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Tesla and Elon Musk are intertwined, and full of contradictions, hypocrisy and innovation. Their products first under-perform on delivery promises (dates, quantity, quality and sometimes capabilities), then they still exceed the norms for other products on the market. Some of the user interface and features are top of the heap, others the bottom. Customer satisfaction is both extremely high with satisfied customers, and low for others. Their purchasing experience is better and worse. But love or hate them, they are changing the industry.

Some areas of interest include: Tesla : 3 items

Tesla Cybertruck -
Cybertruck render.jpg
A truck too ugly to be a Cadillac. But the specs sound incredible. Of course Elon’s claims often exceed reality (or at least his date and price numbers often do), but it also has enough slop, that it’s still impressive anyway. So while his demo of throwing a steel ball at the window ended poorly, and I’m not sure what value being slightly bullet resistant (for one of the weaker handguns, 100’ away), it can tow, and you can get a 500 mile range, and it is a truck w/AWD and can beat many cars in the quarter mile... and it’s vapor for a couple more years, unless Tesla hits a date, for the first time ever.

Elon Musk - Musk is hit or miss. He's sort of like a Steve Jobs. When he's right, he's gloriously right... when he's wrong, he's gloriously wrong. But he pushes boundaries, and the world needs a few boundary pushers. A world of followers, isn't much of a world. So even when I grouse, the world is better for some loudmouths willing to challenge the status quo: Carpe DonktumElon Musk: VisionaryMusk on COVID

On-line only - Tesla surprised everyone, by finally shipping the $35,000 low end model 3 that was originally planned for like 2012 between $20-30K, was finally shipping in 2019 for $35K. Then they shocked everyone by eliminating their stores: all cars to be bought on-line.

Tesla was claimed to started by Elon Musk to bring electric cars into the mainstream again, but he did it by trying to make the company into an Apple-esque, proprietary, direct dealer model, with their own proprietary infrastructure.

The biggest problem wasn't that Tesla couldn't be a successful boutique builder, it was whether they could mainstream the car once the rest of the industry started paying attention.

A little pricey, still cheaper than Tesla Model S/X... this was always going to be a problem for Tesla. The best case they could do is prove that there was a big enough market for the established players to pay attention -- and once they do, the others are better at making cars. Compare this to a model X, and I suspect I'll like everything about it better: the fit and finish, interior, exterior, functionality, market segment, etc., all looks like it might be superior to me... even if the idea of electronics and Jaguar put a chill in my soul. Of course, I'll want to see how this model plays in the real world for a year or two before I'd leap on one.

We have others like Porsche, Audi, BMW, Volvo, VW, GM, all playing in this space (I think I've heard Mazda, Hyundai, Kia all getting in as well), and more coming. In the mean time, Tesla is struggling to make 1/10th of promised volume of their model 3, and it's 5 years late to market from their first plans/promises(?).

This isn't to root against them. Their success only benefits me, and I like more choice in the market. It's just that 2019 is the year where things get serious for Tesla. They will have to compete with multiple vendors in their space, all who have better distribution and support channels. And Tesla's glacial pace of getting their products to market or offering enough different segment models (and missing sensational promises), is when it'll get rougher for them.

They still have some gimicks -- the most advanced self-driving mode on the market (though I think their lack of LIDAR is a liability lawsuit in waiting), and they do have the pioneer reputation (the early adopter advantage and disadvantages). So we'll see. I am rooting for them. But I still feel like if Tesla wanted to be an auto-maker, they should have bought one on the bargain block (like Volvo, Saab when they were up for sale). And moved MUCH quicker (with multiple models).

If they wanted to be a platform/OEM, they could have done that better. (By playing the opensource provider/licensor to all the others). In the end, they kind of showed they're OK at getting tech, but not so good at getting the specifics of the car market. And they might be beaten back into being a luxury / low volume / specialty car maker or parts supplier to avoid bankruptcy, if they're not already too far out on the ledge.


I know, but in business yesterday doesn’t matter as much as today.

(1) That network exists for everyone, and most people aren’t using electrics for cross country driving. So zero stickiness. (2) The Model S/X still cost double this thing for not much more range/value (and worse quality) for most people. (3) And all the players are carving out different segments and advantages (nibbling away at Tesla’s customer base).

Tesla, as a business, had the choice of building IP (and licensing), having some feature/capability that others couldn’t duplicate, or leaping ahead in capabilities/manufacturing (economies of scale). They failed at all of those.

They have the worst build quality, the lowest production, and a little IP that can be gotten around. Their dealer network is still anemic, and they don’t have anything beyond brand loyalty to keep/attract customers.

That doesn’t mean they have a bad product — just as a business, Winter is coming, and they have to survive in a hyper-competitive market, where all the competitors have a broader product line.

Porsche and others did survive (and thrive), but there are more carcasses than survivors. I would RUN from Tesla stock as fast as I could. A car? It still has nice performance and features. But I just want a car, not a religion.


Do you think that's enough stickiness to guarantee that people will buy a Tesla over a car that costs half as much, and has better build quality? Y/N?

I don't.

They open sourced most of their IP to get other moving.

So I can be a coach-builder, and make a custom body/interior and just license the rest from Tesla?

As far as I know, they don't license much, as demonstrated by how little of Tesla technology the other companies are using for their electric cars. (From what I've read).

Electric by Tesla is leading the way as no body else would move they would consider hybrids.

GM moved decades first... batteries just weren't there yet.

Imagine a world without Tesla -- as soon as batteries were there, others would moved anyways (+/- a few years). Tesla just moved ahead of the tech, because they didn't have to worry about the scale (or costs of capital) as much as other auto-makers. Their success was in getting ideologues investors to give them cheaper money, to produce a product before the technology was ready.

And Tesla actually hurt the environment. If they hadn't of been there, hybrids would probably be more adopted -- and they have longer lifespans and fewer tradeoffs for most people -- so probably would have been more adopted.

Imagine a business spreadsheet -- you can sell 5-10x as many hybrids by making them cool (and the cost impacts are lower to customers) and they get 40% of the pollution savings for 20% of the cost. Or you can convince them that electrics are the only green solution (ignore the coal fired power plants and line losses to power them), and hybrid sales grow slower, so a few people are electrics before the tech is fully ready, and the adoption of hybrids is slower because of it.

So I think they hurt more than they helped the environment, if you look at the macroeconomics. But it's hard to prove. It's just easy to prove it's not clear.

It is by far the cleanest solution in smog filled cities

False. It moves pollution out. But most cities that adopted it first, didn't need it. The ones that needed it most, can't afford it yet. So it's done very little to help in Bejing, it did a tiny bit to help cities whose problems had gotten much better, long before we got electrics.

You have to pay think 10 years of gas cost to get the battery upfront currently. As batter tech is refined and quantities produced that should drop and hence the car cost drop.

That's what they've been saying for 10 years.

The point is that the energy/environmental costs to built a Tesla is still more than other cars. And based on resale values, it appears that electrics have a lower lifespan (not longer), because the cost of battery replacement is too high. So many electrics crash in price off lease. That means they'll be recycled sooner.

So the economics comes out: costs more environmentally at the start, and doesn't last as long... but you save a little on gas in-between. It's not clear that's a net environmental win.

They are a bit costly but Elon unlike any other business is trying to move that cost down with each car.

You really don't think that any other car company is trying to increase the value (drive down the costs) of their products over the competition to get a leg up?

They high cost is also needed to build out expensive infrastructure.

Or he could have waited a few years.... and the infrastructure was already getting built out for computers and hybrids.... and the chemistry improvements to batteries would have made full electric cars a thing with or without him. (As GM proved before).

His company also has repaid all loans from the govt.

Irrelevant and not really. There were direct loans and there were indirect gifts (subsidies, HOV lane stickers) and other things that advantaged his company. He has not come close to paying the tax payer. The only reason his company exists is because of carbon credits in California, and things like that.

But none of that was what I was arguing about.

I just pointed out that Tesla is about to get a real trial -- and they squandered most of their lead. There are many competitors coming on-market and offer more choices. Their one advantage right now is battery manufacturing capacity. But we don't know the cost effectiveness of the plant relative to 3rd party suppliers.



📚 References

Elon Musk
Musk is hit or miss. He's sort of like a Steve Jobs. When he's right, he's gloriously right... when he's wrong, he's gloriously wrong. But he pushes boundaries, and the world needs a few boundary pushers. A world of followers, isn't much of a world. So even when I grouse, the world is better for some loudmouths willing to challenge the status quo: Carpe DonktumElon Musk: VisionaryMusk on COVID