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What is Tesla Motors' biggest flaw/challenge?

Discussion in 'Tesla Motors' started by Yggdrasill, Mar 4, 2012.

  1. Yggdrasill

    Yggdrasill Active Member

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    I think Tesla Motors has a brilliant future, but when I look at the company, the Model X/S and beyond, the one thing that worries me is all the extras that people expect to have in a $100k+ car.

    The Roadster doesn't have to have too many extras, it just has to be electric and a good car to drive. Tesla has done well in that respect. But now they are moving into areas where the game is fairly different. Audi, BMW, etc have all been in the car market for decades and decades, and have developed all sorts of advanced extras. HUDs, thermal imaging, collision avoidance, etc. All these sorts of things take a lot of money and resources to develop, and you need to be able to put this tech into a lot of cars to make it pay off. Tesla is at a disadvantage. The one good thing for Tesla is technology sharing agreements, but even so, the cost for Tesla to adopt all the technology can be quite high, and will eat at the profit margins.

    What do you think?
     
  2. ElSupreme

    ElSupreme Model S 03182

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    #2 ElSupreme, Mar 4, 2012
    Last edited: Mar 4, 2012
    I think Tesla has a good future also, and even if they can't manufacture cars in 5 years, they still will make/develop/be bought for their EV drivetrains, and battery management technology.

    I don't think the 'extras' will be a huge problem. Sure the Model S is lacking a lot of the gadgets that Audi/BMW/MB/Lexus/Acura/Infiniti put on their cars. And it does take a lot of time to develop and test theses devices. The good thing is a lot of these 'extras' are made by OEMs. All Tesla really needs to do is figure out how to buy them and assemble them in their cars. It should only take a year or two to get them added. Not to mention a lot of the 'extras' people don't actually use, and/or are not deal-breakers when buying a car. And as for margins, I hope/think that Tesla will not add these devices to the base model cars. They have purposely stayed away from the 'Luxury' moniker. They will put them in a 'package' which will have way higher margins than the base car. It will only be good for Tesla.

    I think their major problem is going to be selling 20,000 Model S cars a year. Because they have 2 large hurdles. The first is they have to sell 20,000 EV vehicles. Nissan is having a hard time doing this with a much less expensive car. Granted I think starting higher up in the market is a better idea, there is also a lot less volume >$50k than at ~$30k. Which brings up the next point. Not only do they have to sell 20,000 vehicles, they have to take that market share from BMW/Audi/MB/Lexus. And those guys are all really good at making cars and keeping people happy. Tesla has the advantage as they sell something that none of the others have, an electric car. I think they will gather a niche in the Luxury market (because that is the way the Model S is priced, not equipped). But I am not sure 20,000 units is going to just happen.

    Right now they have ~10,000 Model S reservations. So they have sold out until April 1 of next year. I think there will be a huge glut of reservations after they make about 500 deliveries. I think they will sell out 2012 and 2013 no problem, it is 2014 I am worried about, even after the addition of the Model X. I am worried they may saturate the EV market, or saturate the Luxury car market.

    BMW sells about ~200,000 cars a year in the USA. 20,000 is 10%. Tesla is going to become a player overnight in the Auto industry if they can make it work. I think they have all the tools to do so, I just don't know how well they will fight in the market.

    And another thing. The Model S I am getting isn't displacing a BMW/Audi/MB/Lexus purchase. I don't like all the 'extras' you talk about. And I certainly won't pay for them. My next car (assuming no Model S) would probably be a VW Jetta wagon. So if there are a good number of people like me, where Telsa can poach from non 'luxury' car buyers they can certainly succeed.

    EDIT: BMW looks like it sells ~300,000 vehicles a year (not motorcycle) in the USA a year, I can't find light truck corrections. 200,000 is based on 2012 Jan and Feb sales. So it is probably a little low. But the general point is still valid.
     
  3. Robert.Boston

    Robert.Boston Model S VIN P01536

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    Scaling up.

    At this point, my earlier concerns about TM's ability to design, build, and test a vehicle are largely at bay. A lot could go wrong still, but Elon's confidence during the Q4 earnings call didn't leave a lot of room for hedging. And the speed with which TM could turn out a driveable prototype of the Model X further demonstrates competence in engineering.

