Archives for July 3rd, 2013

Second-Generation Tesla Roadster Delayed to 2015



The Tesla Roadster was pushed off the sales arena last year when Lotus stopped supplying its chassis, as the British carmaker ended production of the platform, used by the Elise and Exige.

Tesla is currently focusing on the Model S sedan, which is almost ready to hit the market, as well as on the Model X crossover, which will be shown to the public for the first time soon. However, the company hasn’t forgotten the Roadster and is planning to give us a second generation of the car.

This was expected to arrive in 2014, but Tesla CEO Elon Musk has now announced that the launched will be pushed back to late 2015. This is because the company will also be busy preparing the introduction of the promised affordable electric sedan, which will ride on the carmaker’s third-generation electric platform and should arrive in the first half of 2015.

Via: Inside Line

By Andrei Tutu

Oh, Tesla: Your ‘Lease’ Is Smart, But That Calculator Wasn’t

'Revenge of the Electric Car' premiere: Elon Musk arrives in a Tesla Roadster

‘Revenge of the Electric Car’ premiere: Elon Musk arrives in a Tesla Roadster

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Well, that didn’t take long.

Yesterday, just before 5 pm Eastern time, Tesla Motors [NSDQ:TSLA] released details of its new “lease-like” financing product.

The general consensus in the media (we read a lot of Tesla coverage here, folks) has been that it’s smart for Tesla to offer financing for its Model S electric luxury sport sedan. It will expand the pool of potential owners.

But the press release, and a subsequent media call with CEO Elon Musk, mentioned a cost calculator on the company’s website that purports to let users calculate the true net out-of-pocket cost for a 2013 Tesla Model S under the new financing.

As details of the calculator became visible, however, its assumptions and calculations were widely savaged.

Motor Authority, for example, went through the online tool and critiqued each line, concluding that under even average assumptions, a 60-kWh Tesla Model S would likely cost an “effective” $764 per month–but require an out-of-pocket monthly payment of $1,051.

There have been other critiques: for instance, here, and here (“its own calculator demonstrates acrobatics rarely seen outside a Cirque de Soleil show to reach that number”).

Discussion has even centered on the hourly value of time saved not spent in traffic. Yes, there’s data: the average value is $32/hour, though Tesla might counter that its buyers are hardly average, justifying its $100/hour default value.

Our favorite conclusion, tweeted by Automotive News reporter Nick Bunkley: “According to Tesla website, if you live in Calif. and make $2 million/year, driving a Model S has an effective monthly cost of minus-$2,000.”

2012 Tesla Model S beta vehicle, Fremont, CA, October 2011

2012 Tesla Model S beta vehicle, Fremont, CA, October 2011

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The whole affair leads us to wonder why Tesla continues to push the boundaries of its communications when actual facts so often cast their assertions in a different light.

We’ve noted before that CEO Musk sometimes says things that prove not to be exactly true, or haven’t yet happened, or need major asterisks to explain the context.

He’s hardly alone in that regard among CEOs. Some even argue that it’s the job of a startup CEO to talk about the reality he intends to achieve, rather than the world as it actually exists.

We’ve long criticized the pathetic practice of “net pricing”–quoting a price that doesn’t reflect the cash a buyer must spend out-of-pocket, but instead nets out a Federal income-tax credit that not all buyers qualify for and that can take up to 15 months to be realized.

At least in that case, Tesla is no more guilty than any other plug-in electric carmaker; they’re all culpable.

But the financing announcement would have gone off smoothly and met with widespread acclaim if the bizarre financial gyrations of the “cost calculator” hadn’t largely overshadowed them.

Tesla Model S with DISRUPT license plate, March 2013 [photo: Sam Villella]

Tesla Model S with DISRUPT license plate, March 2013 [photo: Sam Villella]

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And it didn’t help that the press release said that the financing product “was created from the ground up to provide maximum benefit to consumers, rather than simply duplicating other financing programs that tend to favor companies at the expense of the individual.”

Yet the associated Tesla calculator goes through contortions to support Musk’s statement that you can drive a Model S for “$500 or $600 a month,” favoring Tesla’s assertion at the expense of interested buyers.

