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The world of experts, fake experts, and armchair business magnates has a long history of telling Elon Musk and Tesla what they can’t do.

As you probably know by now, Elon Musk and Tesla have a long history of proving those people wrong.

Nonetheless, any time Elon Musk and Tesla slip up, there is a loud chorus of people yelling “told you so!”

Oddly (or not), they seem to forget the high number of times the experts and skeptics have been wrong. They forget that if Elon Musk and Tesla achieve “the impossible” 9 times out of 10, that means the overall approach of trying to achieve the impossible (and being really good at it) is probably a pretty smart one — even if they fail on 1 attempt out of 10.

I thought about this again recently when Elon Musk was forced to either 1) settle with the SEC about some tweets, or 2) engage in a long court case that would lead to libraries of negative headlines. I counted that SEC lawsuit as a win for the critics and skeptics. Though, obsessively following Tesla long enough to know that the aftermath of a few tweets does not tell the whole Tesla story, I dreamt up this article.

As with some other recent pieces, the goal is to help people put things into perspective and consider the Tesla story of the past 6 to 10 years. If you stare at just one puzzle piece, you miss the point and you miss the beauty of the puzzle.

1. Since we just had a fun article about Tesla Gigafactory 1 being ahead of schedule, let’s start with that. Naturally, many people thought the Gigafactory was insane and even impossible. Heck even a Panasonic exec — and I think JB Straubel and Elon Musk — admitted it was a bit crazy. But they at least believed in it enough to make it happen.

An editor of MIT Technology Review, on the other hand, did not. He summarized a handful of reasons why the factory was supposedly unnecessary and certainly not smart. Here are a few of the gems:

But even for him, the “gigafactory,” as he calls it, seems audacious. …

Why announce plans to build such an enormous factory —especially when electric car sales so far come nowhere close to justifying it? …

The project seems more puzzling in light of the hard times at other electric car battery factories in the United States. In 2009, President Obama announced an ambitious $2.4 billion grant program intended to launch an electric car battery industry in the United States. That effort, so far, has failed—factories were built, but sales have been poor because electric car sales have been slow. All of the battery makers involved have struggled (see “Too Many Battery Factories, Too Few Electric Cars”), and one, A123 Systems, went bankrupt. …

To keep the factory humming, he will have to sell more than 10 times as many electric vehicles in a year as Nissan managed last year (and Nissan has sold more electric cars than any other automaker). 

Of course, it has turned out that the Gigafactory was a viable idea, is extremely useful, and is one thing that provides Tesla a ginormous competitive advantage in this fast growing market.

Score — Tesla.

Production target eventually upgraded from 35 GWh to 150 GWh.

2. There’s long been the whole “Tesla won’t be able to compete with luxury automakers like Mercedes and BMW” thing. Here’s the president and chief editor of a major tech site explaining in 2015 why Tesla’s doomed:

Mercedes will make an all-electric or hydrogen car in the next 5 to 7 years, and it’s probably going to be game over for Tesla at that point. BMW will make one, Volkswagen will make one, Audi will make one, and so on. And those cars will be better designed, better manufactured, and better engineered than whatever Tesla is working on.

Tesla still has not figured out how to make a great car overall. What Tesla has done in just 7 short years is nothing short of astonishing, but they are not going to learn what took Mercedes 100 years to figure out in the next 2 years. Their cars still won’t be on the same level as Mercedes even 5 years from now.

Whoops. Clearly, Tesla is doing more than competing. It is now crushing Mercedes, BMW, and everyone else in the large luxury car market, the large SUV market, and the small & midsize luxury car markets.

Apparently, that website has more visitors than ever and it primarily publishes negative Tesla headlines when it writes about Tesla, from what we’ve seen so far in our Pravduh examinations. In my humble opinion, the readers should really get their money back.

Score — Tesla.

3. A revered Tesla critic who recently got off the anti-Tesla bandwagon, “Montana Skeptic,” used that argument above to relay doom for the Model 3 before it was unveiled, but he also highlighted that the Gigafactory would be inadequate, that there’d be financial disclosure problems with Model 3 reservations, and, frankly, that the Model 3 just wouldn’t live up to expectations.

While Tesla has been astonishingly vague about how big its Gigafactory must be to support Model 3 production, it’s clear that the pilot facility now under construction is inadequate.

Tesla’s Model S and Model X have had the luxury EV market all to themselves. The Model 3, by contrast, will face formidable competition.

