Inevitably, whenever someone has an astonishingly successful promotion, someone has to come around and piss on it, to Show Them They Are More Clever. The weird part is that The Verge gave this thing space.
Ignore the headline. Yeah, I know there's a bunch of space in the article devoted to that thesis, but it's a foolish thing to even HAVE a position on. Let's take a look at some of the elements of the argument.
(1) Tesla has quality control issues. They do. This is true.
(2) Tesla has made small numbers of very expensive cars. The Model 3 will be larger numbers of less expensive cars. Oh, wait, that's not the argument. Here's the actual argument:
"Consumers in the mass market are far more reliant on their cars than luxury buyers (for whom a Model S or X might be a second or third car), and thus far more sensitive to quality problems."
The rest of the argument is that ICE makers are better at fixing quality control issues because they are used to making lots of cars. Here, I'm not making this up:
"Meanwhile, existing automakers are rushing a flood of electric vehicles to market, at mass-market and luxury price points, and it will be far easier for them to improve their design and performance than it will be for Tesla to make the profound improvements in manufacturing speed and quality it needs to be competitive in the mass market."
(3) A lot of those pre-orders will be canceled, and Tesla may ultimately not ever sell even 300K Model 3s. Because Leaf.
This is particularly odd. First, the Get In Line ticket cost on the leaf was $100, not $1000, so qualitatively different there. Second, the number of people who paid the $100 to Get In Line for the Leaf was quite small -- much, much smaller than the number of Leafs ultimately sold worldwide. So this argument makes very little sense.
(4) It's not actually an affordable car, and those people who pre-paid $1K are gonna need their money back or at least not be able to pay up any more.
Here are the issues I have with this argument.
First and foremost, the massive, longstanding popularity of the VW in various configurations is proof that there is a slice of the population that will pay too much money for something that is terribly unreliable, for a host of reasons: proving they are Smart (in both senses), environmentally aware, and, basically, Cooler Than You. True, this whole diesel scandal may have finally killed the brand -- won't know for sure for a few more years -- but the crowd that overpaid for VWs has a lot in common with the crowd that is paying a lot for Teslas. And unless they've hidden an ICE engine in the Tesla somewhere, I don't see this particular well of money running dry any time soon. The price point on the VW in many configurations is in the same range as the Model 3. The marketing looks solid to me.
The preorder argument is insane. The scale of the preorder is qualitatively different (cost of ticket and number of participants). But even if it weren't, if you look at the total presales on the Leaf versus sales so far on the Leaf, and modeled Model 3 sales on that comparison, well, Musk is gonna have pocket change around for all kinds of silly projects for decades to come.
Finally, some people _will_ get their preorder money back. Absolutely. But it's difficult for me to imagine that more won't be getting in line, as well.
I don't recognize Niedermeyer or any of his previous work (if I find I've blogged about him before, I'll edit this later). But I have to say I'm kind of surprised and disappointed with The Verge for publishing this. I don't mind the click-bait Apple/Tesla thing, or even all the wasted words on that topic. But the underlying argument -- ICE manufacturers are going to magically start kicking Tesla ass when Tesla reaches down into the "mass market" segment (really? $40K cars are now mass market? who knew?), because Tesla quality control is so terrible and ICE makers are (going to suddenly become) so much better at making high quality electric cars in quantity -- is bizarre in the extreme.
The future is going to include a lot of makers of electric cars, just like the present has quite a lot of makers of ICE cars. There's space for a Bolt and a Model 3, just like there's space for a 3 series and an Escalade. I don't know why people persist in predicting the demise of Tesla. I test drove a Tesla and it was a nice car. I might have bought a Model X, except it wasn't out yet when I bought my i3 -- but I might one day replace my i3 with a Model X, because the range is so much better. I don't know. But I've got decades of virulent hatred of GM getting in the way of me ever seriously thinking about buying a Bolt. And I'm pretty sure I'm not the only person who feels this way.