Can BMW Fend Off The Tesla Model 3 Charge? – Part 1


Can BMW Fend Off The Charge of the Tesla Model 3? Part 1

While the Segway has enjoyed some success, it never really penetrated the market much beyond specialized uses, like transportation for police departments, guided tours, and theme parks. On the other side of the coin we can look at what the evolution of the cellular phone has done for communication, and what the digital camera has done for photography and the film industry. Both products revolutionized their respective industries and left titans in bankruptcy before they even saw it coming. Electric cars have the potential to do the same thing to the auto industry, and we may just be on the precipice of such an event. We’ve all seen upcoming products being described with buzzwords like “revolutionary” and “disruptive” that later translate into something much less successful after the public actually gets a chance to experience them. I can remember the hype leading up to the launch of Dean Kamen’s Segway back in 2001 when Amazon’s founder Jeff Bezos boldly predicted, “Cities would be built around (it).”

*Editor’s Note: This post appears on Tom’s blog. Check it out here.

For the past few years, many people have wondered which side of history Tesla Motors will be on in ten or twenty years. Will Tesla revolutionize the automobile and lead the charge to electrification, or will they be a forgotten footnote like so many other companies that have tried to do something special and failed? The auto industry is probably the toughest one to penetrate, proven by the fact that the last American automobile manufacturer to succeed was Chrysler Motors, which started in 1928. Since then, every volume auto manufacturer that started in the US has failed, except for Tesla.

People camped out in lines many hours before the Tesla stores opened for Model 3 reservations on March 31st

People camped out in lines many hours before the Tesla stores opened for Model 3 reservations on March 31st

It’s worth noting that Tesla has yet to turn a profit, and in fact is losing hundreds of millions of dollars every year. So they haven’t really “made it” just yet, in fact they still have a way to go. However the prospects of that happening just got much better, better than even the most optimistic Tesla analyst had even imagined. One week after opening the reservation process for Telsa’s next offering, the Model 3, Elon Musk and company had received over 325,000 reservations. By the end of the second week, reservations were at about 400,000.

Reservation holders eagerly plunked down a $1,000 (refundable) deposit to be one of the first to own the car Tesla has been talking about since their inception. This is the electric car from Tesla that is supposed to be affordable (under $30,000 after incentives), have a long range (over 200 miles per charge) can recharge quickly (at one of thousands of Supercharger stations) and is also desirable (fun, fast & stylish). Some Tesla stores had people lining up hours before the 10:00 am opening on March 31st, with hundreds of people waiting to reserve a vehicle that they hadn’t yet seen, didn’t know the exact price, or exactly when it would be available. It wasn’t until 8:30 pm that day that Tesla actually revealed the vehicle and since then reservations have continued to come in at an unrelenting pace.It’s worth noting that Tesla has yet to turn a profit, and in fact is losing hundreds of millions of dollars every year. So they haven’t really “made it” just yet, in fact they still have a way to go. However the prospects of that happening just got much better, better than even the most optimistic Tesla analyst had even imagined. One week after opening the reservation process for Telsa’s next offering, the Model 3, Elon Musk and company had received over 325,000 reservations. By the end of the second week, reservations were at about 400,000.

Tesla has announced the base Model 3 will start at $35,000, and Musk has said he expects the average Model 3 to sell for roughly $42,000 with options. Personally, I expect the average Model 3 sale to be closer to $50,000, because I’m sure most will want Supercharging (likely not included in the base price), plus expensive options like a larger battery, dual motors, and at least a few other optional goodies. Even if we use Elon’s prediction of $42,000 per vehicle, if all of the current reservations were to convert into actual deliveries, that would add up to $16,800,000,000 in sales in just about two weeks. Of course that won’t happen, and many reservations for one reason or another won’t convert. Even if only 50% (about what I expect) actually wait it out and order the vehicle, that’s over eight billion dollars in sales in the first couple weeks. The automobile industry has never seen anything like this. It’s more like the hysteria created over the next iPhone than it is about any previous new car offering.

Lines At The Mall

Lines At The Mall

The lines at Short Hills Mall stretched from the Tesla store all the way out into the parking lot!

I arrived at the Mall at Short Hills, in Short Hills, New Jersey at 9:30 am on the day reservations opened and was shocked to see the line stretch across half of the mall, down a corridor and out of the building. I expected a couple dozen people, but there were 200 to 300 there people at that point, a half hour before the reservation process opened up. I met a friend and current Tesla owner Michael Thwaite there, and he had just walked along the line of people waiting, asking them if they currently drive an EV or if they had owned one in the past. The results of his informal survey were that about 90% of the people waiting didn’t currently drive an EV, and the Model 3 will be their first car with a plug.

