charger and is electrocuted. This is just one more reason to avoid Tesla.

Recently, the self-driving feature of a Tesla apparently malfunctioned and the driver was killed. At least one other accident has been reported involving Tesla's Autopilot. Peter De Lorenzo wrote, "The bottom line of this debacle was that the personal arrogance of Musk allowed for beta testing of a sophisticated semi-autonomous technology by the company's own customers in the real world, an unconscionable lapse of judgment that is simply unbelievable and unforgivable."

Peter also noted that "Musk's acolytes in the 'new' media have painted a portrait of a brilliant visionary tragically hamstrung by the narrow-mindedness of those trudging along in woefully obsolete industries that out of the sheer kindness of his heart Musk is willing to lay his hands on and rescue for the greater good of all mankind.

The other point of view suggests that the ugly realities of Musk's 'vision' have resulted in zero profitability and grossly overvalued stock, which has led to a remarkably arrogant proposal to blend together a separate company that he already heavily influences – SolarCity – with Tesla, for his personal benefit, ultimately. That shareholders and financial analysts both smell a rat in this high-level financial flimflam is a clear indication that the wheels are finally starting to come off for Musk." (posted 7/19/16, permalink)


More Tesla Mega Hype: Various media outlets have suffered fainting spells of exuberance over Tesla's latest offerings. The ridiculous gull-winged Model X SUV is an all electric vehicle for off-road, although there don't seem to be any of Tesla's Superchargers located in the woods. And the rear gull-wing doors make no sense and potentially destroy body integrity.

There have been plenty of orders for the "entry-level" Model 3, which - when 'optioned-up' - may cost nearly $50,000.

Investment adviser Malcolm Berko recently wrote that Tesla "burns through millions of dollars of cash every day, squeezes hundreds of millions in tax credits from Congress, has never made a profit, has never paid a dividend and is not (and I repeat, is not) an investment. It is a bleeding speculation and could crash to $150 again. According to CNBC, Tesla loses over $4,000 on each car it sells and it needs another $700 million cash infusion quickly.

This is a fairy tale stock based upon the fantasies of a modern-day Pied Piper, called Elon Musk. TSLA is a textbook example of bandwagon blandishments, the power of cupidity, hope over substance and stupidity over logic." (posted 4/15/16, permalink)


Tesla Troubles: Tesla Motors, Inc. reported an unexpectedly large fourth-quarter loss of $320 million last week as the electric carmaker incurred heavy costs related to developing two new models. Tesla sold 25,202 vehicles in the U.S. in 2015. The company's primary car is the Model S sedan; last fall, it launched the Model X sport utility vehicle.

Tesla also plans a lower-priced, mass-market electric car called the Model 3 for late 2017. The Model X has been the subject of delays and hefty costs related to ramping up production; Tesla delivered only 206 of the SUVs in the fourth quarter, well below projections. (posted 2/17/16, permalink)


Not Recommended: Consumer Reports has withdrawn its Tesla recommendation "due to drivers' complaints of a "worse-than-average overall problem rate.""

For its annual car-reliability survey, Consumer Reports said it heard from about 1,400 Model S owners who complained of an "array of detailed and complicated maladies," both in the car's unique touches, like its sprawling touchscreen dashboard, and in its more commonplace machinery, like windshield wipers and wheel alignment.

"It's one thing to have a quirky, problematic car that sells 20,000 units per year to wealthy people who probably own at least one backup vehicle," a Consumer Reports reviewer wrote. "It's quite another when Tesla scales up to its 2020 projection of 200,000 U.S. Model 3 buyers, who may not have the luxury of being so forgiving." (posted 10/27/15, permalink)


the view through the windshieldPeak Electric: Tesla Motors' market cap has now reached nearly $40 billion, which made it over half the value of General Motors Co. Despite its next generation technology, Tesla makes 11,000 cars per quarter, compared with about two million for GM.

Douglas A. McIntyre wrote, "No matter how good Tesla's electric cars are, its valuation cannot be supported on any rational basis, and it has been caught by the gravity of skeptical traders.

Tesla's shares peaked at $287 in September of last year and nearly reached that point in June of this year. However, the current price is a rally from $185 in late April. Shares, now trading at $232, will be back under $200 again."

