No. 924
November 22, 2017
 

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The High-Octane Truth.

You know what I'm thankful for this time of year (well, all year, honestly)? When presented with an opportunity for automotive journalistic pugilism, teed up by St. Elon, Peter delivers a beat down that Sonny Liston could admire.

“swingin’ dick-ism from America’s Master of Deception” “unbridled display of hubris and obfuscation”

And that leading paragraph…my oh my…I need a cigarette…

Poetry…

Tony W.
Mount Joy, Pennsylvania 


Master of Deception, Inc.

There are others trying to achieve the status of Master of Deception. Unfortunately for them, no one is buying their BS. Attendance is down, television ratings are down, Gordon and Stewart are gone, Earnhardt is going, Kenseth can't get paid, $10M annual salaries for drivers are in the past, team budgets have gone from $30M to $15M and drivers are buying rides. Brian France's take on all of this: “We're in good shape.” Danica Patrick: “I just want to be remembered as a great driver who was also a woman.” Does anyone think that NASCAR is in good shape or that Patrick was a great driver? Bueller?

So you're right: St. Elon is the Master of Deception, but only because some people are still swallowing his BS so there is actually some deception going on.

John Page
New Orleans, Louisiana


Smokin' Other People's Money.

I am doubtlessly betraying some inherent “…old fuddy-duddyism” within me in revealing this day-to-day observation, but whenever I might venture out onto the highways and the byways here, I see a constant and steady flow of vehicular traffic consisting of practically all makes and models that are available from Ford, General Motors, Chrysler, and Toyota, to name but a few. But in all my years of driving, I have witnessed only TWO Teslas on the streets. That reality is most interesting, when you consider that the share prices of these latter “…hum-drum” brands of car makers - save for Toyota - are all valued at just two figures. And yet, the much-vaunted and ballyhooed Tesla shares sell for an excess of some $300.00! All this, and on the basis of what, specifically? Volume of produce? Market penetration? Value of product? Public acceptance in huge numbers of purchases?

No.

Tesla's “worth” appears to be - to THIS aged set of world-weary and experienced eyes, anyway - all speculative, and of merely “perceived value”… much like those many “dot-com” ventures of a few years ago, that so successfully seduced a steady flow of cash out of the pockets of Wall Street investors.

Can't envision that comparison, you say? OK then, picture a traveling salesman of yore, pitching his “patented” snake oil medicine to you; only this time, minus the snake oil. Just promises of George Jetson-like trips to Mars and back, and a wonderful world of self-guiding and driving electric cars and trucks. And all you have to do in order to fit into this wonderful and dreamy utopia is to have confidence in the dream maker.

And oh, did I mention? Open your wallet, too - WIDE. Dreams don't come cheap, and dreamers don't skimp on whatever it might cost to weave those same dreams. Especially when the money is not theirs in the first place.

Eddy Newcastle
Ontario, CANADA


The Devil is in the Details.

A few weeks back I came across a video on YouTube! where some Tesla fans did a walk through of the Model 3 talking about each feature and giving measurements of things like head room, leg room, trunk compartments, etc. They did not drive the vehicle and only showed off the features while at rest and showed each nook and cranny of the car. It was interesting to see see how little thought is given to the small details like fit and finish of liners in the trunk space, how things are fastened and overall build quality. It only leaves you wondering where else they cut corners on the quality of the vehicle.

To put this in perspective, I picked up a used 2014 VW Passat from Car Max last month and it serves as my daily driver. That car originally sold for $25k when it was new and is no way considered a premium vehicle. But the details of the car are thought out better especially in the places where you don’t look too frequently and don’t appreciate until you do look. The trunk lining fits perfectly and has a solid feel. It doesn’t look cheap and move around the first time it’s touched and this is a used car we are talking about. While less expensive materials were used to build the Passat you always sense that someone was thinking about details.

A car is more than parts slapped together and gettIng one right takes tons of work at multiple levels in engineering, manufacturing planning, procurement, assembly and more. The devil is in the details and I don’t think I want to ever own a Tesla because they not only don’t seem to get the details right they don’t seem to care about them in the first place.

JAM
Holly Springs, North Carolina


Rube Town.