So these weren’t hardened EV supporters; the vast majority of people there were new to electric cars, and still they were willing to wait for hours on line for a car they won’t actually get for roughly two years. So does it mean that Tesla has made it? Certainly not, they still have a lot of work in front of them. They still need to get their battery factory, the Gigafactory in Nevada open and churning out millions of battery cells. They still need to retool their Nummi plant in Fremont, California for the high production Model 3 line and then scale up like they never have before.

The Supercharger network is only one example of something the industry has been saying Tesla can’t do. Another example is the direct sales model. While Tesla has had difficulty in some states because of archaic dealer franchise laws, they are still selling their cars throughout most of the US without issue. This is something many thought wouldn’t be possible. Then there are the sales of the Model S, Tesla’s first volume offering which has been available for a little over three years now. Many people were doubtful it could compete with the large luxury sedans it would be priced against, cars like the Mercedes S Class, the BMW 7-Series, Audi A7 and the Lexus LS. After all, these vehicles have had decades to build a following of brand loyal enthusiasts. How many people would be willing to plunk down $80,000 to $130,000 for a car from a new manufacturer with no company history, dealerships or in many cases service centers within driving distance?

A recent picture of Tesla's Gigafactory under construction outside Reno, Nevada. Photo credit: Above Reno

A recent picture of Tesla’s Gigafactory under construction outside Reno, Nevada. Photo credit: Above Reno

Many industry insiders will still say they won’t be able to do it, that this will be the challenge that Tesla cannot meet and if they fail to produce a high quality vehicle in large volume it will be their undoing. The funny thing about that is I’ve been hearing this for five years now. I’ve talked with executives from just about every major OEM, and as recent as only a few years ago nobody even gave Tesla a chance. They laughed at the Supercharger network and how Tesla would need to spend hundreds of millions to build and maintain it. Tesla now has over 3,600 Supercharger stations worldwide and expects to have over 7,000 by the end of 2017. This network is unrivaled in the industry. Every other automobile manufacturer is either hoping EV infrastructure matures, or is just mildly getting involved by subsidizing regional infrastructure projects.  However, they aren’t willing to commit to own or manage the stations as Tesla does to ensure that the stations are strategically located and operational when customers need them.

Well, the Model S hasn’t just been competitive in this class, it is dominating it. Comparing 2014 and 2015 US sales in this class, Tesla had a 51% increase from 16,689 vehicles to 25,202. During that same period, sales for every single competitor in this segment were down, while the total for the entire segment remained about the same. The Model S didn’t necessarily bring new buyers to the segment; instead it took sales from the established competition already there.

Every single vehicle in the segment experienced an abrupt sales decline in 2015 while Model S sales increased by 51%

Every single vehicle in the segment experienced an abrupt sales decline in 2015 while Model S sales increased by 51%

If the Model 3 does to this segment what the Model S did to the competitors in its segment, the shock waves will be felt through the entire industry.  Who’s to say Tesla won’t do it again in the other segments? The Model 3 looks to be a formidable competitor so the only answer is for the competition to also step it up. The established OEMs must bring exciting, long range and affordable electric vehicles to market or they risk being the next Polaroid or Kodak. No, they aren’t too big to fail, and yes, it can happen.

It’s impossible for the premium brand automakers to disregard Tesla any more; to do so would be corporate suicide. In fact, last week Daimler held their annual shareholders meeting in Berlin, and no less than four times they were asked by concerned shareholders why they didn’t have an answer for Tesla.So what does this mean? First, don’t bet against Tesla. Tesla has been beating the odds all along. Despite being told they can’t do it, they just keep plugging along (pun intended), winning awards and accolades, extending their proprietary network of high-speed chargers and building a fervently loyal following.

Musk has repeatedly said the Model 3 will compete head on with the BMW 3-Series. The 3-Series has been the benchmark for the entry level, premium sport sedan market for decades. It’s the king of the hill in that segment and BMW’s bread & butter. BMW sells about 100,000 of them per year in the US – and it’s the only car in the class to eclipse the 100k mark per year, domestically.  Now think back to the 400,000 Model 3 reservations Tesla accepted in two weeks. Even if half of those reservations cancel, the Model 3 will not only outsell the benchmark of its class it its first year, but it will likely sell more than double its closest competitor in the segment. That’s provided Tesla can scale up to meet demand of course, and while it’s unlikely that they will have the capacity to make 200,000 Model 3s in the first year, they will be severely cutting into the sales of competing cars in this segment.

However, before we crown Tesla the new champion of the auto industry, we need to realize the other OEMs haven’t exactly been sitting on their hands for the past half a decade. They have all, to some degree or another, been working on electric vehicle programs, and they all have the resources to get up to speed quickly. BMW is probably positioned better than any other premium brand, as they have poured billions into the sub brand BMW i, which already has the BMW i3 & BMW i8. But as good as the i3 is today, it won’t be good enough to compete head to head with the Model 3 in 2018 unless BMW were to triple the current range and also reduce the current cost, neither of which is likely to happen.

