SEXY LITTLE RED CAR – BUT MAYBE NOT SMART
With great fanfare and celebrity endorsements, Tesla Motors sprang on the scene last year promising to bring back to life the hopes of electric car (EV) enthusiasts “killed” in the 1990s (as documented in the award-winning film Who Killed the Electric Car?)
The company has since been behind schedule on delivering. It recently underwent “staff restructuring.” EV enthusiast and writer/engineer Forbes Bagatelle-Black had the same questions and worries as other EV fans: “Is Tesla in trouble? Are they changing the company goals and priorities? Or are they simply taking the painful steps required to transition from a startup to a full blown manufacturing company?”
What he found when he went in search of answers was not promising for the future of the EV. Bagatelle-Black: “…my anonymous source expressed concern that the recent staff changes had eliminated many of the members of Tesla’s management team with real-world experience in designing and building products for mass production. My source did not doubt that those left were smart and capable, he simply pointed out that they had much to learn in terms of accomplishing the manufacturing goals Tesla has set for itself.”
Bagatelle-Black's article suggests Tesla is a company entirely focused on bringing its little red $100,000 Roadster to market despite real-world demand for something else. Bagatelle-Black speaks for a lot of EV enthusiasts when he concludes his article with thoughts about Tesla’s more moderately-priced Whitestar sedan: “…if the company is really going to change the future, it is going to have to give us a viable replacement for the Toyota Camry/Honda Accord/Chevy Malibu-type family sedan. The Whitestar represents Tesla’s first major step in that direction, especially if rumors that it will be a plug-in hybrid are true. The day I hear confirmation that Tesla is killing the Whitestar is the day I will believe that Tesla has given up hopes of becoming a viable automobile company…”
135 mpg equivalent, 0 to 60 in 4+ seconds, 220 miles per charge, 2 cents/mile - and sexy. (click to enlarge)
Turmoil At Tesla
Forbes Bagatelle-Black, January 27, 2008 (EV World)
Tesla Motors (Elon Musk, Chairman of the Board; Darryl Siry, Vice President of Marketing, Sales & Service)
Personnel changes at Tesla that insiders have called a “bloodbath” may signal a change in the company’s promised product.
PG&E and Plug-In Partners advocate for the plug-in hybrid because it has the advantages of an EV and the familiarity of an internal combustion engine vehicle. (click to enlarge)
Bagatelle-Black: “On January 10, 2008, the Tesla Founders Blog published a list of employees who had recently been terminated from Tesla. This list included multiple vice presidents, lead engineers, and a variety of other folks from all areas of the Tesla organization. The blogosphere erupted in speculation about the future of the company. A few days later, an unidentified individual contacted the blog owner, ex-Tesla CEO Martin Eberhard, and convinced him to remove the names from the termination list he had published. On January 19, the blog removed the entire entry, stating that “it was explained to me that Tesla and its financial backer(s) can spend far more than I can on a lawsuit.” Websites which had reprinted the original list were also contacted and asked to remove the names on the list.”
Tesla is based in San Carlos, CA. It has production and assembly centers in Hethel, UK, Taiwan, Rochester Hills, Michigan and Albuquerque, New Mexico. It has service centers in Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York, Miami and Chicago. Parts are alsomade in Germany, Norway and Thailand.
Ultimately, it makes sense to go all-electric but reaching too far too fast can be costly. (click to enlarge)
- Tesla Motors has 200 employees. Those dismissed represent a small but potentially significant core group.
- An unnamed source told Bagatelle-Black that Chairman of the Board Elon Musk has a “firm ‘my way or the highway’ attitude toward staff relations.”
- There had been widely circulated rumors that Tesla’s more moderately priced sedan would be a plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV). Those rumors have transmuted into doubt as to whether the Whitestar will emerge at all.
- Siry, VP, Tesla: “Tesla is in great shape and we will be the first company to offer a production EV in a long while… Everyone at the company is working very hard to achieve our mission and focused on delivering cars to customers… The corporate philosophy is the same as it has always been. We are committed to building an independent car company that produces the best EVs that combine great design, performance and the best possible efficiency. I would also point out that the vast majority of the staff remains the same as it was before - we are a company of well over 200 employees and continue to grow.”
- Bagatelle-Black: “…The day I hear confirmation that Tesla is killing the Whitestar is the day I will believe that Tesla has given up hopes of becoming a viable automobile company. Until then, I will keep my fingers crossed and hope for the best.”