Car talk: Tesla sputters, Google’s robot cars, electric vehicles

We’re talking cars today, from the green kind to the ones that drive themselves:

Tesla shares are going downhill fast — they’re off nearly 9 percent to $27.95 as of this post after the Palo Alto electric-car maker admitted to production delays for its Model S sedan. It cites supplier issues for what it says are delays of four to five weeks, according to the Merc’s Dana Hull. Over the summer, Tesla Motors said it would make 5,000 cars by the end of the year. So far it has made 255 Model S cars and delivered 132.

In a filing with the SEC Tuesday, the company revised its full-year revenue forecast downward. It now expects to bring in $400 to $440 million instead of $560 million to $600 million. In addition, it is offering more than 4 million shares of common stock, with CEO Elon Musk offering to buy $1 million worth, according to a press release this morning.

The news of slower-than-expected Model S production was not surprising. As GMSV mentioned last week, Musk in a TV interview Friday refused to say whether the company would meet its delivery goals for the year. Unfortunately for Tesla, this gives fuel to the naysayers who remember all too well that the company’s first vehicle, the Roadster, also went down a bumpy manufacturing road filled with delays.

Tesla’s filing comes the day after its splashy introduction of a “Superchargers” network Monday. The company says it will build a nationwide network of electric-vehicle chargers that will offer free charges to Model S owners. But from the looks of it, it better concentrate on getting those cars on the road first.

• California Gov. Jerry Brown is expected to head over to the Googleplex this afternoon to sign a bill that would legalize driverless cars in the state. The bill easily passed both the state Senate and Assembly because of a powerful lobbying effort by the Mountain View company, according to the Bay Citizen.

It was about two years ago that Google announced it was testing the cars that drive themselves, raising issues about safety and privacy, among other things. (See Google: Robot you can drive my car, beep beep yeah.) The Bay Citizen reports that the bill allows the DMV to reject autonomous cars that don’t meet its standards, and requires that owners be informed about the data their cars collect.

• The Tesla news is not the only setback for the electric-vehicle industry this week. Toyota announced Monday that it is boosting its hybrid lineup: It plans to unveil 21 new hybrid vehicles in the next three years. But it also said it will offer only a limited number of the eQ, its electric compact. And in other electric-car developments, Consumer Reports blasts the $100,000+ Fisker Karma, a plug-in hybrid, as “plagued with flaws” and says its “problems outweighed the good.”



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  • RedRat

    Tesla is having problems! Duh? Trying to produce an expensive, limited production electric car in these troubled economic times is hardly surprising. Yes, there is a market for limited, very expensive cars, e.g., Ferraris and Lamborghinis, but these are well known and have a long traditional history with a cult following (hey, just like Apple computers and phones). In order to make a profit, you have to set the retail price at too high a level.

    You are building limited production cars so it will take some time to return money to your investors, i.e., stockholders. Is this a big surprise. Heck even Chevy is now lowering the prices on their Volts because they weren’t moving out the showroom, and this at roughly $40K–how much are the Teslas selling for? Frankly, I am surprised anyone put money into this company. Now this is not to say that Tesla cars are not great, I am sure they are, but at the prices they were asking, they had better be. Also, those prices put them in a rarefied economic niche with a lot of great competition, e.g., Ferrari, Lamborghini, BMW, Benz, etc.

  • sd

    And Tesla will sell all of them to well-heeled “greens” who find Ferraris and Lamborghinis contrary to their values and who wouldn’t be caught dead being seen in something as plebeian as a Prius or a Leaf. To Tesla’s credit, they are not offering a “me-too” product. And, if along the way, they can improve the infrastructure for recharging not only their vehicles but others, I wish them the best.