An artist's rendering of the rumored BMW i5

An artist’s rendering of the rumored BMW i5

Now realize in the time it took you to read this article Tesla has likely accepted about 100 more Model 3 reservations. Sometimes I wonder if the legacy OEMs really understand what’s happening here.So is BMW the walking dead without an answer for the Model 3? No, not even close, but they do have a lot of work to do. Now that Musk has showed his hand they know where they need to be in 2 to 3 years.

In part two of this post I’ll lay out my plan for BMW, which will ensure they aren’t left behind and wondering, “How’d that happen?” I’ll discuss my recommendations for BMW’s entire plug in strategy, from the next generation i3 to the iPerformance PHEV line. However the real weapon will be the rumored (upcoming) i5. If BMW has any chance of retaining many the customers who plan to turn in their 3-Series for the Model 3 when it’s available, the i5 will be what keeps them from defecting to Tesla, and in part two I’ll design the car they need to bring to market sometime in 2018 to keep them relevant in this segment.

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116 Comments on "Can BMW Fend Off The Tesla Model 3 Charge? – Part 1"

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Not with the i3. Sales of that thing are going to crash. Who wants to pay $10K more for a weird looking EV that only seats 4 and has half the range. BMW needs a new EV.

With slightly more range over a i-Miev from 2010. I know it’s not fair to compare, but the cars couldn’t be more different.

I still see the range of the car being the determining factor here, and it’s even more particular on 2nd hand resale value.

I think the i3 is too polarizing in appearance to really compete with the Model-III even if the range were competitive. There only hope is to introduce an all new vehicle to their i sub-brand that can directly compete. It doesn’t have to be a pure EV. They can put a range extender in there if they want and it will still compete, and may even grab a good chunk of customers who aren’t really to go pure electric just yet.

If BMW puts a range extender in their Model3 competitor, they will simply loose.

Mark my words…!

That red i3 looks surprisingly large when parked nose-nose with the Model S, trick photography? I think perhaps the i3 is larger than it looks when not parked by other cars.

It is higher, shorter and more narrow. Just how it looks. Don’t overestimate height of Model S.

Its the cheat software making your digital camera increase its size whenever its parked next to a competitor. Be afraid, be very afraid

The only problem with the i3 is it’s size. It simply doesn’t compete with the M3 because the model 3 can hold 5 normal people in a normal looking car.

The i3 competes with the Mini, the Ford Focus, the i-Miev. Small cars. And the American Price is Unbelievable.

The i5 would be the M3 competitor. But, with BMW pricing, I don’t see how it can win. I love efficiency. And the i5 would probably win the efficiency race. But, you can’t stick skinny tires on an i5, and make it goofy looking. The i5 has to be a futuristic 5 series sized car.

Maybe. But certainly not if BMW continues their current practice of putting a tiny battery into an ICE, calling the result a PHEV. The card can theoretically drive a few miles all-electrically, but then they are severely underpowered and uninspiring. So in practice they are just slightly less inefficient versions of the ICE car. The Norwegian EV drivers association tested the X5 PHEV. In slow city driving in Oslo, making sure to plug in every time they parked (Oslo has lots of curbside charging points, at low power), they couldn’t achieve half the mileage of many ordinary ICE and hybrid cars. It got the lowest possible grade of one (scale is one to six). What BMWs PHEVs have been so far is really nothing but exploiting bad regulations that hand advantages to PHEVs regardless if they’re actually efficient cars or not. Sadly Europe appears to be making the big mistakes in this area, with the notable exceptions of Norway and France. PHEVs can work only if three conditions are met: 1) has sufficient range that 95% of people can do 95% of their driving in all electric mode. 2) gasoline is much more expensive than electricity. 3) people are able… Read more »

They will never come close to the Model 3 price point…too much overhead unless they opt for zero profit…

The i3 has done well up to now but M3 is a game changer. Though the look of the i3 has grown on me, all future EVs will need to emulate the M3 sedan form as until battery density doubles again, aerodynamics plays a big part in range which is so important to converting ICE owners to switch. I hope BMW ups their game as they have made the investment in EV deveopment, and I hope they retain some carbon fibre components.

Yeah, it drives me crazy that other car makers just don’t “get it”. Their car designs became lazy with cheap gasoline.

As much as we want the situation to change, batteries are EXPENSIVE. To get more range, you can add more batteries . . . but it is very expensive.