We note that Tesla Motors now has its fourth VP of Communications in a bit more than four years: Welcome, Sarah Meron.

As Tesla matures, sells more cars, and slowly persuades more of its critics and detractors that it’s a legitimate carmaker, is it too much to hope that it will think twice before acting–and leave these kind of amateur stunts to more desperate carmakers?

Perhaps the company will even release specific, legitimate monthly sales figures.

Nah. Never gonna happen. They’re far too special for that.

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By John Voelcker

Tesla Offers Additional 2.7 Million Shares, Plans to Repay DOE Loan Early

Tesla Offers Additional 2.7 Million Shares, Plans to Repay DOE Loan Early

Tesla has announced it will offer 2,703,027 shares of common stock along with $450 million worth of convertible senior notes that mature by 2018. The money raised from this public offering will primarily be used to pay off Tesla’s Department of Energy loan with interest.

Tesla Model S rear side view 300x187 imageTesla CEO and co-founder Elon Musk will purchase $100 million worth of the shares himself, with $45 million purchased from the common stock offering and $55 million bought directly from Tesla in a private sale. The underwriters will have a 30-day option to purchase up to 405,454 additional shares and $67.5 million worth of convertible notes, which can be converted into cash or shares of Tesla stock when they mature.

Tesla stock ended trading today at $84.84 a share, up significantly from last week’s price in the mid- to high $50 range. The surge in price is attributable to Tesla posting its first quarterly profit, with the company generating $11.2 million net income in the first quarter of 2013.

Though Tesla’s revised financing option may have lead to higher consideration among luxury buyers, the brand is still only selling variations of one vehicle. Whether Tesla can maintain its momentum remains to be seen.

Source: Tesla

By Alex Nishimoto

Tesla Wins One In Minnesota: Bill To Ban Its Stores Defeated

Tesla Model S with DISRUPT license plate, March 2013 [photo: Sam Villella]

Tesla Model S with DISRUPT license plate, March 2013 [photo: Sam Villella]

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Like a lot of news from Tesla, this came in the form of a tweet by CEO Elon Musk on Friday morning.

It read, in its entirety, “Minnesota auto dealers tried to pass legislation to block Tesla stores. Bill was just defeated in Senate. Thanks MN!”

And indeed, a Minnesota Senate committee voted down the bill.

Score one for Tesla Motors [NSDQ:TSLA], at least for the moment.

But the fight isn’t over yet. On Wednesday, the state Assembly is holding a hearing on its own version of the bill.

Both Minnesota dealership owners and Tesla representatives will testify.

Most state laws prohibit carmakers from opening dealerships that compete with franchised dealers selling the same cars, because the company might give its own dealers better financial terms than the franchisees.

But auto dealers find Tesla’s model of selling exclusively online through factory-owned Tesla Stores highly threatening to the lock they have on all auto purchases.

Tesla, of course, has no franchised dealers–so the company says it is complying with all state laws governing car sales.

Nevertheless, the Minnesota Automobile Dealers Association followed the model laid down three years ago in Colorado and worked to persuade the legislature to amend the state’s franchising laws last month.

That amendment would ban auto companies from owning any dealerships at all, under any circumstances.

Auto dealers across the country, and their national group–the National Automobile Dealers Assocation, or NADA–view the Tesla model as a continuing threat to their livelihood.

Indeed, its chairman William Underriner told reporters last October that NADA “has ‘a whole mess of lawyers in Washington’ who work on state franchise laws,” which presumably NADA could deploy in every state where Tesla has or seeks to open a store or service facility.

CEO Elon Musk spoke out that month about various pending legislation pushed by dealers that targets Tesla Stores.

So, there’ll be more to this story. We’ll keep you posted.

[photo courtesy of Sam Villella]

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By John Voelcker

2013 Tesla Model S ‘Performance Plus’ Package, Other Options, Added

2013 Tesla Model S

2013 Tesla Model S

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The 2013 Tesla Model S electric car wouldn’t be defined as a supercar–which is, more or less by custom, a two-seat sports car, not a large sedan.

But to take the luxury plug-in sedan “into supercar handling territory,” Tesla Motors [NSDQ:TSLA] has announced a new “Performance Plus” suspension and handling option.

