Archives for August 4th, 2013
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In response to an EV infrastructure that has basically failed to improve at all in the past five years, Tesla Motors will immediately triple the network of their Supercharger stations and could have hundreds of stations running by the end of 2013.
By the end of June, Tesla expects to have new locations in California, plus the Pacific Northwest, Texas, Illinois and Colorado and four locations on the East Coast for the first time. In six months they expect range to increase into Canada, plus Arizona, South Carolina and Georgia. By then, Tesla says, it will be possible to drive a Tesla Model S from New York to Los Angeles. The big news here is not the triumph for Tesla, but rather the utter embarrassment for every other automaker in the world.
Infrastructure and driving range have always been two of the largest obstacles in convincing the public to buy Electric Vehicles. They are two of the chief reasons, in fact, that automakers like the Big Three dragged their feet and refused to build EVs for many years. People have often looked at Tesla sideways, because no matter how good their cars are, it means nothing without infrastructure.
But where the auto industry saw disaster, Tesla saw opportunity. They are now the leaders in the largest EV infrastructure project ever, and will reap all of the benefits. The Tesla Supercharger systems work only for Tesla vehicles, meaning that owners of the Chevrolet Volt or Nissan Leaf or any other EV that isn’t the Tesla Model S can’t use them. Essentially, Tesla figured out how to open the country up to their customers while leaving the door shut on the competition.
This will hurt the auto industry much more than it helps Tesla, and it’s no one’s fault but their own. The prospect of building a nationwide EV infrastructure seems incredibly daunting – and true, we have to wait and see whether it actually all works out – but someone saw fit to make it possible. If GM or Honda or a Toyota-Ford partnership to build similar charging stations had begun five years ago, infrastructure and driving range wouldn’t even be an issue by now. Instead, they didn’t take initiative and are still reluctant to build electric cars. That’s just fine by Tesla.
Today’s announcement forces us to consider whether automakers that have griped about lack of infrastructure and technology costs couldn’t build electric cars, or simply wouldn’t.
It would appear to be the latter, and they’re paying for it now.
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Tesla Motors, as a fledgling automaker, has a few advantages the established leviathans just don`t have. One of these is flexibility, and the fact that when a change is made, its effect is felt immediately, as there is not that much to change.
Taking advantage of this, company CEO and co-founder Elon Musk has been able to up weekly production numbers by 100%, compared to last year`s figures. This means that they are now churning out Model S all-electric sedans at a rate of 400 per week, which roughly equates to 20,000 units per year.
Upping the production will help the California-based company begin to turn a profit, as they reportedly lost some $110-million, while revenue was less than half that, at just over $50-million, in the third quarter of 2012.
They do plan to achieve a profit, this year, but it has not been specified when they plan on achieving that goal. However, the need to build on last year’s 3,000-or-so cars manufactured, is evident, and if they will be able to deliver, the monetary benefits will be quick to follow.
2013 Tesla Model S
With a backlog of more than 10,000 depositors for the Tesla Model S, its maker is making and delivering electric luxury sedans as fast as it can.
Among other benefits, that may allow Tesla Motors [NSDQ:TSLA] to achieve CEO Elon Musk’s suggestion that the company could be profitable for the first quarter of this year.
George Blankenship, Tesla’s vice president of worldwide sales and ownership experience, said in December that the company had reached its target production rate of 400 cars a week.
And that 400-cars-per-week production rate was backed up in January by Jerome Guillen, director of Model S programs.
Now, in the company’s latest blog post, Blankenship says that rate has risen.
“During the past three weeks we have averaged more than 500 Model S deliveries per week, and it looks like we’ll be setting another record this week.”
And that number is backed up, more or less, by a little-noticed article in the Westfield Republican, an upstate New York newspaper that covers the region where Jamestown Plastics is located.
That’s the company that makes liners for the Model S front trunk–which Tesla insists on calling a “frunk”–and ships them to Tesla’s Silicon Valley assembly plant in Fremont, California.
About “500 a week are fabricated at the Jamestown Plastics, Inc., operation in Brocton,” says the article.