However, with good aerodynamics, you can add range FOR FREE! It is even better than free because adding more batteries adds more weight. So if you want to build a good freeway speed EV, you have to make it as aerodynamic as you can (without losing mass consumers). ONLY Tesla has done this. All the traditional ICE auto manufacturers just refused to adapt.

Such an easy concept but they just don’t get it. I’d say that it is “not rocket science” but perhaps some of Musk’s work at SpaceX helped him realize how important this is. 😉

Making a low aerodynamic drag car is hard,… Real hard… As in not easy at all.
Aerodynamic drag reduction definetly doesn’t come for free.
Also aerodynamics have the same percentual range change effect, no matter what the drivetrain is. Wether the car runs on gasoline, battery stored electricity, steam or pixie dust. Reducing aerodynamic drag is equaly important with a battery with double the specific or volumetric energy density, because after range is achieved, less battery capacity requirement still results in lower cost, better handling, and better acceleration.

In practice, aerodynamics matter more to battery-powered vehicles.

Aerodynamics are mainly there for highway range.
Internal combustion engines often have a higher thermal efficiency on the highway that anywhere else. They consume more fuel at 60 mph, of course, but they produce much more energy. That’s why highway MPG is so much higher than city, not just the lack of stops.
So even with lousy aerodynamics, the engine partly offsets drag.

But EV drivetrains are close to maximum efficiency at every speed. Weight doesn’t make a huge difference in steady highway driving either. Aerodynamics is all that is left.

I think highway driving is what potential buyers are really worried about, not the EPA test cycle.

I disagree. I think aerodynamics is easy. What’s hard is making a car that is both aerodynamic and ATTRACTIVE at the same time.

I don’t know. The Mercedes C class has a drag coefficient of 0.24, the same as the Model S. If it was an EV they could remove the air intake and probably get in the same range as the Model 3 is aiming for. Similar the BMW 3 series (which, dare I say it, looks a lot better than the Model 3 in my humble opinion).

It’s not the C class in general that achieved the 0.24 Cd, it’s the CLA body that gets the low drag. The regular C Class is nowhere near that good. However, I would be happy to buy a BEV CLA if the important stats are the same as a Model 3.

Not that it matters much, but according to Mercedes the C class has .24 too:

A few years ago this was “ugly car” territory, but there have been significant advances thanks to more advanced modeling algorithms. Tesla’s values are at the top of the class but they aren’t the only ones.

WOW that is a first … looks better..I have the BEV i3 and never gave a damn about looks; I just wanted that high efficiency, snappy handling, and excellent performance..and I got just that ….but with Model 3 pricing, supercharging and no dealer bull-ship putting down the $1K for a second BEV was real easy.

“with good aerodynamics, you can add range FOR FREE!”


But how *much* range can you add? 10%? 15%? It sure as hell isn’t going to be 100%. Or 50%. Especially in the city. Then what happens when you stick a roof rack on top of your car? Now you’ve done it!

Or you can shut up, stop whining, and double the battery capacity any way you can. As Enzo Ferrari put it, aerodynamics is for people who don’t know how to build batteries.

Brave says “But how *much* range can you add? 10%? 15%? It sure as hell isn’t going to be 100%. Or 50%.” Instead of arguing tgat point, I woild sugest you go spend a day reading articles and experiences on EvoModder –

I remember a crude aero upgrade on a Honda thatctook it to 80 Mpg, and a full size pickup that went from 24 Mpg before, to 32 Mpg after!

My own efforts – – got me the ability to tow a 2,000 Lb. car at a fuel cost of just 1 litre per 100 Kms.

Because fuel has been cheap for so long, automakers have forgotten the importance of great aerodynamics!

Aero works. The 2010 Honda Insight gets 55 mpg on New Jersey ( flat ) highways, at 65 mph. It’s only rated 43 highway.

EXACTLY. And it is especially important if you want to drive fast. And Elon likes to drive fast . . . as do many Californians, so that probably helped guide their efforts.

With an ICE car? . . . if your aero sucks just add another gallon of size to your fuel tank. (OK, they do have to consider CAFE standards but those are EASILY achievable with hybrids.)

I think it’s fairly arrogant to say they don’t get it. It’s not profitable making EVs. So it takes someone like Musk who has the ego to convince himself and others he will save the world to actually do what they are doing.

When it begins to make business sense making the cars, they will do it.

None of the incumbents had anything to gain by promoting EV technology and potentially much to lose. Their behavior is perfectly rational, just like you may behave rationally when boarding a plane to go somewhere just for fun. It’s easy to point to better ways of spending your resources if we assume your goal is to help the world. It’s also completely unreasonable to expect you to want to sacrifice yourself for the benefit of strangers and the unborn future generations. We’re merely humans.

