10 years ago, now-rabid CNBC didn’t know Tesla from your mother. Fox News was busy complaining that Obama encouraged people to keep their tires well inflated. Seeking Alpha? Well, I couldn’t find a single Tesla story on Seeking Alpha published in the month of August 2008. But some geniuses on a website called “The Truth About Cars” were onto something. They published episode #17 of their “Tesla Death Watch.”
Here’s the core of that insightful post:
“They’re heading for their promised 100 cars per month. You know; once they get their transmission shit together. in October. Or thereabouts. Or later. Meanwhile, according to a Tesla newsletter released Wednesday night, the Lotus assembly plant in Hethel, England has fifteen cars ‘ready to be shipped’ to CA sans battery and powertrain. I’ll admit it: fifteen cars is fourteen more than I’ve built (don’t ask). But have you seen Tesla’s showroom? These Silicon Valley boys are not exactly Scrooge McDuck when it comes to overheads. Even if you figure each customer car at the new price of $120k, that’s only $1.8m gross income. What’s the bet that each of those cars will end up costing Tesla money (a la David Brown’s Aston Martin era)? Never mind. Saving the planet is a tough job, but someone’s got to do it.”
Talk about some smart cookies, eh? They really saw what was up. Tesla was doomed. It certainly couldn’t build cars. And it didn’t know how to manage money. And if Tesla build cars, those cars would surely cost more to build and market than customers would pay for them. Well, too bad — Tesla might have built some fun cars if it had survived.
Episode #16 was published a week before. Here’s a snippet from that:
“Now, if Tesla can just amp-up production, not ‘fad out,’ keep costs under control (have you seen that showroom?), raise more money, build a more profitable product and fend off competitors, we can take them off the Death Watch.”
Ha. Clever. Funny. Insightful. Spot on the money. Of course Tesla couldn’t do any of those things. Good thing the brave souls at “The Truth About Cars” were calling a spade a spade.
Oh, wait — Tesla didn’t die in 2008?
Oddly, not only did it not die, but some of the same contributors to the Death Watch blog continue to claim that Tesla will collapse any day. (Note: They no longer writer on “The Truth About Cars.” In fact, their credibility has graduated some of them to even bigger websites.)
Here’s a piece of a 2008 post from one of the thoughtful critics who continues to proudly proclaim imminent doom for Tesla:
“Tesla Motors says it’s secured 90 acres between San Jose and Santa Clara, CA to build its world headquarters. Oh, and production facilities for its (supposedly) upcoming Model S (nee White Star) sedan. The announcement is creating all kinds of excitement among the kind of people who use terms like ‘green collar jobs’ and ‘cleantech.'”
The blogging crew also did some community service admonishing Megan Fox for talking about the Tesla she’d buy someday. “Anyway, your money’s no good at Tesla, Megan. And therein lies the tale.” That’s right, it’s just a dream, because Tesla can’t build cars, ya know?
“Just because Tesla has succeeded in making an expensive electric sports car does not mean that it will be able to make a moderately priced five-seat sedan. The latter is a quantum leap more difficult… David Cole, the chairman of the Center for Automotive Research, is another Tesla skeptic. For one thing, he says, the battery solution in the Roadster probably won’t work in a heavier car. ‘Lithium batteries are going to change the world,’ he said, ‘but they are not ready for prime time.’ Tesla’s solution in the Roadster — tying together thousands of small batteries into one giant one — is ‘suboptimal.’ He added, ‘On a degree of difficulty scale, building a sports car is a 2. Building a high-volume affordable car is a 10.’ … The more I prodded, though, the more skeptical I became.”
The truthy car boys didn’t want to be left out of the intelligent prognosticating, adding, “Join the club Joe. And thanks for reading.” See, it’s not only New York Timers that are smart. Even car boys can identify a joke when they see one. They can even write a good joke from time to time. Exhibit A:
Think “fraud” is a new favorite word of Tesla haters? Come on, this one is timeless! Well, it goes back at least as far as 2009.
“Gawker reports that Tesla spinmeister Daryl Siry left the Silicon Valley startup because CEO Elon Musk (above) was pushing to accept deposits on the Model S sedan. The Model S (a.k.a. WhiteStar) exists only as a prototype. Tesla has no factory or financing with which to build it. When Musk announced that the DOE would approve Tesla’s loan application (they haven’t and likely won’t) and decided to accept $40K Model S deposits (next month), Siry smelled fraud and bailed.”
Good thing Siry left back in 2009, before shit hit the fan and he lost a ton of money. (Full disclosure: I don’t recall ever seeing Siry’s name before, and I definitely can’t verify if the claims above are valid. Either way, it appears he got off the ship just before it burned and sank. Lucky him.)
The writer’s historic ending to that article: “Meanwhile, anecdotal evidence from Tesla forums indicates that the real winner here: the Fisker Karma.”
Ah, indeed, the Fisker Karma.
To be fair, Fisker might be back, and the writer of that article above is still warning people that Tesla might collapse at any moment.
A few months later, here’s the title of another post on the Truth About Cars blog: “Tesla’s Model S Ponzi Scheme Rakes in $2.6M. At Least.” Ponzi scheme — clever. Who could have imagined such wit? I’m just honored to be alive at this time, to cherish the literature as it freshly rolls off the keyboards of today’s Mark Twains and George Bernard Shaws.
Okay, that’s 9 years ago, so maybe it’s not super fresh any longer. But isn’t it relevant into infinity? We can roll “Ponzi” into Tesla coverage every day forever.
The Death Watch crew also found a letter from Tesla CEO & Chairman Elon Musk to staff back in 2009 that can be carried forward to today: “This is why I’m so concerned about the continuing leaks to media. It really hurts free communication when even minor issues are leaked and blown way out of proportion. It is nutty that a company like Tesla, which is doing really well right now (how many companies can say that they’re sold out through October?) should suffer from misleading articles on blog sites that would have no credibility, but for a purported inside leak. The leaks often aren’t even accurate!”
Good thing the media got much better about not blowing minor issues out of proportion.
Next up is a good one to end with today. The title is too perfect. Again, this story is from 2009. Here it is: “Tesla Claims Profitability: Do We Believe Them?”
That’s right — don’t believe Elon Musk or anyone else from Tesla when they tell you they’re going to turn a profit or actually just started turning a profit. Yep, fraudsters can be liars, and even if liars can be profitable, a liar is a fraud, and you simply can’t believe liars and fraudsters when they tell you they’re profitable.
By the way, if you dare venture into the comments of any of those stories linked above, you’ll find the early gems of discussions still taking place today on Twitter, Seeking Alpha, CNBC, and even under some CleanTechnica articles. It’s as if nothing has changed.
Never mind that Tesla went from building a handful of Tesla Roadsters to producing approximately 20,000 cars a month, or a rate of 240,000 cars a year.
Oh, wow, you’re still here? As a reward for your perseverance, I spent some time trying to find my first article about Tesla. We started covering Tesla here on CleanTechnica back in March 2009 with the article “The new Tesla Model S is… very sexy,” but my first article on the company wasn’t written until May 2012 when I published “Tesla Motors to Start Delivering Model S on June 22.” That was just a little more than 6 years ago — but it sure feels like decades.
This was a quote from Elon Musk back in that May 2012 article: “In 2006 our plan was to build an electric sports car followed by an affordable electric sedan, and reduce our dependence on oil. Delivering Model S is a key part of that plan and represents Tesla’s transition to a mass-production automaker and the most compelling car company of the 21st century.” Grand plans. Many were laughing. Who’s laughing now?
Here are some laughs: