Automaker Response To Tesla Model 3, Plug-In Hybrids, & BYD (Cleantech Revolution Tour Highlights)

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(Left to right, the people in the video are: Viktor Irle, Roland Irle, José Pontes, me, and Julian Cox.)

As part of the first Cleantech Revolution Tour conference, we had an EV panel discussion with several EV experts — José Pontes of EV Sales and cofounder of EV Volumes; Roland & Viktor Irle, cofounders of EV Volumes; Julian Cox, who led the first example of a market-wide conversion from fuel to lithium battery power as the CEO of a company that he founded; and me, Director & Chief Editor of and

In the discussion, some of the panelists make short statements on BYD & China’s EV sales leadership and the useful but short stepping-stone of plug-in hybrids, and then we got into a long discussion about disruption of the auto industry — receding margins on gas & diesel cars, the self-preserving slow response of large automakers, the practically inherent need for restructuring across the auto industry in the face of external EV-only competitors. It’s a fun discussion and singles out BMW, Ford, Mercedes, Volkswagen, and Apple in some cases, aside from Tesla and BYD. While it covers topics we’ve discussed many times in articles and comments here on CleanTechnica, I think the experts bring some great and detailed perspectives that add a lot of value to anyone interested in this sector.

If you have time to stroll through the 22½ minutes, hit play.

Again, Cleantech Revolution Tour conference #2 will be in Leipzig, Germany, and is now set for June 21, 9:30am to 6:00pm. The location is Wünschmann Haus, Karl-Liebknecht-Str. 10-12, 04107 Leipzig.

You can buy tickets on the eventbrite page. (If you prefer, you can pay in cash at the event, but let us know if you are planning to do that.) And you can get special early-bird discounts from CleanTechnica by following these directions:

  • Go to the eventbrite page and use one of the following discount codes (one is for individuals and one is for companies): CleanTechnicaPrivate15 or CleanTechnicaCompany15
  • First 10 to use the discount code will get tickets for just €15.

Hope to see you there!


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Zachary Shahan

Zach is tryin' to help society help itself one word at a time. He spends most of his time here on CleanTechnica as its director, chief editor, and CEO. Zach is recognized globally as an electric vehicle, solar energy, and energy storage expert. He has presented about cleantech at conferences in India, the UAE, Ukraine, Poland, Germany, the Netherlands, the USA, Canada, and Curaçao. Zach has long-term investments in Tesla [TSLA], NIO [NIO], Xpeng [XPEV], Ford [F], ChargePoint [CHPT], Amazon [AMZN], Piedmont Lithium [PLL], Lithium Americas [LAC], Albemarle Corporation [ALB], Nouveau Monde Graphite [NMGRF], Talon Metals [TLOFF], Arclight Clean Transition Corp [ACTC], and Starbucks [SBUX]. But he does not offer (explicitly or implicitly) investment advice of any sort.

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12 thoughts on “Automaker Response To Tesla Model 3, Plug-In Hybrids, & BYD (Cleantech Revolution Tour Highlights)

  • Very interesting, notice how a couple try to think of ways for the Dino to live; but have trouble except a government hand out. Classic conflict of interest. Plus many of the top “decision makers” will retire in the next 5-15 years, why should they go for lower profit on their watch. Milk the cash cow now, and let the next team worry about the negative long term effect.

    • Yes Zach, I think you are correct. In 5-10 years we will see companies split off and leave old costs behind. Including of course employee benefit costs.

      • Thanks. Yes, it was a very interesting discussion. I think it’s pretty clear that the automakers want and act like they assume this transition will happen very slowly. They must be praying for Tesla to fail. But if you assume Tesla will approx hit its 2020 target, and that Apple, Faraday Future, and Atieva will pop onto the scene with competitive products, those assumptions get pretty concerning quickly (for anyone counting on ICE cars to stick around and auto company stocks not to tank).

        Hadn’t thought of “employee benefit costs.” Those essentially get dropped in such a case? Not sure if I follow, and definitely not a topic I’m familiar with.

