And How Do Others Compete With That?

Tesla signifies more than an electric vehicle. . .

“Many consumers perceive Tesla as a leading-edge, high tech, environmentally progressive brand driven by a charismatic leader who not only builds cars and crossovers, but also sends rockets into space and is a global industrial visionary. That combination is hard to beat and has gotten the attention of the entire global auto industry.”  –Tom Libby, associate director, automotive industry analysis, IHS Markit 

Here’s something to consider: there are about 880 Mercedes dealerships in the U.S.—and just some 130 Tesla outlets (Image: IHS Markit)

Does Tueor Technologies Have a Better Idea for Vehicle Control Systems?

Although one of the claimed benefits of the Digital Current System (DCS) developed by Tueor Technologies is that it is “hack-proof,” what is possibly more compelling is that according to Dan Greene, chief operations officer for the company, is that it eliminates from 80 to 90% of the wiring needed for a vehicle’s electrical control system.

Just one loop of coaxial cable. It carries power. It carries data. It combines grounding and feedback.

There is a master control node running the system. There are sensor nodes, switching nodes and slave nodes. Each of the nodes has a varying level of intelligence, from obtaining information to essentially doing a single task, such as locking and unlocking a door.

Tueor’s simple, safe system. (Image: Tueor Technology)

Should the cable break, the DCS keeps working, Greene says.

The unhackability is predicated on the fact that it is a closed system and should there be an update necessary—over-the-air or otherwise—it cannot be loaded into a vehicle system unless there is explicit permission given by the owner. And to prevent something non-desirable from piggybacking onto a valid update, Greene says a check-sum system can be setup so if something is supposed to be X and it is seen to be X + 1, then it will not be permitted to load into the system.

According to Greene, Tueor began its work on the system to address the ability to hack medical devices like pacemakers and insulin pumps. Then they moved on to satellites. Then to military vehicles, working with AM General on the Stryker armored vehicle.

Auto application?

Not yet.

Seems that OEMs and suppliers are not engaging with the Tueor team.

Greene and his colleague John Dinkel talk about the DCS on “Autoline After Hours” to “Autoline’s” John McElroy; Henry Payne, auto critic for the Detroit News; and me.

Then John, Henry and I discuss a number of subjects, with a particular focus on electric vehicles, as Henry is an enthusiastic owner of a Tesla Model 3 and as on the day of the show GM’s Mary Barra announced that the corporation plans to be carbon-neutral in both its operations and products by 2040. Part of that undertaking includes “an aspiration to eliminate tailpipe emissions from new light-duty vehicles by 2035,” which means an increase in the number of vehicles it puts on the road that don’t have internal combustion engines but possibly frunks under the hoods.

We talk about innovation and corporate cultures. And a whole lot more.

All of which can be seen right here.

Sandy Munro on Tesla, Three-Wheelers and Flying Vehicles

From a functional and executional standpoint, there is probably no one who is more well versed in Tesla than Sandy Munro, who established the lean design, engineering and manufacturing consultancy, Munro & Associates in 1988. The teardowns and analyses that he and his colleagues have performed on Tesla models have become the stuff of grist for the never-stopping mill that is a phenomenon since the vehicles started rolling out of the Fremont, California factory. Has there been an auto company’s products that has garnered more attention? It seems unlikely.

Obviously, once a vehicle has been completely disassembled and assessed, it isn’t the sort of thing in which it is possible to take for a ride.

Arcimoto three-wheeler. (Image: Arcimoto)

So on this edition of “Autolline After Hours” Munro talks about how he has acquired another Model 3. . .and this time he and company president Cory Steuben are going to take it on a road trip, where they will make a determination of everything from how the battery works in the winter of the upper Midwest to the heat of the southwest to how hands-off the Tesla FSD (full-self driving computer system) actually is.

In addition to which, Munro talks to “Autoline’s” John McElroy, “Autoline’s” West Coast correspondent Chase Drum and me about what he sees as what is likely to become a growing automotive trend: three-wheel vehicles, like the products developed by Aptera Motors and Arcimoto. Munro explains that these electric vehicles are highly efficient and enjoyable to drive.

What’s more, a couple days before the show GM’s Mary Barra, in a presentation for CES, revealed a concept, the Cadillac Halo, an electric powered, four-rotor VTOL craft. Munro, who has also done extensive work on aircraft, thinks that there is likely to be a proliferation of personal aircraft for commuting.