You do understand the i3 is the most efficient mass produce car… every kWh let it go further

Based on other models, i5 would be closer to the Model S than Model 3. i3 will need a major update to be competitive with Model 3. Most likely, i3 is going to go down the same road as the current Leaf with low sales until it finally sells enough to allow a new model to be built. BMW may be able to make i3 look better with new body panels, but not likely to get 200 miles without starting over from scratch

BMW is going to learn the hard way that people who want electric cars don’t want ugly ones. I hope the Tesla Model 3 outsells BMW 1000-1.

Hey! Watch it! I own and drive an i3!
She’s NOT ugly,… She has personality! … Ok?
Not ugly,… Just ermmm,… “Different” … Not ugly…


I like the i3’s looks (inside and out)

Give me an equally equipped and priced 250 mile (bev) i3 vs a Model 3 and I’d probably go for the i3.

But that’s me. I like cars that “stand out” at least a little bit. And the i3 would be a little more “everyday useful”, as well.

That is BMW problem, is difficult to find customers with unique and exceptional tease like you to make huge sales. M3 is less controversial more main stream beautiful car.

:-). In French we have a say that goes something like “she is not ugly, she just does not have easy looks”. Hard to translate but it seems to be exactly what you mean…

“All women are beautiful. Some are just less beautiful than others.”

No. That’s decidedly not what it means. It means her beauty isn’t stereotypical and therefore not as immediately apparent.

I’d personally describe the i3 as cool and avant-garde rather than beautiful.

Then again I drive a LEAF. The epitome of sexy, it isn’t.

Maybe I missed something, but all I have heard about from BMW concerning new cars has been plugin-hybrids – Point missed.

Very much so, when you have legislation in effect that gives a full EV a 4% tax disc and the rest 25% it doesn’t make your shiny car very effective at selling to the Dutch lease market.

The Netherlands isn’t the only country where BEV is treated very differently from PHEV.

So basically, if BMW is considering the i5 as a hybrid only it’s basically dead to market in NL. There is no fiscal advantage in driving on.

I’m sure that car will work for Germany or the US where there is no discrimination between the PHEV and BEV world. Until there actually is ofcourse.

As it is often the case, legislation makes for a harsh judge.

On the other hand, the writing was on the wall in 2013 when they (the government) already decided to hike the tarif for the hybrids, it’s foolish to ignore that.

The best way to get the incentives right is simply to put a price on carbon that reflects it’s costs. You’d get $8 gasoline and things take care of themselves. Adam Smith, father of capitalism, would have supported it – he argued that capitalism was good because it led to individual choices that maximized the common good. If he had thought about externalities (nobody did back then) he would have argued for taxes to match them as exactly as possible.

If we actually had to pay the price of our actions ourselves (and conversely, stop having to pay for everybody else’s actions) capitalism would work as intended. The selfish choice of a consumer and of a manufacturer would coincide with the best choice for society

I find it funny that the country on earth where capitalism appears to be the most misunderstood is simultaneously regarded to be the greatest shining capitalist example.

Take the same construction methods and materials, come up with a great looking 4 door(conventional doors) design (hatchback?)(fastback?) offer it up with a PHEV (20kwh plus range ext) or pure EV with a 60kwh pack.

So a Model 3 with CRFP? That would be nice but expensive.

Doesn’t any OEM who wants to go toe to toe in the ring with Tesla also have to jump with both feet into the battery manufacturing arena?

I think it’s smarter to leave it to companies like LG, which will be able to realize great economies of scale. They have enough capital to build several “giga factories” in relatively short order if the market demands it.

But if they cut themselves out of the majority of manufacturing, they become wholesalers (not manufacturers) so most of the jobs and most of the profits end up somewhere else (like Korea or elsewhere in Asia).

There is a growing list of large companies that WILL manufacture BEV’s (including the batteries):

1. Tesla
2. BYD
3. Mitsubishi
4. Foxconn

….So three of the four I can think of are asian. But hey, what’s the chance that “asiatic electronic manufacturing” could move in and crush “indigenous electronic manufacturing”?

I mean, have we ever seen anything like that happen before?

Batteries prices are going to be a race to the bottom and the only profits will come from massive scale. I don’t think most automakers want to be in that business.

Making automotive battery cells will soon be a commodity business (probably it already is). I think pack construction and -management is much more interesting in terms of value, and all the big manufacturers have are making significant R&D efforts in this area.

Do you have evidence to back that up? I don’t see that from their earnings reports, nor their existing capacity.

LG said they have the ability to add 6GWh/year if needed. At least until 2020.

