Remember The Tesla Death Watch? (Hahaha)

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Originally published on Planetsave.

Tesla was on a “death watch” nearly one decade ago. News coverage and editorials frequently postulated Tesla’s coming demise. “It couldn’t produce cars,” said some critics. “No one wanted its cars,” skeptics claimed. “Its cars broke down around every turn,” liars lied. “Where would people charge? Where could the cars be fixed?” The barriers to success were many and large.

All of this was while the Roadster pioneered the Tesla brand to people who previously thought electric cars were slow and boring. The Roadster busted open electric car awareness to thousands of people. It made electric cars hot.

But then Top Gear pulled a stupid stunt to make the car look like it ran out of electricity too easily and without warning. The market was still super niche anyway, so it’s not like Tesla could achieve its dreams or even survive on the back of the Roadster. But the point was clear: the auto world was no place for a Silicon Valley startup and Tesla’s little battery-powered Lotus was a lame little duckling.

Of course, Tesla had much bigger plans. World domination wasn’t on the cards (yet), but busting open an exciting, hot, electric market for the masses was. For that, Tesla’s team needed to make its next step into the auto market, this time into the large premium sedan class. The Model S was on the way, but few people were convinced the team could pull it off. Auto journalists treated Tesla like a joke, a fun and näive startup to laugh at. Our sister site CleanTechnica was on deck to support Tesla, but bigger tech and car outlets were not ready to make the EV leap.

The Model S rolled out to wide acclaim — getting massive love from auto reviewers and customers. However, Tesla was still learning to make cars and was still spending more money than it could make. Reports of Tesla’s demise continued. “Oh, pity, such a great product, but the company is going to burn out any day, and it certainly can’t make it through the year.”

Tesla paid off its government loans years in advance, it inched its way toward profit, and the Model S ended up becoming the safest car ever tested — yet naysayers focused on super rare battery fires, slight growing pains in the production of electric motors, and what seemed like staged charging failures from a certain energy-focused New York Times writer. Surely, Tesla’s success was a brief blip in automotive trends and the company would be a distant memory by 2020.

Somehow — magic perhaps — Tesla kept rolling. The Model S kept growing in demand, high praise, and overall success. It added features like Autopilot, which some industry experts had claimed was impossible. It crept into more countries globally while quickly expanding its Supercharger network, service centers, and stores in its main markets — the US and Europe. Naturally, this growth was all premature for a company that was about to collapse. It was all a charade, a Ponzi scheme, a way to trick investors out of their money. Tesla was still on the verge of collapse, like always. It had used up its 9 lives and gotten supremely lucky, but that luck was about to run out.

As the company rolled into its next vehicle, Tesla execs decided to go crazy and design the most amazing production car to ever roam the streets. Helicopter-like supersplendulous windshields, falcon-wing doors, beautiful back seats, self-presenting doors — what could Tesla not do? Well, as it turns out, it couldn’t do many things. Supplier bottlenecks, manufacturing challenges, and other nags challenged the rollout of Tesla Model X.

Ah, finally, the forward-thinking skeptics had their day — Tesla was finally going to collapse. Under the weight of the most complicated production vehicle on the planet, Tesla was finally going to meet its long-delayed fate. Tesla’s death was near … as it had always been.

Tesla then burned out, collapsed, and went bankrupt.

Oh no, wait, that didn’t happen.

Actually, Tesla worked through those challenges and got the Model X, a compelling premium-class SUV, to mass production. The company marched on.

The Model 3, a truly mass-market car at an affordable price, was next in line for its day in the sun. Actually, in the world of Tesla “realists,” it was finally the car that would tank Tesla. After all, $35,000 for an electric car with long range was impossible. Tesla couldn’t mass produce cars at such volume anyway. Where would the lithium come from? What about the supplier slips, fit & finish hangnails, and lack of mass production know-how that would ruin the dream? Anyway, there wasn’t enough demand for electric cars to make the Model 3 a success.

Well, it turns out there was more demand than practically anyone projected. Hundreds of thousands of people put down $1000–2000 within a few days of the car’s unveiling in order to have “one of the first” Model 3s. The naysayers, if they took a break at all, decided this was the prime time to step up and inform the world that Tesla was actually, really, certainly about to die. It couldn’t serve these customers. They’d be waiting for years, maybe decades, for their cars. They’d take back their reservations, resulting in a kind of run on the Bank of Tesla. Everyone would soon see that a Model 3 couldn’t be produced for $35,000 — the price would go up, massively. Tesla wouldn’t even get close to putting the car on the market before the house of cards collapsed. Production in 2017? Pffft. Production in hell.

Oh, whoops, as Tesla has done on too many impossible things, it outperformed on the key target. With the Roadster, Tesla made a stunning electric car that blew much of the gearhead world away. With the Model S, it didn’t just create an awesome, compelling sedan — it created the quickest sedan in history (nearly the quickest production car of any kind), the safest car in the history of NHTSA testing, the most loved car in the history of Consumer Reports surveys, etc. Tesla’s mission was apparently to just make a car that ran. Well, the Model S ran quite well — it was the Usain Bolt of the auto world. The Model X — impossible as it was to produce — is now a mass-produced, highly loved SUV, the quickest SUV in history as well as the safest. What were the Model 3’s key targets? Mass production, affordability, and a production start date in late 2017. Well, production is ahead of schedule, the $35,000 target price hasn’t changed, and there could be 100,000 Model 3s produced this year, or at least more than any other electric car on the US market.

Naturally, it’s a perfect time for realism. Now is the time for the critics to save us from ourselves. Now is the time for everyone to run from the flames of Tesla crashing. The Tesla Apocalypse is here, and it’s not going to be pretty. Thank goodness for the foresight of the people who have been warning us since the Tesla Roadster days and whose hard work is going to finally pay off for some intelligent TSLA shorts and pollution bulls.

By the way, did I also tell you the sky is falling?

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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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