    But it's one thing to be able to turn out a great, small-volume car, and quite another to become a great car company. TM's bold decision to own the entire distribution channel requires a lot of capital and management. QC and delivery, on a mass basis, must be rationalized and streamlined to be cost-effective. Recruiting, training, and HR matters all need to be ramped up.

    A lot of companies stumble at the execution stage; having a great product isn't sufficient (or even necessary) for success.
     
  4. gg_got_a_tesla

    gg_got_a_tesla Model S: VIN P65513, Model 3 Res Holder

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    Quality!

    There are a lot of naysayers out there waiting to pounce on Tesla at the first opportunity. Tesla cannot afford any major problems; just look at the Volt mess.

    It's best if Tesla keeps it simple, (relatively) perfect and just gets it right. No fancy gadgets, thank you very much; they can wait for a more accepted and mature phase of Tesla's life i.e. a few decades later?! :)
     
  5. Iamthecaliflower

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    Interestingly, Elon has openly stated a goal for the 2020 EV market. He has openly stated that he believes by 2020, 13% of cars coming off the lot will be Electric. Of the 50 million sold annually, that's approximately 299k. If Electric cars take off, it could easily amount to 6,500,000 cars sold annually. If Tesla can penetrate 10% of this, that amounts to 650k cars. If they can pentrate 20% of this, that amounts to 1.3million cars, 30% 1,950,000, et al. That's a lot of cars. Even if the number is more like 6.5%, that's still 3,250,000 overall. Assuming they penetrate 10% that's 325k cars, 20% 650k cars, and 30% 975k cars, and 40% thats 1,300,000. The sales could be ridiculous. Assuming a worse case scenario where penetration is only 4%, that's still 2million cars overall. If they get 10% that's 200k cars, 20% that's 400k, 30% 600k, and 40% that's 800k.
     
  6. dhrivnak

    dhrivnak Active Member

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    My biggest concern is FUD (Fear, Doubt, Uncertainty). There are powers to be that want electric cars to fail so we can keep on buying large amounts of oil. Many will work hard to show the batteries will not outlast the car and with a Roadster battery coming in at $40,000 one can buy a lot of gasoline and a new engine and transmission for Porsche.

    Will people buy a used 7 year old Tesla if they are likely to need to spend more on a battery than the cost of the used car.
     
  7. TEG

    TEG TMC Moderator

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    Competition from someone with better battery tech.

    So much of an EVs cost is the battery pack. What happens if someone else 'owns' a breakthrough that gives them an exclusive to a $25K 500 mile range EV? It may never happen, but there is chance it could... I wonder what Nissan/Infiniti will be offering in 2015...
     
  8. Iamthecaliflower

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    Maybe, but Tesla holds a number of patents that distinguish it from the competition. Also, by the time the competition catches up, Tesla will still be 2-3 years ahead of them. I'd be willing to bet that many companies are thinking the same thing.
     
  9. Kevin Sharpe

    Kevin Sharpe Active Member

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    lack of understanding of electricity distribution systems outside of the US
     
  10. NigelM

    NigelM Recovering Member

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    Maintaining owner relationships.

    I think scaling-up is the big challenge, but I'm confident enough that logistically they'll work it out even if there's a few bumps along the way. The difficulyt will come with scaling-up AND maintaining their relationship with owners at the same time. I have a relationship with my Roadster that I never experienced with any other car; I suspect other owners do also and by the emotion in some posts it's clear that many reservation holders have that already. Lose that support and things will get much tougher very quickly, nurture it and Tesla could become a household name.
     
  11. vfx

    vfx Well-Known Member

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    Customer Service and projected sales.

    The premium brand Dealerships have customer service all over Tesla. Not talking about the service of the car but the service of the customer. Car pickup, loaner vehicles, luxurious waiting rooms with entertainment, internet and warm food, Tesla is more like my a Honda or Toyota Dealership, nowhere close to similarly priced Infiniti or Lexus.