The company's problem is that the lines between its production and technology will be crossed by large manufacturers using the same electric engines, while Tesla struggles to sell 200,000 cars. Whatever its advantages today, they will be overcome by the long runway it has from being a novelty to being a real car company that has sales into the hundreds of thousands per year.

Tesla has forecast sales of 1 million cars by the end of the decade. "By that time, Toyota, BMW or some other huge manufacturers will churn out competition at a rate their factory capacity can handle, backed by slow but expert production development, iron-clad balance sheets, marketing and dealer networks. Five years from now, Tesla may have the best product, but it will not be enough to hold its position at the top of the all-electric car business."

Doug concluded, "Tesla's stock value will fall because it will not have enough advantages to keep it anywhere near current levels." (posted 10/19/15, permalink)


Loss Leader: Last week, Tesla Motors announced that it lost $194 million in the last quarter, citing lower vehicle deliveries and higher spending on its factory ahead of a new model.

Reuters reported that Tesla is losing $4,000 on each car it sells. Tesla has had only one profitable quarter in its history and the carmaker doesn't project a cash-positive year until 2020, assuming it can sell 500,000 cars/year by then.

Good luck with that. By 2020, the market will have changed substantially with other luxury marques offering plug-in hybrids, electrics and other energy saving vehicles.

Karl Denninger added, "Tesla makes luxury, limited-use vehicles on which it loses thousands for each vehicle it sells. It remains in business based on two factors: Tax harvesting from the federal government, that is, effective acts of theft from everyone in the country and hype that has allowed it to return to the capital markets again and again for more money to fuel its cash furnace.

If either of those factors fails to continue the company is in trouble. But if tax harvesting fails the other will almost-certainly fall immediately thereafter; loss of both would be likely to detonate the company as a whole as cash flow is everything and if you run out of cash and cannot go back to the markets for more you're out of business.

Further, there are reports emerging of serious problems with vehicle service and the extremely limited nature of the vehicle's distribution and thus service network means that aftermarket availability of assistance with the cars is effectively nil.  While most of the reports I've seen have been in the category of "annoyances" (e.g. door handles not working) the fact is that I can take even a 10+ year old vehicle from any modern big-name manufacturer in and get something like that fixed. I might not like the price, but I can get it done right here and now.  This is manifestly not true for Tesla." (posted 8/20/15, permalink)


Over Twenty Thousand Losers: Tesla Motors Inc. announced preliminary deliveries of 11,507 Model S sedans in the second quarter of 2015, its highest ever total. The company delivered 10,030 units in the first quarter, bringing its total for the year to 21,537.

Tesla is still losing money on every vehicle it sells. (posted 7/7/15, permalink)


Electrified Scam: Elon Musk's Tesla Motors, SolarCity and SpaceX, together have benefited from an estimated $4.9 billion in government support. Tesla and SolarCity continue to report net losses after a decade in business. SpaceX doesn't report financials.

"In a 2008 blog post, Musk laid out a plan: After the sports car, Tesla would produce a sedan costing "half the $89k price point of the Tesla Roadster and the third model will be even more affordable." In fact, the second model now typically sells for $100,000, and the much-delayed third model, the Model X sport utility, is expected to sell for a similar price."

The Real Fuel for these ventures is tax dollars, which seem to burn quite well.

Recently, financial adviser Macolm Berko wrote, "I think P.T. Barnum and Elon Musk would have been great buddies. Tesla, one of the greatest shows of the 21st century, is making fools out of millions of Americans. Tesla makes beautiful cars; however, I'm convinced that this company lacks the right product and the necessary management skills and that it will never earn a profit. But its stock price has been impressive, and with a $29 billion market cap, TSLA is worth half as much as Ford even though Ford sells 75 times as many vehicles."

Finally, the Harvard Business Review has shot down the oft-touted idea that Tesla is "disruptive technology." Professor Clayton Christensen things that NEVs - streetable, upscale, electric golf carts are a far better example of disruptive tech. And he makes a good case for it; the entire article is worth a read. (posted 6/17/15, permalink)


Amazon On Wheels: Tesla Motors is watching its shares free-fall after its CEO Elon Musk made some less than positive projections on the company's outlook at the Automotive News World Congress. He predicted that the company would not have a profitable year until 2020.