The package upgrades the shock absorbers, stabilizer bars, suspension bushings and fits new Michelin Pilot Sport PS2 tires on 21-inch wheels.

Per Tesla’s description, the new rear tires are not only 0.8 inches (20 mm) wider, they’re slightly staggered to improve acceleration on surfaces with marginal grip.

The $6,500 package requires the customer to order the 21-inch wheel option and, Tesla says, increases range 6 to 12 miles over the standard car with those wheels and improves the ride quality to boot.

Retrofit available too, mostly

Most of the hardware will also be offered to current Model S owners as a retrofit package, starting this summer.

That $13,000 upgrade includes the new upper and lower suspension arms, both fitted with the stiffer bushings, plus the new Michelin tires on the 21-inch wheels: 8.5 inches wide in the front, 9 inches in the back.

It does not, however, include the uprated dampers or the stabilizer bar.

Tesla says the retrofit provides “the majority of the handling benefits without requiring a full suspension removal and replacement, which would be far more costly.”

The company won’t sell the wider rear wheels and tires separately, it says, because their increased grip requires the stability provided by the revised suspension bushings.

Four other options added

Tesla announced details of the Performance Plus package on April 9, along with four additional options available to European buyers, as it prepares to offer the Model S in European markets.

Those options will likely be offered to U.S. buyers as well over time.

The Cold Weather Package adds an upgraded heater for the battery coolant to boost range and performance in the coldest of weather, along with an “improved defrost” grille, heaters in the cowl and the windshield washer nozzles, and inside, heated seats for the second row as well.

The Security Package adds an overhead intrusion sensor and an alarm siren with a backup battery.

The Park Assist Package installs bumper sensors front and rear, plus software to indicate on the instrument panel and audibly how close the Model S is to adjacent vehicles.

And the Lighting Package, included as standard in the Model S Signature Series, adds additional lighting in the “footwells, door jams [sic], door panels, and storage areas.”

Prices were not given for any of the additional packages, and none of them yet appears in the Model S online configurator.

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By John Voelcker

AAA to Begin Testing of Electric Vehicle Charger Trucks

AAA to Begin Testing of Electric Vehicle Charger Trucks

AAA plans to roll out fleets of trucks equipped with fast chargers to better serve auto club members with EVs, according to Bloomberg. The trucks will be able to charge electric vehicles such as the Nissan Leaf and Tesla Roadster when their batteries run down on the road. This move follows that of AAA’s counterpart in Japan, the Japan Automobile Federation, earlier this month, where that organization announced a joint effort with Nissan to test charger trucks.

Speaking to Bloomberg, AAA spokesperson Christie Hyde said that the Florida-based organization will begin testing the trucks in August. According to Hyde, the initial test group will consist of six “mobile charging units,” testing in states such as California, Oregon, Washington, Florida, Tennessee and Georgia. Hyde declined to give specifics on the cost of the units and who will supply them, however, she did state that AAA will test chargers from multiple suppliers.

With a couple EV models already on the market, and more on the way, automakers’ increasing interest in electric vehicles has prompted the development of a charging infrastructure. Companies such as General Electric are developing roadside charging stations, while power companies are beginning to upgrade to smart grids – installing new meters and transformers to help ensure people can recharge their vehicles at home.

AAA is also preparing itself for the arrival of more electric cars on the road. “We know electric vehicles are coming and we’ve got to be ready for them,” said Hyde. This first batch of charging trucks is part of that plan to get ready. Hyde says that AAA will debut its first mobile charging unit at an electric vehicle conference in Raleigh, NC, next month.

Source: Bloomberg

By Alex Nishimoto

Panasonic Gives Tesla A $30-Million Jolt Of Cash For Powertrain Development

Panasonic Gives Tesla A $30-Million Jolt Of Cash For Powertrain Development

Electrons are small. You may think that dead pixel on your computer screen is small, but it’s a city block compared to an electron. This may be why many people don’t understand how hard it is to store enough of them to power a car. Two companies with an intimate knowledge of the problem are electric car pioneer Tesla, and electronics giant Panasonic.