        • When the coal mines declare bankruptcy they give the bosses million dollar bonuses.
          At the same time the strip employees of their pension plans.
          GM did this under bankruptcy. I live in Michigan and it was pretty brutal for some people.
          Walmart has passed off health care to the government forever.
          Matt is correct in his statement that they will be splitting apart to get rid of legacy costs.
          On that note, legacy costs are a huge boon to Tesla. Last I remember GM had about $1,800 in legacy costs per vehicle.

  • Left to right, who are these people?

    • Viktor Irle, Roland Irle, Jose Pontes, me, and Julian Cox. (Will add to article.)

      • I put in headphones but still had trouble listening. Maybe I’m just too old to hear conversations in noisy environments?

  • I think there are a couple misconceptions about the “old-school” automakers.

    (1) is that they (the OEMs) make money performing service on “engines”. That’s not correct. Dealers make money and they are independently owned. The OEM makes money on the sale of the car to the dealership. OEMs PAY dealerships for service work covered under warranty (i.e. they lose money due to warranty work).

    (2) there is pent up demand for electric cars and hybrids. This is very true for a very small number of us that that have made the switch, but NOT for the vast majority of the car buying public. Many many people are completely content with the gas burners. OEMs are making money selling gas burners, so why make the switch when the consumer is not demanding them to do so? OEMs will make EVs when there is sufficient demand to start changing manufacturing operations over to an EV-based architecture. They would love to get away from all the overhead and capital expense associated with engineering new gas engines and building them and would enjoy the lower warranty costs associated with electric vehicles. There are plenty of good reasons why traditional OEMs would move to electric, but consumer demand, charging infrastructure, and profitability are still holding them transition back.

    • Dealers make virtually no money selling cars but servicing them. Without dealers OEMs are stuck in the water without a paddle. Dealers are the real customers of the ICE OEMs, not you and me. They have to keep THEM happy.

      No, OEMs would not love to get away from the massive cost of engineering new internal combustion engines and complex 8-10 speed transmissions. Those massive capital cost are their moats and barriers to entry for any new company wanting to enter the auto market.

      In a BEV world every electronics company, electronics/appliance contract manufacturer, and battery company is potentially a serious competitor to the current oligopoly of ICEv OEMs.

      • I can understand your reasoning for the first two points, but I completely disagree with your third point. Ask Elon Musk how “easy” it is to manufacture a high quality automobile. If Tesla lives long enough, I believe they’ll get there and it will be great to have an automobile manufacturer out there that is fully dedicated to EVs. Tesla will help to keep the traditional OEMs moving forward to better EVs, but to say that anybody that makes a toaster oven (or a battery cell) can make an EV is ridiculous. Chrysler has been making cars for 100 years and they still can’t get it right. LOL

        • I think maybe not a full car, but I would imagine that if some electronics company were to build a revolutionary electric motor that was 20% better than anything that Tesla or other EV manufacturers had, they would be all over it!

          In my view, that’s where the competition/disruption for traditional manufacturers comes from, not making a complete car, just all the electronics that go into it. I know Tesla/Elon has said that they continually monitor a bunch of battery technologies/companies (60? i forget the number) so that if something better comes along, they can adapt to it. Can the traditional OEMs do that?

          With gas engines I don’t know how much more improvement can be made at this point, so they are all kinda in the same place, but batteries/electric motors and the associated components have room to grow and breakthroughs are possible that could wreck an OEMs knowledgebase.

          • Traditional car manufacturers can monitor battery development, and probably do. But ICEVs are their main business. EVs are a tiny percentage, at best. Management is not going to be spending a large portion of their time thinking about how to make better EVs, they’re going to be thinking about how they grab more of the ICEV market.

            Tesla has a huge advantage in that everyone in their company is focused on EVs and making them better. There’s no temptation to steal a promising young engineer from the EV team and send them over to the gas-driven department or to short the EV department budget if gas-driven needs some money for a new computer system/whatever.

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