To reach profitability, the company will need to sell 500,000 cars/year, which is not projected until 2020 said Musk. Tesla's Model 3, an entry-level product priced at $35,000, is not expected until 2017. Tesla sold about 33,000 cars in calendar 2014.

The Tesla story sounds too much like Amazon, which has claimed since 2000 or so, that they need to get 'bigger' in order to make more money. Amazon is still "ramping up" - the story it's been pedaling since it was a mere $3 billion company in 2000. How can Amazon be still in ramp-up mode as a $75 billion entity? (posted 1/19/15, permalink)


What Is Elon Musk Smoking? The Tesla CEO said that he wants the company to offer a full-size pickup to compete with Ford's best-selling model, the F150.

Note that Ford sold 560,000 of the F-series pickups in the United States through the first nine months of this year. In that time, Tesla sold a mere 14,000 of the Model S sedan.

Would you buy a brawny work truck designed by a guy with the wimpy name of Elon? The only wimpier name would be Wimpy of Popeye's Thimble Theatre fame. (posted 11/15/13, permalink)


High-Priced, High-Risk Stock: Merrill Lynch has issued a research report on Tesla, the manufacturer of expensive electric vehicles and it is generally negative.

"Despite our view that Tesla is an important innovator in the electric vehicle market, with solid technology and a reputable brand, we continue to believe meaningful execution challenges remain and the shares are overvalued.

Furthermore, we believe Model S demand could cool off once early adopters receive vehicles and expect the ultimate addressable market for luxury, electric vehicles to be smaller than many expect."

Tesla has the backing of a lot of rich and powerful people, so I won't predict that it will be out of business next week or next year. But I don't see it as a viable company for the longer term. (posted 10/28/13, permalink)


Unhealthy Place To Put Your Money: Investment adviser Malcolm Berko likes the cars but doesn't think much of Tesla as an investment, writing that the stock is "a speculation so rank that, like a pack of cigarettes, it should have a "Dangerous to Your Wealth" warning label attached to its TSLA ticker symbol."

He believes that "this company may not be "honestly" profitable until September 2021 or March 2022 and may not pay a dividend until 2026. Therefore, you might have to wait 13 years before you would reinvest any dividends.

Frankly, I think anyone who buys this stock has to be addled and wacky to pay $168 a share for a company that has no earnings and produces $70,000-$125,000 cars that many banks won't finance. TSLA is not an investment; it's a speculation." (posted 9/9/13, permalink)


The Truth About Tesla: The megahyped electric car start-up "received the $465 mm loan from DOE, but it also benefits from a $7500/car federal subsidy for electric cars. Moreover, it benefits from the State of California's Zero Emissions Credit program. In its infinite wisdom, CA mandated that all the major auto companies sell a certain number of zero emissions vehicles. If they don't they have to buy credits from companies that do make them-namely, Tesla. This was also essential in putting the company in the black in Q1, and the company is sitting on $250 mm worth of these credits.

IOW, Tesla's profits are courtesy of you, the taxpayer-and also courtesy of the shareholders of Ford, GM, Toyota, Honda, etc."

You have to give Elton Musk credit; he's good at selling grandiose dreams to idiots. Now, he's pushing Hyperloop, "a solar-powered, city-to-city elevated transit system that could take passengers and cars from Los Angeles to San Francisco in 30 minutes." Soon he'll have a bridge in Brooklyn he'd like to sell you. (posted 8/21/13, permalink)


A Legacy Of Bad Choices: Motor Trend has selected the Tesla Model S as its 2013 Car of the Year. It is the first all-electric car to ever win the award.

The Chevrolet Volt hybrid was selected as MT Car of the Year for 2011.

This award used to get me somewhat excited until I read a revealing 2003 posting by Peter De Lorenzo, the AutoExtremist, which detailed how this 'award' is "for sale" to the manufacturer that showers Motor Trend with the most ad/promo money.

Industry insider De Lorenzo's comment shed light a lot of previous COTY choices to me. In 2002, the faux, late-to-the-party and trouble-plagued New Ford Thunderbird won top honors. The 2001 award went to the meretricious and underpowered PT Cruiser.

In 1997, the perennial Rental Car Queen Chevy Malibu, a vehicle more boring than either 'Dune' the book or 'Dune' the movie, was presented with MT's top prize. In 1988, another member of GM's Rental Car Royalty, the Pontiac Grand Prix, was crowned.