    +1 to El Uh oh's 20,000 unit sales dilemma. If the majors are not sell that many a year, how can Tesla sustain sales once the early adopters are tapped out?


    One the plus side, the time it takes for them to design and make a car will be blinding.
     
  12. richkae

    richkae VIN587

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    On the service front they will go from servicing 2000 cars to 27000 cars in 2 years. That will be hard.

    Another huge challenge is building the (Super)charger network. The government efforts so far ( US ) are a failure. There are still no fast chargers near me. How do you get them put in the right place? Who pays? How do you keep them from being ICEd? What do you do when its busy? How do you plug share?
     
  13. vfx

    vfx Well-Known Member

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    And that's 2,500 worldwide and 20,000 in North America only. More cars per store.
     
  14. Iz

    Iz EVs are here to stay

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    While we often read of new battery technologies taking off, advancements, such as the one recently reported by Envia Systems could be a sticking point for TM. Tesla is somewhat locked into a contract with Panasonic. I doubt they would have to deliver the first 20000 or so vehicles using solely Panasonic batteries; but contracts do stand and investments have already been made in both directions. Let's say a new battery pack becomes available and is lighter, denser and less expensive that the current Tesla pack. Due to certain logistics or even stubbornness, Tesla decides not to incorporate this into their next production. It is conceivable that another vehicle producer might dust off an EV concept or retrofit an existing line with these new batteries. Marketing a 400-mile range sedan at or less than the cost of Model S with competitive styling might become a challenge and potential loss of market share.
     
  15. richkae

    richkae VIN587

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    How about competition from vaporware battery tech? When technology is rapidly advancing ( or appearing to ), you can get paralyzed by wanting to wait just a little longer for the new thing that is coming out soooo soon.
     
  16. Beavis

    Beavis Signature 991

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    For detailed discussion of major threats to TM's future success you can download the 10-K. As far as the biggest threat, I would vote for consumer acceptance of EVs.
     
  17. Larry Chanin

    Larry Chanin Model S Perf Sig 1055

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    Very well stated. I agree that once the early adopter, low hanging fruit is plucked, it will be much more difficult to attract "normal" people and Tesla has to be very careful not to resort to expensive conventional advertising too soon. If the demand does not develop it would be safer to target lower production rates and remain a small niche market for a longer duration rather than to forge ahead and build inventories. Likewise, the introduction of the high volume vehicle in an increasingly competitive EV market may have to be timed based on obtaining a new generation of batteries with a more favorable cost/performance ratio than the current Panasonic technology.

    Larry
     
  18. dsm363

    dsm363 Roadster + Sig Model S

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    #18 dsm363, Mar 4, 2012
    Last edited: Mar 4, 2012
    I think a lot of it falls to Tesla's volunteer sales force (us). While my only confirmed sale for a Model S are my parents (ok, that doesn't count), I've talked to a few people at work who are at least thinking about it now. They wouldn't have even considered an EV before I got the Roadster and took them for a ride.
     
  19. Charged_Up

    Charged_Up Member

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    Assuming that Tesla's quality control is top notch and there are no major design flaws, their biggest issue will be sustained lower prices of gasoline. My rough guess is that $5+ gasoline (whether maintained by market forces or taxes) is the point at which electric vehicles generally become more interesting to a wider audience. $3.50 or less and it will be a much harder sell.

    Of course, the above assumes that governments don't start slapping "gasoline-equivalent" taxes on electric vehicles to maintain roadways, as Washington State recently indicated it would.

    What gets me is that promoting the adoption of EV's is one of the few things the Obama administration has done right - it's clearly in the strategic national interest of the country to increase our reliance on electric power, which is largely not generated from oil, and get away from sending billions to people who use that money to fund organizations trying to destroy our way of life. And only government is equipped to foster the infrastructure that would reduce our reliance on big oil.
     
  20. ckessel

    ckessel Active Member

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    Quality and post-sales support. Quality for the obvious reason. Post sales support because EVs are new and will take some hand holding and Tesla doesn't have a massive infrastructure to piggy back on like Nissan with the Leaf. I've said several times that I think Tesla would be well suited to partner on service with one of it's drive train partners (e.g. Toyota or Daimler).
     

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