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Tesla hits Model 3 production speed bumps, slides to loss

Anonymous Coward
Anonymous Coward

I don't want to be unnecessarily negative about Tesla, as it's possible they could pull this off.

Well, starting from scratch they're trying to create:

A brand (relatively easy, complete)

New car designs (relatively easy, mostly done)

New car power & control technologies (tricky, but mostly done)

Efficient manufacturing (much, much harder than it looks, nowhere near done)

Logistics & supply chain for manufacturing (a lot harder than it looks, nowhere near done)

Vehicle distribution & Sales (fairly easy, partly done, but will need to ramp with volume)

After market logistics & support (much harder than it looks)

On top of that, they haven't yet got to the stage of having to support a lot of varied models of older, ex-warranty vehicles. Even with planned launches they'll have a VERY restricted range, and can't share platform costs across multiple brands. Model reliability and build quality are major concerns, which they may not be able to address before the Europeans introduce comparable EVs which will be properly built.

I'll give the man full marks for trying, and for his determination. But Tesla will struggle to become a real volume maker - there's so many things they don't know that the established car makers have spent a century learning, and in particular, that limited model range looks a problem. Another issue is that model life cycles these days are around six-seven years - whilst Tesla struggle to add new models, the Model S is ageing - launched in 2009 albeit with first sales in 2012.

To command premium prices, you need to have some element of differentiation, and lets face it, at first glance the X and S already look far too similar. Do you think Tesla will be able to create or acquire and integrate two or three additional brands, and create the manufacturing scale? Given time, they could. But I don't think they've got time. As soon as the major makers have credible all electric cars, Tesla's iffy build quality, problems with logistics, limited range and premium pricing will no longer be acceptable.

Incidentally, I don't think Tesla are unaware of any of this. I attribute the layoffs and the desire to automate as an urgent effort to improve build quality (in addition to faster, cheaper assembly). But if automation on its own were a solution, Fiat cars would have been well built and reliable since the 1970s, but they are still bouncing along the bottom of (eg) the JD Power annual surveys.

My money remains on Tesla becoming a tech supplier to other companies, or a (supposed) merger of equals with a large US car maker, because Tesla's chances as a standalone car maker are poor. Whether such merger would work remains to be seen, the history of M&A is littered with failure.

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