As someone rather detached from the automotive world — in other words, someone who considers cars to simply be tools and not extensions of identity — the fervor surrounding debates in the industry often seems strange to me.
Why so much psychological investment in the outdated idea that electric vehicles are crap and can’t compete with internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles? Or, for that matter, the idea that electric vehicles can function as some kind of savior of humanity and preclude the need for fundamental changes to social/industrial systems if anthropogenic climate change is to be limited in any real way?
Ex-GM, -BMW, and -Chrysler exec Bob Lutz is a case in point. It seems like every chance he gets, he goes off on some rant about Tesla, CEO Elon Musk, or electric vehicles in general, rants that often don’t have anything to do with the facts of what he’s discussing.
His most recent rant, on CNBC, featured the claim that: “Tesla supporters are like members of a religious cult. Just like Steve Jobs was worshiped at Apple, it’s the same way with Elon Musk, who is seen as a new visionary god who promises this phantasmagorical future, a utopia of profitability and volume. The only problem is, Steve Jobs delivered and Elon, God bless him, hasn’t delivered a thing, except increasingly negative cash flow, and an increasing lack of profitability; more and more capital spending.”
Hasn’t delivered a thing? What world is Lutz living in? I’m by no means a fanboy of any kind, and yet I can easily say that no one out there is doing anything similar to what Tesla and Elon Musk have been doing. The all-electric firm has been a wrecking ball to the automotive industry. And its efforts appear to be picking up more and more momentum every year.
The company has single-handedly forced a far faster transition to electric vehicles, autonomous driving technologies, and vehicle connectivity (over-the-air updates, etc.) than would have occurred otherwise. (Heck, even Bob Lutz has admitted the Chevy Volt was inspired the Tesla Roadster!) And Elon Musk has been one of the main driving forces behind this (along with others, such as JB Straubel).
It’s a relatively simple thing to look at Tesla’s financial data and see that it could have been profitable quite a while back if it had intended to remain a niche, luxury manufacturer — instead, it has been aggressively pursuing manufacturing expansion, the development of new technologies, and an enormous fast-charging station buildout.
All of this, of course, costs quite a lot. Surely Lutz can read and do the math. Is he simply consciously lying about Tesla and Musk? Is it just a psychological blind spot?
Interestingly, the CNBC coverage, which was published before Tesla’s release of its Quarter 3 2016 results, included this bit: “Tesla is set to report third-quarter results Wednesday after the closing bell. The electric automaker is projected to post a loss of 54 cents per share on revenue of nearly $1.98 billion.”
Well, they weren’t quite right with that “projection,” were they? Whose bets were being set up by those “projections?”
Here are a few more of Lutz’s comments from the interview: “I just don’t see anything about Tesla that gives me any confidence that that business can survive. The last time I checked, (Tesla’s) quarterly cash burn is about $250 million. For a company that size, that’s horrific.”
And: “Every time (Tesla) gets a $500 million injection from a new stock sale or a $750 million injection of new money, it lasts them two or three quarters. This is a problem that volume can’t fix. … If you’re in a variable loss — that is, you’re not recovering labor and materials in your sale price — then doing twice as many, or three times as many, or four times as many (sales) doesn’t help. The losses just get bigger and bigger.”
Since when is Tesla not recovering production costs on its vehicles? Where does Lutz come up with this stuff?
Elon Musk apparently saw fit to respond to the article, in a humorous way, on Twitter:
Dear cult members, I love you https://t.co/1OzRaSQzhT
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) October 26, 2016
For more information about Tesla’s actual performance as of late, see:
- Tesla Profitability Surfaces — Let’s Reflect On Tesla’s Insane Progress
- Tesla — Record Vehicle Production, Delivery, & Revenue Numbers In Q3 2016
- Tesla Model X Already #8 Large Luxury SUV In US, Model S Luxury Sedan Share Now ~32%