I imagine that Bernie Madoff is kicking himself right about now (if he has internet access), as while his fraudulent scheme required secrecy and word-of-mouth promotion; the current Muskian Scheme advertises itself for the entire world to see.

Making a reservation for the new roadster requires only a Reservation Payment. While this “Reservation secures your approximate delivery priority, it does not constitute the purchase or order of a vehicle”. “You understand that we will not hold your Reservation Payment separately or in an escrow or trust fund or pay any interest on your Reservation Payment” (quotes taken directly from Tesla website Roadster Reservation Terms & Conditions).

The options for payment are either $50k for the regular Roadster, or $250k total for the Founders Series. For this very reasonable price, you get yourself a spot in some queue that exists somewhere in the ether of the internet and is very likely worth every bit of the magnetic charge it takes to record the "0"s and "1"s to store your reservation on some hard disk in the server farm. While I am no lawyer, it seems to me that since you agree that your payment is co-mingled with the rest of the $ in Elon's pockets, should his pockets suddenly turn up empty (i.e., bankruptcy) you are left with a very expensive email from Tesla detailing your approximate delivery priority of something that will never be built, let alone delivered. And I thought the stockholders were the biggest rubes up to this point.

David Kozak
Cincinnati, Ohio


It won't be long now.

The latest dose of Kool Aid from St.Elon the Fantastic to his cult believers is a Class 8 tractor, but I must have missed the part when he said what the cost of this next vehicle will be that will never be delivered. A new, state of the art, premiere model of a Class 8 from Volvo is in the $150 to $200k range. With the outrageous pricing he already charges I would expect he would price his never-to-be-seen class 8 somewhere in the $500k to$1 million range. No trucking company in its right mind would spend that kind of money for a tractor that would weigh a huge amount more than existing tractors because of the enormous weight of the batteries which would reduce the amount of weight that can be towed. His beloved believers have certainly again been hoodwinked by the ponzi king of the automotive industry. How long is it going to be before Elon's house of dominoes falls, they all lose their deposits, its stock tanks and untold billions of dollars are lost?

Terry Almy
Menifee, California


Ghost in the Machines.

I see Musty Musk as a Trojan horse hustler for robotics robbing us of our places at the wheel. No fatigue, no “art” in cornering with a competitor trading paint, no pucker factor, no glee. Just a machine powered silently by a parasitic battery of batteries, juiced up by a remote, out-of-sight carbon burning plant or a glowing fissionable facility in someone else's backyard. No glory, no real risks, no talent nor skill hard earned with dedication & sacrifice. Merely a Hot Wheels man toy sponsored by Kurt Vonnegut's dreaded Ramjack Corp. A machine pitting to be machined by machines. No more mechanics guesstimating on tread & traction decisions, arguing with the team over adjustments based on lap times v. concerns over the rebuilt mill's durability or that funny puff-puff from the huffer on the downshifts. Speed is only relevant if it is sensed, felt or heard, seen & witnessed. Boredom can kill more than speed.

Tony
Venice, Florida


Good Times.

Y'know, I can at least recognize Elon Musk has actually accomplished things that no one else has:
  • Kick-started the EV segment into something viable; the Chevrolet Bolt would not exist without Tesla.
  • Started a viable company launching commercial payloads into space without having to make sure Congressional weasels have sufficient pork for their districts.
The worst thing about Tesla is and will always be its fans. A bunch of condescending, arrogant nerds who strut around as though they themselves have accomplished great things just because they like a company. And that following St. Elon's Twitter feed makes them industry analysts.

Jim Z.
Detroit, Michigan


Reality bites.

Eddy's comment was spot on: I see LOTS of Teslas here in the Green Leafy Burbs… where it is the next lease when you are bored of the E Class and you want your friends to chatter. Once I get past the “money line” in my area, you've a better chance of seeing a Ferrari LaFerrari. Likewise, I'm sure that the Tesla is common inside the “money line” in other high net worth zip codes, but when I go to a Court 70 miles outside the Green Leafy Burbs, the commuters coming in the opposite direction are all CamCords-with signs of real use... frippery like a Tesla isn't in the budget for the other 92% of the population. My drive to Wisconsin a few months ago from NYC ? One.