Carcus said: “Doesn’t any OEM who wants to go toe to toe in the ring with Tesla also have to jump with both feet into the battery manufacturing arena?” Indeed. You’ll note that both Nissan and Tesla have moved to build their own battery factories, because both have had production constraints due to limited battery supply. BYD, which I guess is now the #1 EV maker as far as volume of sales goes, also makes its own batteries. It’s all very well to say “Well, LG Chem can ramp up what they supply to GM for the Bolt, and ditto for Samsung and the BMW i3″… but then, you could have said the same about Panasonic and Tesla. Didn’t happen that way, now did it? Despite continuing pressure from Tesla, Panasonic’s supply has, apparently, usually lagged behind Tesla’s demand. It makes no more sense for an EV maker to be dependent on a third party for battery supply than for a gasmobile maker to be dependent on a third party for gasoline engines. You can probably find a relatively small number of cases where one gasmobile maker did use an engine made by another, but never in one of their… Read more »

Nissan production constrained? I’d LOVE to see your sources for that one!

In 2010, maybe. Today… not so much. With everyone and their uncle aware that the current crop of entry level EVs are about to become obsolete, the LEAF isn’t exactly selling like hotcakes.

GM doesn’t own any iron quarries or tire factories, and they still do fine.

M3 will be supercharger-capable, but, an add-on option to get service.

I doubt that I would enable the service unless it was on a usage basis. I don’t travel long distance enough to need it.

Autopilot on the other hand is a must!

I’m hoping they won’t ignore economics 101. If charging is free it will be abused. It’s already an issue some places, and 2x the chargers but 10x the volume, just in the short term, requires another approach.

My suggestion: set a price per minute, not per kWh. That encourages people to get off when charging slows dramatically above 75% out so. Set the price so that when charging at maximum speed it’s slightly more expensive than home charging. That kills the abuse where people charge not to get to their destination but to save money. Finally, let us pay online after the fact, rather than complicate the charger with payment systems. Anyone who don’t pay simply lose access.

This piece targets BMW very nicely, but BMW IS attempting to electrify. The company that is setting itself up to disappear is Lexus. Where I live, if you don’t get a BMW 3-Series, you get a Lexus IS. Lexus repeatedly says that it will not add a plug to anything according to other pieces I read. So while Elon has mentioned the BMW 3-Series as the benchmark in the past, it is not the likely competitor to disappear first.

Unless Toyota has “spun off Lexus” as it’s own entity, Lexus vehicles are Toyota vehicles which might explain the plug phobia “Mirai anyone”

BMW is neither electrifying nor at any existential risk from Tesla. Nobody – not even Tesla! – makes any money making EVs.

When EVs begin to become a business we will begin to see what BMW can do. Electric drivetrains aren’t difficult

I do hope Toyota dies as a result of lying to the public and governments for decades about hydrogen vehicles. That’s not fair game. Choosing not to make EVs because you expect you’d lose money IS fair game. Government must bear the responsibility for protecting the environment and future generations. Unfortunately they are far too often naive in their dealings with corporations.

BMW has said many time, they make money with the i3 (excluding R&D for which they get taxe credit and cost distribution for their entire fleet)

A BMW i5 may be able to steal back some of the Model S sales, but I don’t think it will win any Model 3 customers over as the price will most likely be huge.

By the time the M3 gets out of the factory in masses (2019-2020), the i3 will already have receive 2 battery upgrade (one this year and another 1 year later). And being the most efficient car, every kWh added makes it go further.

i3 is the car that the Bolt EV will be competing against! That is BMW’s 1st competitor, in size, style, and range: it looks like a longer ranged, more conventional hatch, but with proper back doors!

Yes. It’ll be interesting to see how brand versus range plays out. You’d be amazed sometimes what people are willing to pay for as long as it has a BMW logo on it. Top Gear once illustrated a best selling BMW, the awful and pointless X3, with an image of a pile of droppings with a BMW badge on top…

When talking financials, it’s not competent to talk about Tesla losing money, and not mention it’s 1.5 Billion in Asset build it.

Just so you know.

“When talking financials, it’s not competent to talk about Tesla losing money”.


But maybe you are being ironic.

No. I’m not. That “lost” profit is building out Assets on the balance sheet at record speed.
We’re talking Billions with a ‘B’.
That’s Big Boy Money.

Beta995, what is competent when talking Tesla financials is saying that their losses would only be half as big if those large investments for growth would not be made (see my reply below to PP).

One need to carefully filter information about Tesla, lots of BS coming from both sides. You need to have your own educated reading of their annual reports.