Tesla’s reliance on Model 3 deposits as interest-free financing presents the company with serious disclosure obligations to a less financially-sophisticated class of buyers.

Whoops. Whoops. Whoops. That guy, now a myth in his Tesla FUD retirement, is a legend in $TSLAQ circles and many Tesla skeptics on Twitter now sport versions of his antique profile pic. Perhaps they should look back at his record on Tesla before putting on those masks.

There were many variations of “the Tesla Model 3 is impossible” argument, but we’ll just lump them all in together here.

Score — Tesla.

4. Okay, so the Model 3 wasn’t impossible and wasn’t killed by competitors, but it surely didn’t arrive in 2018, right?

There were many claims that Tesla would not be able to bring the car to market before the 2019 … or 2020 … or the 2020s. There are plenty of examples of this, but here’s one quote to represent them all:

Add a few Model 3 specific delays and a launch date of (late) 2018-2020 becomes highly probable. Any Model 3 sale before CY 2018 or even early 2018 looks incredibly optimistic to me at this point.


Score — Tesla.

5. Before the Model 3, of course, the Model X was the impossible dream. Again, there were many claims that Tesla couldn’t produce — and certainly couldn’t mass produce — the Model X. It was just not something that could be done. But I’ll use a quote from always hilarious Bob Lutz for some proof and a short laugh:

The Model X appears to be unbuildable with those automatic gull-wing doors, which everyone in the industry always said were not going to work.

They’re “falcon-wing doors,” Bob. Maybe that was Bob’s problem — he simply didn’t understand how the doors worked. Alas, he and others didn’t trust that a man who could build reusable rockets could also build and mass produce a car with falcon-wing doors.


Score — Tesla.

Global EVRT

6. Before the Model X, mass producing the Model S was that task that was impossible. Back in 2009, very smart people knew what was up:

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.

Whoops. Model S was built, not fraud.

Score — Tesla.

7. Moving away from cars for a minute, there were also widespread claims from experts that Tesla would not release anything remotely as capable as Autopilot. Auto experts proclaimed before Autopilot came out that what Musk promised was just not possible with current tech, and once it was possible, a real automaker would beat Tesla to market. As an example, here’s a line from Bertel Schmitt (aka Mr. B.S.):

If that Autopilot changes lanes automatically at the touch of a blinker stalk by, say, one year from now, in a series Model D, I will publicly eat a Tesla baseball hat on Twitter, Facebook and YouTube. How about it, Elon?

Whoops. In the end, he wouldn’t eat his hat.

Score — Tesla.

8. Back in 2011, it was widely reported that Tesla would never stay independent. It would have to be acquired by some larger, real company. One title: “Elon Musk Says Tesla Won’t Be Sold, But Elon Musk Is Wrong.” From that article:

But regardless of how high the shares go, and how many deals Tesla Motors [NSDQ:TSLA] can cut, virtually no one believes Tesla can stay independent. At least, no one among auto industry professionals, as opposed to armchair commentators and stock speculators.

Industry analyst Aaron Bragman, of IHS Automotive in Northville, Michigan, is dismissive of any chance that Tesla Motors will remain independent.

‘Saab and Volvo can’t survive independently, with conventional products, established production, research, development, and retail facilities, global customers, and massive investment,’ he starts out. ‘Neither could Chrysler. But Tesla,’ he continues as he hits his stride, ‘with a single $100,000 sports car and the promise of a nearly-that-expensive four-door, a handful of dealers, a lack of profit for the foreseeable future, and rivals rapidly developing their own competitor vehicles—they can?’

Other analysts will tell you the same thing, in different words.

Well, that’s that — no independent Tesla.

Tesla can’t go beyond Model S without being acquired.



Score — Tesla.

9. And, of course, long before the Model S, Tesla went bankrupt a decade ago, didn’t it?

Whoops, I guess not.

Score — Tesla.

10. But, surely, it went bankwupt this year, right?

Not so fast.

Score — Tesla.

Image by Kirk Burgess

1. But, Elon did tweet something that did lead to an SEC lawsuit that did lead to a settlement that includes a $20 million fine and Musk stepping down from the role of chairman.

Score — Tesla critics.

Final score (for now): 10 to 1.

Check out more Morning Monkey Business articles.

Related: “10 Nasty Tesla Model 3 Charts.”

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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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