Taken together, it sounds like Tesla Motors is now cranking out its first high-volume electric car at a rate of 2,000 per month or better.
Which should make its investors–and depositors–happy.
Many business start-ups fail within the first few years because they run out of cash. Fortunately for Tesla, the electric-car maker was able to sell banked vehicle emissions credits to other automakers and raise $13.8 million to help keep the young manufacturer alive.
Since setting up shop in 2003, Tesla has barely managed to turn a profit from selling its $130,000 Roadsters. About 1000 of the pure-electric Roadsters have been sold — primarily to big-shot actors, musicians, and electric-car fans — and Tesla is slowly inching towards its initial public offering, expected to generate at least $100 million. Before its IPO, however, the Palo Alto, California-based company must keep the doors open and payroll up-to-date, and that is where the emissions credit sales come into play. Tesla disclosed it sold credits to Honda and at least one other unidentified automaker in an initial IPO filing.
The emissions credit program is managed by the California Air Resources Board and allows automakers to score points with the notoriously stringent state. Recent California emissions-control regulation from 2008 mandated the largest automakers — Ford, General Motors, Honda, Nissan, and Toyota — must combine to sell at least 60,000 plug-in hybrid or pure-electric vehicles in the state over a three-year period. The credits, which are measured in grams per mile of non-methane organic gas (g/mile NMOG), are earned with each certified clean- or zero-emissions vehicle sold and stored within a state database. Companies with more-polluting vehicles can use the credits to offset the extra emissions.
“Having these credits gives us some flexibility for the future,” said Robert Bienenfeld, Honda’s U.S. senior manager for environment and energy strategy. “Whether we’ll need to purchase more, I can’t say.”
Without the credits, automakers are subject to state fines, fees, and potential sales restrictions in California, one of the largest auto markets in the United States.
To further strengthen its commitment to the Golden State, Tesla recently joined forces with Toyota to retool the former NUMMI plant in Fremont to build the entry-level Model S sedan.
Source: Automotive News (Subscription required)
By Benson Kong
If there’s a hip, trendy-looking Apple Store in your town, you probably have George Blankenship to thank for it. Now, he’s hoping to do the same thing for Tesla.
The spunky electric car-maker announced today that Blankenship, 57, will join the company as vice president of Design and Store Development. He’ll be in charge of further developing Tesla’s boutique dealerships, creating a long-term strategy for retail development and expanding the network beyond its 13 current stores globally. Mimicking his work with Apple, Tesla hopes Blankenship will help draw more customers with showrooms that are “stylish and inviting,” or as Tesla’s press release implies, the opposite of traditional dealerships. Blankenship’s first task will be to open three new stores in Tokyo, Japan, Toronto, Canada, and Washington D.C.
“George has a record of building customer-focused stores that revolutionize their industries, and he does it on time and on budget. There is simply no one better; he is the ideal candidate for Tesla,” said Tesla CEO Elon Musk. “With George’s leadership, I have no doubt Tesla will have the best retail experience in the auto industry as we continue to grow and prepare to launch the Model S.”
Blankenship, based on the limited biographical information available, apparently got his start at clothing retailer Gap, where he spent 20 years and eventually became the company’s vice president for Real Estate Strategy. Proving himself exceptional at identifying and acquiring prime retail locations, Blankenship was stolen away by Apple Computer in 2000, where he was made vice president of Real Estate. Apple opened its first store a year later and Blankenship’s “Smart Growth Hit List” soon had Apple Stores popping up all over the world. He left Apple in 2007 and most recently consulted with Microsoft on creating a competing network of retail stores for that company’s products.
“Joining Tesla allows me to work with some of the boldest and brightest people on the planet while changing the world for the better,” said Blankenship. “I’m excited to create a retail experience that is as thrilling as my first drive of the Tesla Roadster.”
Tesla’s stock price rose more than 10 percent in after-hours trading to $17.46, rebounding from yesterday when the stock closed at $15.80, well below its IPO price of $17.
By Scott Evans