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This week, the Japanese tech company announced it was investing $30 Million into Tesla to jointly develop new battery technology for its upcoming electric sedan and to be licensed by other manufacturers. Tesla currently uses Panasonic cells to power its Lotus-based Roadster and is working with Toyota on developing their next generation of hybrid and all-electric vehicles. The infusion of cash came in the form of Panasonic acquiring a 2-percent ownership stake in Tesla.

Panasonic recently announced its own joint-venture with Toyota, dubbed Primearth EV Energy Co. The goal is to develop more efficient nickel-metal hydride and lithium-ion batteries. Future plans involve the merger of Panasonic and current rival Sanyo to become a battery development powerhouse for the quickly expanding electric car market.

Factoid: Lithium-ion batteries are currently the most efficient type being used in electric vehicles and are roughly 64 times less energy dense than good ole gasoline. The best Li-ion cells are currently capable of roughly 0.72 MJ/Kg while gasoline is roughly 46.4 MJ/Kg.

Source: Automotive News (Subscription required)

By Motortrend Staff

Cocktail Chatter: May 10, 2013 – Rumor Central

Cocktail Chatter: May 10, 2013

What cocktails go best with all this car chatter? Automobilemag.com is here to help with weekly recipes. Remember, this is for talking about cars, not driving — always designate a driver. We’re ready to hit the beach this weekend and take a pitcher of pineapple margaritas with us. Mix together two cups of silver tequila, Tuaca vanilla citrus liqueur, and fresh lime juice with two and a half cups of pineapple juice in a pitcher with ice. Server over ice and garnish with a pineapple slice, and let the sun shine!

Brand Mismatch: I was in San Antonio, Texas, this past Sunday when Chevrolet revealed the 2014 Silverado High Country, its attempt to carve a slice of the premium pickup truck pie currently dominated by the Ford F-150 King Ranch. Texas is certainly a fitting place to launch such a vehicle, but I found the choice in hotel used to launch the truck was a little ironic. A sign on the exterior indicated the architecture was “inspired by [a house on] the King Ranch.” Hey, that’s funny; so is this trim level…

Evan McCausland, Associate Web Editor 

Look Twice, Save A Life: May is motorcycle awareness month. Although I sold my bike a few years ago, I always consider buying another bike this time of year. I don’t end up pulling the trigger because there are far too many people behind the wheel of a car with no interest in driving. It’s annoying to be rear-ended in a car while waiting at a red light, but it’s even worse when you’re on two wheels and the person behind you is more concerned with dashing off an “LOL!” text than watching for stopped traffic. Triple-check those blind spots before changing lanes, put down the damned phone, and be aware of your surroundings. Not all motorcyclists are textbook examples of responsible adults, but they still deserve respect from other motorists. By the way, all this applies to bicyclists, runners, and walkers who are legally using the roads, too. Don’t let a stupid decision on your part permanently alter (or end) another person’s life. And don’t stop paying attention in June.

Phil Floraday, Senior Web Editor

Driving on Autopilot: Autonomous cars became this week’s hot topic, first with Elon Musk telling Bloomberg he wants Google’s technology in his Tesla electric cars as soon as possible, then with the Automotive Press Association’s annual Michelin Automotive Design Panel in Detroit on Thursday, entitled “Driven/Undriven: The Duality of Tomorrow’s Automobile.” Automotive News’ Jason Stein hosted a panel consisting of Jim Hall, of 2953 Analytics, ex-GM futurist Chris Borroni-Bird, now strategic development veep at Qualcomm, and Stewart Reed, chair of the Art Center College of Design’s transportation design department. “Enthusiasts can’t imagine autonomous cars, until you tell them how it could help on congested freeways,” Reed said. Hall noted that most young people would rather text or surf the web than drive, while Borroni-Bird said, “the driver still controls the vehicle, but the car enhances his skills.” When Stein asked whether Google will build its own car, Hall replied, “not if they have a brain in their head.” Hall struck a chord, though, with most APA members in attendance when he said, “I hate the idea of autonomous cars … I’m only happy that the majority of them will come after I’m dead.” Me too.

