Outside of Sparks, Nevada, construction of Tesla's "Gigafactory" progresses over a 15-month period. The enormous plant now manufactures the unique battery packs that power Tesla's new Model 3 vehicle. Data analysis firms like Genscape use Planet imagery and other complementary datasets to analyze the health of the world's manufacturers.
As Tesla Deals With Internal Woes, Rivals Make Their Move
By David McHugh
While Tesla grapples with internal issues like production delays, a sometimes-erratic CEO and a recent about-face on whether to go private, its rivals are moving aggressively into the luxury electric vehicle space.
In the next few days, German competitors Mercedes-Benz and Audi, the luxury arm of Volkswagen, are both showing off production-ready electric sport-utility vehicles aimed at Tesla's Model X.
Meanwhile Jaguar Land Rover offers the I-Pace electric SUV while further out, Porsche is taking on Tesla's Model S high performance luxury car with the Taycan, expected to reach the market in late 2019.
The established carmakers have multiple motives. They need zero driving emissions vehicles to meet tougher greenhouse gas limits coming into effect in Europe in 2021. Diesel is in the doghouse. And China, a major market, is pushing hard for more electrics.
But the new models will also aim to win back some of the luxury customers drawn away by Tesla's electric vehicles at a time when the company is consumed by multiple distractions . Its CEO, Elon Musk, took to Twitter on Aug. 7 to abruptly announce he had secured funding to take his company private, only to turn around 17 days later to say that Tesla would remain public . The electric carmaker is also facing financial pressure, with a $230 million debt payment that's due in November on top of the $920 million that must be paid off three months later. And it has only recently hit production targets for its Model 3 mass-market vehicle.
In the meantime, its rivals _ who had emphasized diesel and hybrids _ are finally rolling out the leading edge of what they say will be a slew of all-electric models. Their latest offerings are ``the vanguard'' of more to come, said Ferdinand Dudenhoeffer, director of the Center for Automotive Research at the University of Duisburg-Essen.
``By 2020, Tesla must stabilize itself or be overtaken,'' he said.
The new entrants challenge what has been one of Tesla's key selling points: range. The EQC sport utility crossover from Daimler AG's luxury brand Mercedes, for instance, should go up to 500 kilometres (300 miles) on a single charge. That's comparable to Tesla's SUV, the Model X, which has a range of up to 295 miles. The EQC, to be unveiled outside of Stockholm on Sept. 4, is the first in the Mercedes EQ sub-brand that bundles the company's efforts in electric, connected and autonomous driving. Media representatives didn't provide a price ahead of the unveiling.
Volkswagen's Audi will show off its e-tron in San Francisco on Sept. 17. It offers more than 400 kilometres (248 miles) on a single charge. The company says the e-tron should be able to use high-speed charger facilities _ if they're available _ to charge in less than 30 minutes. The German price will be around 80,000 euros ($93,000) and it should go on sale near the end of the year in Europe, and next year in the U.S.
The Porsche Taycan will also pose a stiff challenge to Tesla's Model S in terms of range: Porsche claims it can load enough power for 400 kilometres (248 miles) in just 15 or 20 minutes. The company hasn't announced a price. The I-Pace, whose price starts at $69,500 before local and federal incentives, offers 292 miles (470 kilometres) under the tougher European Union standard. The Model S, meanwhile, has a range of up to 335 miles.
The starting price for Tesla's Model X is around $80,700 while the Model S is around $74,500.
Not that Tesla is standing still while the competition laps it. Musk has said the company intends to develop a Model Y, a small SUV to be unveiled in the first half of next year _ a growing sales category that other carmakers have been piling into as fast as they can.
But Tesla's ambitions go way beyond the luxury electric vehicle market. That's the whole point of the Model 3, which is aimed at the mass market with a starting price of $35,000 and an EPA range of 310 miles. But there, too, the company must go head to head with rivals. They include the BMW i3 with a starting price of $44,500 and an EPA range of 114 miles; the Nissan Leaf with a starting price of $30,000 and an EPA range of 151 miles; and the Chevrolet Bolt with a starting price of $37,495 and an EPA range of 238 miles. Nissan promises a longer range version of the Leaf for 2019 and in 2020, Volkswagen plans to launch a compact version of its all-electric ID lineup.
