Good news and bad news in the Teslaverse today. The price of shares in the company will either rise or fall on Monday as a result. Let’s begin with the good news, shall we?
Tesla Model Y Prototype Spotted On California Highway
Whilst motoring serenely along on a California highway last week, YouTuber kenken830 noticed a vehicle he had never seen before coming up on his left. It turns out the car was a Tesla Model Y prototype out on a test drive. Kenken830 followed the car for several miles, capturing video of it with his car’s built-in cameras.
Through a happy coincidence, a friend of his was also driving along the same highway in a Tesla Model 3 at that moment. For a while, the two cars were side by side, making it possible to assess their size relative to each other for the first time in a real-world driving situation. Watch the video for yourself to see the difference, which is quite remarkable. Several people who watched the video have commented that the Model Y is much larger in comparison to the Model 3 than they realized.
If it is true the world is crazy for SUVs, then Tesla is about to unleash an all electric SUV with all the features and benefits of the Model 3 that targets the most popular cars in the new car marketplace today, cars like the Honda CR-V, Toyota RAV4, Hyundai Kona, and Volkswagen Tiguan. Even cars like the Jaguar I-PACE, Audi e-tron, and Mercedes EQC will be in its crosshairs. Elon Musk has stated publicly he sees the Model Y outselling the Model S, Model X, and Model 3 combined! Seeing the Model Y up close and personal like this makes it seem Musk’s words are more than an idle boast.
The hope for Tesla fans is that the Model Y will get here sooner rather than later. During the most recent Tesla earnings call, Musk indicated the timetable for Model Y production is being moved forward by several months. There are rumors the first of them could begin rolling off the assembly line in Fremont before the end of the first quarter next year — not a moment too soon for Tesla fans.
NHTSB Opens Investigation Into Tesla Battery Fires
A report in the New York Times carries this headline: “Tesla Batteries Investigated for Possible Defects.” The story itself is a hatchet job that hardly rises to the level of journalism, something the Times does over and over again when the topic is Tesla. Here’s what you need to know: Last April, a camera in a parking garage in Shanghai captured what appeared to be a Tesla Model S bursting into flame. Tesla immediately sent a team to investigate and determined that a battery cell had failed and triggered the incident.
In response to its findings, Tesla created an over-the-air update for the battery management system installed in some of its cars to “further protect the battery and improve longevity,” according to Green Car Reports. That update decreased the range of those cars according to several owners. That’s when attorney Edward Chen got involved. He filed suit on behalf of the affected owners, claiming that all Tesla batteries are defective and that the company tried to get out of its legal liability to provide defect-free products with an OTA that cost little to nothing.
This was all done “under the guise of ‘safety’ and increasing the ‘longevity’ of the batteries of the Class Vehicles,” the complaint stated. “Tesla fraudulently manipulated its software with the intent to avoid its duties and legal obligations to customers to fix, repair, or replace the batteries of the Class Vehicles, all of which Tesla knew were defective, yet failed to inform its customers of the defects.” At the time the lawsuit was filed. Chen said in a statement, “This is no different than what Apple did to their older iPhones in the throttling and performance case.”
After the suit was filed, Tesla issued a statement saying, “A very small percentage of owners of older Model S and Model X vehicles may have noticed a small reduction in range when charging to a maximum state of charge following a software update designed to improve battery longevity. As previously noted, we have been working to mitigate the impact on range for these owners and have been rolling out over-the-air updates to address this issue since last week.”
Not satisfied with the progress of the litigation, Chen fired off a letter in September to NHTSA requesting it open an investigation into Tesla batteries and any BMS updates. In turn, the agency sent a letter to Tesla in October demanding information on — Are you sitting down? — all Tesla Model S and Model X vehicles ever built and all OTA since the beginning of this year. The letter ends with a threat to impose more than $100 million in fines on the company if it does not respond fully by November 28. The Times report clearly relishes the idea that Tesla might have to pay dearly for negligence.
This is clearly an attempt to work the refs, as they say in sports. Chen’s letter to NHTSA has the effect of putting pressure on Tesla to settle the lawsuit. The New York Times in its reporting breathlessly notes that lithium-ion batteries are known to catch fire under some circumstances, such as in early iterations of the Boeing Dreamliner and in various smartphones. It makes sure its readers know lithium-ion batteries are banned on commercial aircraft and that not only did a Tesla catch fire in Shanghai, a car in the US actually caught fire twice! In his letter to NHTSA, Chen refers to the “alarming number of car fires that have occurred worldwide.”
Oh my God! Hide the women and children to protect them from this danger! But never, ever mention that there are more than 150 gasoline fires every day in the United States. The Times even goes so far as to conflate the claim by Walmart that rooftop solar systems provided by Tesla have caught fire at several locations with the danger of vehicle battery fires. The message is clear: stay away from Teslas if you don’t want to get burned or blown up.
I confess I read the New York ‘Times on a daily basis and consider it an authoritative news source in most instances. (Besides, I have a crush on Maureen Dowd, even though her profile photo is probably more than 20 years out of date.) But I have to say its reporting on Tesla falls to the level of the garbage spit out routinely by the likes of the Daily Mail. It is solidly on the side of the Tesla FUD network and undeserving of any credibility whatsoever. When it comes to the NYT and Tesla, caveat lectorem!