In 1983, the still-unloved Renault Alliance won the coveted prize. The deplorable Chevrolet Citation was named the Car of the Year in 1980 by MT. The Citation was one of GM's X-body horrors, which seemed to Motor Trend like a great idea at the time, in the same way that everything seems 'profound' after a lot of drinking or serious head trauma.

In 1976, the twin rattletraps known as the Dodge Aspen and Plymouth Volare shared the prize. Since most of them rusted away and/or fell apart, they are now seen less often than a Higgs boson particle.

Back in 1974, you could listen to Lynyrd Skynyrd perform Sweet Home Alabama using the eight-track player inside the miserable Mustang II. This muffin stump of the 1970s automotive universe, whose only saving grace was that, as a junkyard resident, it donated many a subframed front-end for late '30s and early '40s street rods, won MT's COTY in '74.

Who knows? In 30 years, the Tesla S may be looked on with the same disdain as the Renault Alliance. (posted 11/15/12, permalink)


Solyndra On Wheels: Tesla, the Little Electric Car Company That Couldn't, has asked the government - specifically the U.S. Department of Energy - for more funding.

Tesla spokeswoman Khobi Brooklyn reportedly confirmed that the loan application was completed, adding that the money would be used "in our continued mission to make more affordable electric vehicles." (posted 9/27/11, permalink)


Electric Outage: The Tesla Roadster electric car is dead. Tesla Motors announced it would stop taking orders for the $109,000 vehicle in August.

Eric Peters has written, "Just 1,650 of these electric lemons found people rich enough - and dumb enough - to spend $109,000 for a $51,845 Lotus Elise stripped of its perfectly good gasoline engine and converted to run on electricity."

I've only seen one Tesla on the road. In California, of course. (posted 7/6/11, permalink)


Bad News From Tesla: The Little Electric Car That Couldn't is still losing money - big time. The Truth About Cars noted, "Tesla has lost $103m so far this year, over three times the $31.5m loss accrued in the first three quarters of last year."

One TTAC commentor, gslippy, added "Development of the Model S sedan is killing Tesla's bottom line. This is akin to speeding so you get to the gas station sooner when you're low on fuel."

I don't care if Toyota and Panasonic are investors. I warned ya about Tesla before.

Electric cars - the Pet Rock of the '10s. (posted 11/10/10, permalink)


The Trouble With Tribbles Tesla: Legendary manufacturer of PR, venture capital proposals, hype and - occasionally - electric cars, Tesla Motors has reported its first earnings statement as a public company. The numbers are not good. Revenue was $28.4 million but the company lost $38.5 million.

the view through the windshieldA quick, back-of-the-envelope calculation indicates that the $100,000 two-seat Tesla Roadster would have to be priced at over $235,000 per example for the company just to break even.

Oh wait, the company says. They're spending lots of money on R&D. Well then, the firm needs more profit. Merely breaking even won't do then, so maybe the Roadster should be priced at $500,000 per car. Of course, no one will buy it at that price. In fact, few are buying any at the 'bargain' $100,000 level.

"Be patient", says Tesla. We're developing a stylish four-door sedan which will save the company. Last year, Tesla announced that it would be priced at $50,000 or so. Now, the company says that the 'typical' Model S sedan will cost $75,000 and won't be available for sale until 2012. Who knows what the selling price will be when the Model S actually goes into production.

Meanwhile, the soap opera continues. Founder Elon Musk is said to be out of cash, and ex-wife Justine Musk seems to be angling for a large chunk of Elon's shares. "The company only has $47 million left in the bank, down from $70 million at the end of last year."

Some time ago, I wrote and article titled 'Make a profit on everything you do'. Musk and his minions ought to read it as well as 'Entrepreneurs and money'. (posted 8/13/10, permalink)


Your Tax Dollars At Waste: Silicon Valley soap opera star Tesla Motors is getting a solid backer above and beyond any investment so far: Uncle Sam.

The electric car company announced that it has received approval for about $465 million in low-interest loans, from none other than the US Department of Energy, to accelerate the production of affordable, fuel-efficient electric vehicles. (posted 6/25/09, permalink)


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The facts presented in this blog are based on my best guesses and my substantially faulty geezer memory. The opinions expressed herein are strictly those of the author and are protected by the U.S. Constitution. Probably.

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