Casey Raskob, Esq
Green Leafy Burbs, New York City


Teslas in the wild.

I bet Casey Raskob's lone Tesla spotting on his trip from NY to WI happened somewhere along I-94 through Chicago. That's about the only place I see Teslas with any sort of regularity. And when I say Chicago, I do mean downtown Chicago. Once you get outside of the loop, sightings are far and few between.

ZR
Muskego, WIsconsin


Wall Street will win.

You are analyzing Tesla and the Great Oz from a production and sales view, and with that analysis, you are spot on. The problem with your view is that Wall Street is not funding or supporting Tesla based on a production analysis but rather a long term research and development model with the belief that electric propulsion is inevitable.

Wall Street values Tesla more than Ford for where it is going, not where it has been. Your argument of course is the paradox of investing in a product that doesn't fully exist knowing full well that if you do not invest the product will never exist. See the history of the Apple IPhone as an example of leap frogging technology and winding up with a company that has 20% of the sales but a majority of the profit.

Electric engines have more torque, power, a more even power curve, and are cheaper to make and maintain than ICE's (see your local diesel/electric locomotives). Electric motor race cars will be quicker and less dangerous than ICE's, and finally allow the track side conversation many of us desire (Yes, adult slot cars).

Wall Street is betting on the future being electric... and they are going to win this bet.

DLW
Jupiter, FLorida


Elon is The Man.

I don’t really disagree with you about Musk but I also think that balanced with the bad, Musk has some good aspects. True, Tesla has a business plan where sales of the featured product, automobiles, is secondary to the unmentioned product – government subsidies due to the illusion of carbon being evil. However, he, and he alone saw that a company could be built using such a model and he did it. He surveyed the scenery and took advantage of what was offered rather than just going head to head with established firms. See Tucker.

As much as many of us enjoy our ICE transportation, Musk has managed to transform conveyance by a motor at least as cool as by an engine. Before Musk, electric cars were the penalty box of transport. Today, for many, they are the acme of it. Culture change is difficult but he did it.

Musk is not some poser playing with others’ money only to lose it and then waltz away ala our favorite Italian. When SpaceX had two consecutive crashes and Tesla lost several financing chances, he put all the money he got from selling PayPal into his businesses. He put himself on the line 100%. I have to admire a man who goes all in when many in his position (see Paul Allen or Woz) just take their profits and retire.

If Tesla should tomorrow, founder on the rocks of mass production reality, he did either start or come closer than anybody else has in creating a new American automobile company. He and Jeff Bezos are taking a shot at making space travel more than “Hello, Houston”. And in the end, he’s put a shine on the concept of electrically powered personal transportation from who wants it to many want it and nothing else.

Paul Cassel
Albuquerque, New Mexico

 

St. Elon.

You're the only commentator who has observed that had execs from other auto firms been as disingenuous with their public pronouncements, they would have been publicly excoriated for promulgating investor fraud. No wonder the Tesla CFO abandoned ship.

From a financial perspective, I’m undecided whether Musk’s business model is more closely aligned with Max Bialystok or the famous Ponzi; perhaps it’s a bit of both. Musk must be exhausted from keeping all of those plates spinning in the air, and keeping his ‘stories’ straight. Life is certainly easier when the reality of cash flow is ignored, along with its concomitant shareholder value destruction. It's hard work designing a car that can be consistently manufactured to its intended quality level while generating positive cash flow.

When the Model 3 was first introduced at that flashy stage show in Hawthorne a year or so ago, I kept wondering about why would they waste that time and PR energy to introduce a car two years before its availability. It took me about a day for the light to go on: the Event was actually a public debt issuance (interest free, unsecured, unregulated, and self repaying through inexact Model 3 pricing forecast) disguised as a car intro. Musk desperately needed cash, and he’s dug up about $500 million thru that bit of flim-flammery.

Just as you correctly described, the recent shiny object distraction (truck and sports car intro) from the manufacturing meltdown currently underway in Fremont. And as you’ve also pointed out, that’s where the fate of Tesla is now being determined. 

Green curtain, indeed!

Dan G.
Los Angeles, California