No, I suggest you take an introductory Accounting course. Spending $1.5 Billion in 2015 on constructing or purchasing Property, Plant, and Equipment (PPE) assets affects only the Balance Sheet and does not affect the Income Statement. In other words, if Tesla spends $1.5B on PPE assets in 2015, if does NOT deduct $1.5B as an expense on it’s 2015 Income Statement. Tesla can deduct only a small portion of the $1.5 Billion spent on PPE assets in 2015 as a depreciation expense. The 2015 depreciation expense on the $1.5B is no more the $200 million, since the assets must first be placed into service to start depreciation, and the Gigafactory is depreciated straight-line over 30 years (straight line) while the equipment is depreciated over 3 to 12 years (double-declining balance). The accounting entries are listed below. For purchases of PPE: Debit Property, Plant & Equipment (asset) $1.5B Credit Cash (asset) or Accounts Payable (liability) $1.5B Any amount spent on “Construction Expenses” during the year are converted into PPE assets at the end of the year by an adjusting entry. The amount spent on “Construction Expenses” during the year: Debit Construction Expenses (expense) $xxx Credit Cash (asset) or Accounts Payable (liability)… Read more »

Thanks for trying to explain this to him, hope it works, for his own good.

beta995 said:

“When talking financials, it’s not competent to talk about Tesla losing money, and not mention it’s 1.5 Billion in Asset build it.”

Thank you, beta995!

Yeah, it gets very tiresome reading all the statements about Tesla “losing” money. What, did they forget where they put it? Did it blow out the window? Did they put it in a bag and the cleaning lady threw it out by mistake?

Nobody would call it “losing money” if you make a prudent investment in a retirement fund. Nobody would call it “losing money” if a store owner doing a brisk business spent money on building a bigger store.

Tesla is not “losing” money by investing in future. Nothing is being lost; it’s an investment.

The fact that Tesla is a sizable company and the amount in question is billions, instead of the thousands or tens of thousands you’d invest in a retirement fund, doesn’t magically turn an investment into a “loss”.

PP, either you just repeat what you read or was told (what I suspect) or you did your homework and fully analized Tesla annual report 2015 (10K). If you did your homework then please let me know what is wrong below: 1/ INVESTMENTS (“Capex” for “capital expenditures”). Capital expenditure (“capex”) is an expense where the benefit continues over a long period, rather than being exhausted in a short period. 2/ IMPACT OF INVESTMENTS (CAPEX) ON THE RESULT OF A COMPANY. The capital expenditure costs are then amortized or depreciated over the life of the asset in question. 3/ TESLA ANNUAL REPORT FOR YEAR 2015 4/ WHERE CAN I CAN SEE THE IMPACT OF LONG TERM INVESTMENTS (CAPEX) IN TESLA ANNUAL REPORT 2015 ? Download the annual report (10k form filed Feb 24, 2016) as a pdf document. Go to top of page 52, see the “consolidated statemement of cash flow”. see line “Depreciation & amortization”, $422,590M for year 2015. 5/ WHAT PROPORTION OF TESLA TOTAL 2015 LOSS DOES THIS AMOUNT REPRESENT ? Go to page 49 of annual report and see “Consolidated statement of operation”. Net loss for 2015 (thus not including currency translation adjustments) is $888,663M… Read more »

You are absolutely correct.

Just to clarify, the $422 million of depreciation expense for Tesla in 2015 is on the total amount Tesla’s capital expenditures, $3.4 Billion on 12/31/2015, and not just on the $1.6 Billion it spent on capital expenditures in fiscal year 2015. The depreciation expense on the $1.6 Billion of capital expenditures in 2015 would be no more than about $200 Million, a rough estimate based on the $191 Million difference (increase) between 2015 depreciation ($422 Million) and 2014 depreciation ($232 million).

The only other indirect expense from capital expenditures would be interest expense on any debt/bonds used to finance the capital expenditures. Financing through issuing additional stock obviously would not incur any interest expense.

Thanks, it would be interesting to know those interest expenses on the loans used to finance those investments as to exactly know the operational loss per car Tesla had in 2015. If information is nowhere to be found in the 10K, perhaps knowing how much total cash Tesla raised through the equity increases divided by principal of total bond issues would give an idea of the mix (% equity, % bonds) used to finance those investments, now I don’t know the interest rate applicable on bonds issued by Tesla.

OK, so you explained the portion that corresponds to factory growth, sales and service centers, and supercharger network (capital expenditures).

Where does product development show up? You’re paying people to design and build prototypes of cars and of battery cells, computer modeling first, then testing prototypes, then spending more money to develop and implement higher production rates.

Musk said that they have 25%-28% profit margin on Model S. I assume that means that the total cost, per unit, of a Model S (parts + labor + equipment) is only 75% of the sale price.

Unless he’s lying, which I doubt, then I’m trying to understand where these “operational losses” are coming from. It makes no sense, unless Musk does not include the cost of operating sales and service centers and superchargers into the cost of the unit vehicle.

That I am not sure, if I find the reply to that one I let you know.