While this might seem to be something that will be happening in the Jetson’s future, Munro anticipates such transformations in transportation in a matter of years—a few, not many.

And about that Tesla test drive: Munro says that he’ll also take the opportunity to. . .eat a lot of hamburgers.

And you can see it—the show, not the burgers—here.–gsv

Tesla 2020: The Numbers

509,737. Let’s call it what it is: that is a highly respectable production number for calendar year 2020, the number of Models S, X, 3 and why produced by Tesla.

Tesla doesn’t break down the numbers by specific models.

Rather, it reports it this way:

Model S/X:   54,805

Model 3/Y:    454,932

A lot of cars.

ooo

Tesla doesn’t break out where the vehicles are built. Its Giga Shanghai is building the Model 3 and Model Y production is anticipated (if not occurring). The plant is said to have a capacity of 250,000 vehicles a year.

So it could be that given that the Tesla plant in Fremont, California, is building all four models, perhaps a considerable number of the Model 3/Y are being produced in Shanghai. (After all, there are those 54,805 that had to be manufactured.)

ooo

Tesla is credited with doing things that traditional OEMs have not done. (Not the least of which is selling electric vehicles at volume.)

In that reporting of 2020 production it is doing something traditional OEMs have not done:

Reporting based on platforms.

That is, the S/X share a platform. The 3/Y share a platform.

So rather than separating the volumes, it is aggregating the platforms.

ooo

There is a number set of numbers Tesla reported for the year: deliveries.

So while it produced 509,737 vehicles, it delivered 499,550.

Obviously, a number of those vehicles are in transit. Or sitting on lots (not dealer lots, per se).

Tesla shorts will also argue that there are probably a non-trivial being held back for post-production fixes.

Which may be the case.

Which is doing something traditional OEMs have done.

Will Apple Get into the Automobile Business?

Although it is no secret that Apple had been operating a secret “Project Titan,” which was imagined to be its electric—and probably (at least semi-) autonomous—vehicle program, although it was said to have been disbanded, although it was said to be restarted after Doug Field was rehired, a Reuters’ report has gotten legions of Apple fanboys—to say nothing of the investment community—giddier than they already are when it comes to all things Apple.

The vehicle is back, it seems. Launch date: 2024.

Could this happen?

Apple CEO Tim Cook. (Image: Apple)

If so, they’d better start rethinking the Genius Bar and figure out how to install hydraulic lifts in the back of the stores.

As Elon Musk discovered—and it should be pointed out that he has Tweeted that he once wanted to sell out to Apple but couldn’t get a meeting with Apple CEO Tim Cook—building cars is hard.

And this is a challenge whether you’re a long-time manufacturer or someone who has just started within the past few years, trying to take advantage of the “simpler” production requirements of an electric vehicle, compared to one that has an internal combustion engine.

However, as Darren Palmer, global director, Battery Electric Vehicles, a Ford recently told me, “80% of a car is not the drivetrain.” Meaning that it is a challenge to make sures the doors fit, the plastic materials on the inside have consistent coloring, the fascias don’t fall off. And on and on.

Yes, hard.

Apple doesn’t manufacture its products. That is done for it by companies including Hon Hai Precision Industry (a.k.a., Foxconn), Wistron, Pegatron and so on.

So the likelihood of it building its own vehicles is non-existent.

It would have to work with a company that knows how to make things.

In the auto industry there are companies like Magna, which produces vehicles for companies including BMW, Mercedes, Toyota and Jaguar—and for Jaguar it manufacturers the electric i-Pace. Magna has recently entered into an agreement with Fisker. It is working on the engineering of the Fisker Ocean right now and will be performing the manufacturing when it is ready to go.

What’s interesting about Magna is that most people have no idea that it has manufactured so many vehicles.

That is the kind of company that Apple would need to work with.

It knows that building cars is hard (you can see an interview with Magna’s just-retired CEO Don Walker here, where he talks about how tough the task is). It knows how to build them with the highest levels of quality. And it does so while remaining discrete.

Let’s face it: It is one thing if someone has a problem with an iPhone that bends as it shouldn’t or a battery that doesn’t have the life it should and it would be something else entirely were that to be a full-size car or SUV.

Will Project Titan come to fruition?

If it does, Tim Cook will have his hands full. Just ask Elon.