Todd Lassa, Executive Editor

99 Luftspeedlimits: Bad news, car enthusiasts: Germany may impose a blanket speed limit of 120 km/h (75 mph) on the nation’s famous autobahns, ending the long-standing and famous derestricted stretches that have no limit at all. Several politicians running against German chancellor Angela Merkel have apparently endorsed enacting the nationwide speed limit to help improve road safety. Of course, many parts of the autobahn already have a speed limit of 130 km/h (about 81 mph), and for now the speed limit proposition may be nothing more than political posturing. Nonetheless, it would be a sad day indeed if speed limit-free autobahns vanished altogether.

Jake Holmes, Associate Web Editor

Being Bear Aware: Notice to Toyota owners: Bear-proof your cars. A bear in rural Florida entered into a woman’s Toyota Matrix and then proceeded to inflict $17,000 in damage to the vehicle. Among the carnage: a chewed off driver’s seat, bite and claw marks on the door panels, exposed interior roof insulation, and other consoles being ripped apart from within. The woman didn’t think that there was anything such as leftover food to attract the bear, nor were her doors left open. A family in California had a similar bear-in-car episode in 2011 with its Toyota Prius, which left the vehicle with ripped up seats, steering wheel, and glove box. Despite these two separate incidents, no direct correlation can be made between bear attacks and Toyotas.

John Kalmar, Graphic Designer

Going Down, Down, Baby: I had the pleasure of driving a new Range Rover this week, which wasn’t long enough for a full Editor’s Notebook but long enough to net this photo. While I’m a little sad that the Rangie’s classic boxiness has been rounded here and sanded-down there, the good thing to report is that driving a Range Rover makes you feel just as exorbitant, just as accomplished, and just as awesome as ever. It might not draw a crowd—that’s what a Jaguar sports car is for—and it might not even beat the Mercedes-Benz GL in terms of handling, but the truck still stands at the intersection of practicality, style, and luxury. Kids at home: it’s just as good as it looks, I promise.

Ben Timmins, Associate Web Editor

Ferrari kid driving suit 224x300 imageShop ’til you Drop: I recently attended the opening of the brand-new Ferrari store at the company’s headquarters in Maranello. Once a small outpost (just over 2000 square feet when it first opened in 2002), the new building is more than three times larger, at nearly 7000 square feet. The new retail emporium has all the markings of a post specialty shop, except that there’s an F1 car and a bright yellow 275GTB parked among the shoes, handbags, shirts, and leather goods. A surprising amount of the space is dedicated to the littlest Ferraristi, with the goal apparently to hook them from birth.

Ferrari says the store was “created to give customers an experience of the Ferrari world and, though making a purchase, to be a part of it.” For those who aren’t planning a trip to Maranello but still want to be a part of that world, there are now more than 50 Ferrari stores worldwide. Beyond that, there is the online shopping portal, www.store.ferrari.com. All told, 95 Ferrari-branded items are sold every minute.

Joe Lorio, Senior Editor

Color Me Boring: About four years ago, this magazine had a Four Seasons 2008 Lexus IS-F painted an eye-catching bright blue. A couple of weeks ago, I tested a 2013 model of the same (now soon to be discontinued) model, this time painted regular old silver. What a difference paint can make. Late one night, while walking on a residential Ann Arbor sidewalk, I looked right at the IS-F and thought to myself, “Huh, that Corolla has some pretty cool dark wheels.” Only several steps later did I realize that I had the keys to that rear-wheel-drive, 416-hp, AMG-fighting “Corolla.” Ultimate sleeper or failed supersedan?

Rusty Blackwell, Copy Editor

Approval from the Appliance People: This week, Tesla’s Model S electric sedan earned a score of 99 out of 100 in Consumer Reports’ testing. The Model S is only the second-ever car to get that top score (the 2007 Lexus LS 460L was the first), and, to many buyers, this is the ultimate seal of approval. What was most amazing to CR – and to us when we named the Model S our 2013 Automobile of the Year – was the fact that the all-electric managed to either match the best competition from Germany, America, and Japan despite the fact that Tesla is a small California start-up that’s only just started to make cars. Kudos to you, Tesla; keep up the good work.