Tesla's Supercharger network has a big advantage over competitors. The company's website says it has 1,332 fast-charging stations with 10,901 charging units worldwide. Electric cars made by other manufacturers can't use Tesla stations and public and private charging stations are sporadic. European carmakers are rolling out their own fast-charging highway network through a joint venture, but only a few stations are up and running.
Chris Hopson, manager of North American light vehicle forecasting for IHS Markit, said that established manufacturers are going electric not just in response to Tesla, ``but because of a whole host of other things, with Tesla in mind.'' New electrics serve ``not just to alleviate some of sales going to Tesla but to also to grab hold of the ongoing trend globally toward electric vehicles.''
The electric push also comes in the wake of Volkswagen's 2015 diesel scandal. The company's illegal rigging of vehicles to cheat on emissions testing helped turn consumers off diesels. Falling diesel sales numbers make it harder for European car makers to meet lower fleet emissions requirements coming into force in the EU in 2021.
China is also pushing for more electric vehicles through regulation, requiring carmakers to ensure 10 per cent of their fleets are electrics in 2019. Regulations limit foreign brands to about 4 per cent of the market, with Tesla owning half that. Other carmakers such as BMW, Ford and GM work with local partners.
Analysts James J. Albertine and Derek J. Glynn said they do not see competition as a threat to Tesla, ``but a validation of electric vehicle technology that will grow the global electric vehicle demand pie, of which Tesla is likely to maintain a significant share.''
The Canadian Press. All rights are reserved.
Theft, Drug Dealing, Spying at Tesla Gigafactory
By Susan McFarland
Aug. 17 (UPI) -- A former Tesla security employee has filed a whistle-blower complaint with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, accusing the the electric automaker of covering up theft and spying on employees.
Former Tesla security employee Karl Hansen is the second former employee to make the claims, and he's represented by the same attorney, Stuart Meissner.
Tesla sued the first whistle-blower, Martin Tripp, in June -- saying he hacked its manufacturing operating system and illegally exported company data.
Tripp said he was fired and Tesla sued him for attempting to warn investors and the public about issues with the automaker.
Hansen's complaint, filed Aug. 9, says the company failed to disclose to shareholders that $37 million worth of copper and other raw materials were stolen from its Nevada Gigafactory earlier this year.
"The concern is about material information and omissions to shareholders, and whether or not this information was shared with Tesla's board of directors as well," Meissner told CNBC. "A failure to report a $37 million theft obviously would appear to impact books and records."
The complaint also says Tesla spied on employees by wiretapping and hacking their cellphones and computers, failed to report a Gigafactory employee for potential drug trafficking and retaliated against Hansen for raising the concerns.
The Storey County, Nev., Sheriff's Office said it could not confirm the reports of drug activity, but added reports received about theft were investigated and referred to the district attorney.
Tesla said it made numerous attempts to engage with Hansen about the issues, but he refused.
"Mr. Hansen's allegations were taken very seriously when he brought them forward. Some of his claims are outright false," a company statement said. "Others could not be corroborated, so we suggested additional investigative steps to try and validate the information he had received second-hand from a single anonymous source.
"It seems strange that Mr. Hansen would claim that he is concerned about something happening within the company, but then refuse to engage with the company to discuss the information that he believes he has."
Tesla CEO Elon Musk has been under recent scrutiny for failing to meet production targets and tweeting about plans to take the company private.
In an interview with The New York Times, Musk said the past year has been "the most difficult and painful" of his career.
"It was excruciating," he said.
During the emotional interview, Musk said he's had little time to spend with family, almost missed his brother's wedding and spent his birthday at the office.
When asked if exhaustion was taking a toll on his health, Musk answered, "It's not been great, actually. I've had friends come by who are really concerned."
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Story ID: 20180817-115512-8529 Published: Aug 17, 2018 at 11:55am