Model S September’s top-selling BEV in Western Europe. That’s the good news

Model S in Norway. Picture by Matthias Schmidt

AID, the must-have newsletter for people in need of unvarnished automobile sales data, has an explosive mix of good-news / bad-news for Tesla friends and foes alike. Tesla is racking up impressive sales gains in the world’s second-largest battery-electric EV market. That’s the good news. The not-so-good news is that if Elon Musk won’t act fast, the sudden gains are liable to evaporate, writes AID publisher Matthias Schmidt. [Continue Reading]

Volkswagen boss rips Elon Musk as destroyer of jobs and money

Matthias Müller (Picture: Volkswagen)

Car companies used to refrain from commenting on the competition, but the veil of propriety seems to develop more rips than the jeans of a grunge rocker. Last night, Volkswagen’s CEO Matthias Müller tore Elon Musk a big one, blasting the head of Californian carmaker Tesla as deficient of both social responsibility, and profits.

At an evening talk show in Passau, Germany, the moderator mentioned that Tesla “fascinates customers with its electric cars.” This triggered Müller to deliver a forceful statement he audibly had wanted to make for quite some time. Here is the video, along with a translation from Müller’s heavily Bavarian-tinged German:

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Tesla about to lose a big chunk of one of its most important markets, Norway

Ice age ahead: Model S in Norway (Picture: Youtube)

For electric carmaker Tesla, Norway is a paradise. Lavish tax breaks for electric cars, combined with expropriative taxes on gas cars (such as “total taxes for a Chevrolet Camarao V6? 125,000 dollars” as a Redditor writes) are the reason why nearly one in every ten Tesla cars go to the rugged and cold 5 million people country in Scandinavia. In yet another blow in a rough week, Tesla is about to lose its Nordic paradise.

“Norway plans to trim lavish tax breaks for Tesla and other electric cars that have given it the world’s highest rate of battery-vehicle ownership,” Reuters wrote today after reading a proposal by Norway’s right-wing government. At closer reading, one sees that the main target is Tesla. [Continue Reading]

The indignity! Tesla Model 3 could be out-produced by “fool cell” Mirai this year

Mirai production in Motomachi, capacity 3,000 units per year

Californian carmaker Tesla is close to suffering yet another insult. The company infamously managed to deliver only 220 of its more affordable Model 3 in the two months since production was kicked-off with great fanfare. Should Tesla remain on that pace – and an article by my partner Ed Niedermeyer paints that as a strong possibility –  the allegedly mass-produced Tesla Model 3 could be out-produced by Toyota’s lowest-volume car, the hydrogen fuel cell Mirai.

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Source: Tesla’s “Pilot” Model 3 Body Line Still In Development Near Detroit

Photos, apparently of a Model 3 “pilot team” in “Area 51,” were subsequently deleted by a now-private Instagram account.

Three months ago Tesla CEO Elon Musk tweeted that production of the new Model 3 in “Aug[ust] should be 100 cars and Sept[ember] above 1500.” But over the following quarter Tesla ended up delivering only 220 of its new more-affordable electric cars, or just 15% of Musk’s guidance. Though Tesla’s delivery press release didn’t identify the cause for this dramatic miss, it did state that

“It is important to emphasize that there are no fundamental issues with the Model 3 production or supply chain. We understand what needs to be fixed and we are confident of addressing the manufacturing bottleneck issues in the near-term.”

What does and does not constitute a “fundamental issue” with the Model 3 production ramp is open to debate, but a source tells Daily Kanban that elements of the Model 3 body line are still in development at the Michigan-based supplier Thai Summit America and not yet installed at Tesla’s Fremont facility.

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Tesla: Production Capacity Of Model 3 To Average 226,563 Units Per Year Over Next Five Years

George Orwell famously wrote that “to see what is front of ones nose takes a constant struggle,” and it turns out that the answer to one of the biggest mysteries in the auto industry has been hanging out directly in front of the public’s nose for some time. In a January 2017 application [PDF] for sales tax exemption (STE) from the CAEATFA program, the California Treasurer revealed that

“Tesla represents the Project will launch the Model 3 and provide the capacity to produce and deliver an average of 226,563 units per year over a five year period, in addition to its Model S and Model X production.”

This revelation provides an unprecedented clarity about Tesla’s production ambitions for its “more-affordable” Model 3 sedan, and contradicts representations that Tesla executives have made in quarterly conference calls with analysts and the media.

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Does Autosteer Actually Deserve Credit For a 40% Reduction In Tesla Crashes?

Tesla’s high-flying image, which had been moving from strength to strength since early 2013, hit its biggest speed bump last year when its Autopilot semi-autonomous/Advanced Driver Assist System (ADAS) came under scrutiny in the wake of Joshua Brown’s death. Suddenly Tesla’s pioneering Autopilot system went from being one of the company’s key strengths to being a serious liability that raised troubling questions about the company’s safety culture. Tesla CEO Elon Musk tried to swat away these concerns with what proved to be a set of highly misleading statistics about Autopilot safety, but the issue was not laid to rest until NHTSA closed its investigation with a report that seemed to exonerate Autopilot as a safety risk. With a single sentence, NHTSA shut down the most dangerous PR problem in Tesla’s history:

The data show that the Tesla vehicles crash rate dropped by almost 40 percent after Autosteer installation.

Because NHTSA is the federal authority on automotive safety, with unparalleled resources to assess and investigate safety risks, this single sentence effectively shut down public concerns about Autopilot’s safety. In a terse statement on its company blog, Tesla noted

we appreciate the thoroughness of NHTSA’s report and its conclusion

But how thorough was NHTSA’s investigation, and how accurate was its conclusion? As it turns out, the questions around Autopilot’s safety may not be as settled as Tesla and NHTSA would have you believe.

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Model 3 Reservation Holder Survey Underlines Tesla’s Mass Market Challenge

 

They waited for reservations… will they also wait for service? (image courtesy Investors Business Daily)

Much of the critical coverage of Tesla Motors, both here at Daily Kanban and elsewhere, has focused on issues that Tesla is able to get away with as a small-volume manufacturer serving an affluent, early-adopter market segment. From manufacturing bottlenecks to quality control problems, from inconsistent, hype-happy communication to poor service, Tesla has been able to weather a storm of problems because its customers and fans are so patient with and passionate about the company. But as Tesla moves from expensive, low-volume cars to the mass market Model 3 these problems are taking on a new significance. In part this is because higher volumes increase the likelihood of quality and service problems, and in part it is because mass market customers who depend on a single car for their daily routine are more demanding than luxury car buyers who can always take the Lexus to work if their Tesla is broken.

Given Tesla’s pattern of releasing cars with insufficient testing as well as its chronic quality problems, it’s safe to assume that the Model 3 will face its fair share of issues. Thus, investing in service infrastructure that will allow Tesla to promptly and affordably repair and upgrade high volumes of Model 3 is extremely important. As Bertel has written about at Forbes, Tesla is behind the curve on those investments and it will cost billions to catch them up. Just yesterday a piece by former Tesla employee Evan Niu dramatically illustrated just how far Tesla has to go to improve its service time, which has dragged on for 8 long months in Niu’s case. Now an exclusive study of about 800 Tesla Model 3 reservation holders, EV owners and luxury brand car owners conducted last year on behalf of a major automaker and provided to Daily Kanban by an industry source, reveals why Tesla’s quality and service woes are so critical to the success or failure of the Model 3.

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