Donny Nordlicht, Associate Web Editor 

No Car is an Island: According to ChinaDaily.com, after attempting for more than a week to contact the owner of a vehicle parked in a lot due to be demolished, the local government in Taiyuan, China decided—rather than simply towing the vehicle to a different location—to continue their construction project around the car. The result makes for a great picture but the question is, how do they move it now or alternatively, how are they going to build a road around it? And lastly, um, do they not have tow trucks in China?

Jennifer Misaros, Managing Editor of Digital Platforms

Badass Beetle: As I made my way across Michigan in our new, long-term Volkswagen Beetle Turbo convertible, I daydreamed that someone like Sheri Moon Zombie, the extremely attractive wife of musician/director Rob Zombie, would fit well in the spooled bug. Our Beetle Turbo convertible has soft suspension and a clean-cut, cute interior, but it also has a powerful powertrain, a masculine exterior, and a good audio system. I imagine the blonde driver, dreadlocks blowing about in the wind, listening to MC5 as she speeds along in the triple digits. It’s a great image, and one that perfectly suits this Beetle. Calling it a “chick car” is a compliment. At least it is in my Sheri-Moon-filled mind.

Chris Nelson, Road Test Editor

By Automobile Staff

Tesla Model S: Production Must Be Perfect To Avoid Financial Failure

Tesla Model S undergoing assembly

Tesla Model S undergoing assembly

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As far as many people are concerned, Tesla Motors [NSDQ:TSLA] has done the hard bit already.

They’ve started a company from scratch. Built and sold a sports car. Developed a new model. Put it into production. Started selling it to an adoring crowd. No vaporware to see here, folks.

However, even Tesla CEO Elon Musk himself is admitting the next six months will be tougher than at any other point in the company’s nine-year history so far.

“The challenge…is scaling production enough to achieve a certain gross margin on our product so we can be cash flow positive. That’s extremely important.

“If we’re unable to do that, we’ll enter the grave yard with all the other car company startups of the last 90 years” he told reporters at the recent National Clean Energy Summit in Las Vegas.

No mistakes

According to GigaOM, Musk is keen to avoid making mistakes–the same sort of mistakes being experienced right now by fellow startup Fisker with its Karma sedan.

The ramp-up of production needs to be perfect. Tesla will go from shipping around 500 cars in the third quarter of this year, to 5,000 by the end of the year. The company certainly doesn’t have a problem with demand, as an interview in Automobile confirms–12,000 people put down the $5,000 deposit to secure a Model S–but supply could be a different matter.

To hit that target–and to remain solvent as a result–there can be no mistakes. No expensive, time-consuming recalls, and no production mistakes. The cars need to be produced quickly, but up to the levels of quality buyers of sedans costing up to $100,000 expect.

Learning from the Roadster

Nor can Tesla afford to take too much time over production, lest it see dwindling reservations as buyers get bored and go elsewhere. This happened with the Tesla Roadster, built the last time that Tesla nearly died.

In Musk’s interview with Automobile, he says that the Roadster’s gestation wasn’t as simple as putting an electric powertrain in an Elise, and the changes needed brought additional complications.

2011 Tesla Roadster Sport. Photo by Joe Nuxoll.

2011 Tesla Roadster Sport. Photo by Joe Nuxoll.

Enlarge PhotoMusk describes it in an amusing way, almost certainly more so than it was at the time.

“It was like you wanted to build a house, couldn’t find the right house, so you try to fix an existing house and end up changing everything except for one wall in the basement”.

In the end, it cost $150 million to put the Roadster into series production, rather than the $25m-$30m predicted. The Model S has already avoided many of the Roadster’s problems, but it will also sell in greater numbers.

Thorough engineering

Negatives aside, Tesla is in a position to deliver cars with minimal disruption. Musk explains how huge amounts of time have been spent eliminating potential issues with the battery pack–potentially the component most likely to see problems.

Musk says the toughest testing they’ve done has been on safety, and ensuring the pack cannot break down. Get that right, maintain Tesla’s record of zero reported battery fires and fix little issues like the Roadster’s reputation for poor air conditioning–Musk says the Model S is ice cold, even in Death Valley–and those trouble-free production targets should be achievable.

Tesla and Musk undoubtedly have a chance of success, but that success hinges entirely on making it through these next six months with minimal problems.

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By Antony Ingram