Since development costs (R&D, design) benefits continues over a long period of time it should be part of the capex and thus depreciated over time but I am not 100% certain.

Lexus could take the prius prime powetrain and use it in the new CT (2018? )
plug in 22 miles aer

but they wont.

scott franco (No M3 FAUX GRILL!)

“Both products revolutionized their respective industries and left titans in bankruptcy before they even saw it coming. Electric cars have the potential to do the same thing to the auto industry”

Don’t worry. When GM and Ford start getting killed by the EV market, the government will come in and rescue them again.

Funny. Didn’t the government also rescue Tesla? As for the Ford “rescue”, when did that happen, exactly?

The government bailed out all the Detroit Titans and saved them from bankruptcy.

Tesla didn’t get bailed out, it got loans for alternative energy development, all of which were paid back. Also electric cars don’t get rebates, rather people get a tax credt for buying a car with zero emissions. That credit does not compare to all the oil subsidies, tax credits, investment incentives, war, pollution, costs of human life lost.


The actual crisis went beyond GM and Chrysler. If they had failed, they would have taken down major US parts suppliers that all manufacturers rely on. I recall Toyota supporting the bailout for exactly that reason. Thus Ford benefited from the bailout indirectly.

It would be interesting to see if Tesla is more immune to such a supply chain collapse, but if it happened none of us would be in the market for cars of any kind.

June 2009. Ford borrowed $5.9 billion dollars from the Gov. It wasn’t called a “bailout”, hah.

That was the same ATVM loan program that Tesla got a loan for – they had to prove a certain level of solvency. The appropriations bill that permitted the funds for the program had stipulations about what they are allowed to spend the money on, how much of that money they get at one time, and whether they were financially healthy enough to receive the money to begin with.

DonC continued his Tesla bashing campaign:

“Funny. Didn’t the government also rescue Tesla?”

It’s not at all “funny” that you keep repeating this Tesla-bashing B.S., despite the fact that it’s been very clearly pointed out to you that Tesla qualifying for — that is, earning — a DOE loan to expand its business, a loan which has already been repaid in full, was in no way a “bailout”.

But you go ahead with your futile Tesla bashing campaign. With 400,000+ Model ≡ reservations and counting, your propaganda is about as effective as trying to stop a river from flowing by swimming upstream.

scott franco (No M3 FAUX GRILL!)

“The auto industry is probably the toughest one to penetrate, proven by the fact that the last American automobile manufacturer to succeed was Chrysler Motors, which started in 1928. Since then, every volume auto manufacturer that started in the US has failed, except for Tesla.”

Not true. Plenty of car manafacturers have started selling, and manufacturing, in the USA, volkswagen, Toyota, etc. The real issue is that the US car makers have their hands so far up the a** of government that nobody else can get started.

See for example Tucker, who was largely eliminated by political wrangling.

None of the listed examples are *American* automotive manufacturers.

The only examples are: Ford, GM, Chrysler, and Tesla.

Other companies manufacturer cars in America, but that’s quite different from starting in America.

Wrong, None of the Manufacturers you mention are “start-ups” Toyota, Honda, Nissan etc. were all established auto makers headquartered off shore so it’s not like they started from scratch in the U.S.A.

Tucker was relying on the postwar government selloff of factories, a one-time phenomenon that made his plans vulnerable to disruption by rival bidders.

Foreign companies always get established at home, then use a few open-minded US cities as a beachhead. California has been invasion site #1, but the East Coast was where the first British sports car invasion hit in the late ’40s. That’s where you could find the specialty importer/dealer/repairers who did the pioneering work in developing the market for imports.

But the government had nothing to do with Toyota’s first disastrous foray into the US in 1958. Or Hyundai’s first attempt in the ’80s. Many other imports have failed. In fact, the government’s safety & smog laws now act as barriers because foreign companies have to make special models for US compliance. A new American company can make all its cars the same (except for the steering wheel) because anything that can pass our laws can pass any current laws abroad.

That is particularly true of an EV because there are no emissions or efficiency regulations that apply.

I don’t think compare i3 and Model 3 is fair. i3 a short hatch, Model 3 a bigger sedan, with i3 you could find parking places in Europe better, it’s light with carbon fiber and some cool material (some countries make year tax on weight), it’s the better city car and you sit comfortable high. The Model 3 is better travel car, sporty deep, good design and many options. But also has disadvantage where the i3 has advantages. I know many Model S owners and their women love the i3 for city shopping ;-).

The superior turning radius and visibility when driving the i3 in town is astounding. something you notice every day compared to conventionally sized cars.

In reality most parking places are now clearly marked and you either have or don’t have one, whatever the size of the car. So that argument doesn’t hold anymore.

Btw my wife asked me to reserve the 3, that’s when I told her I already did even before the unveil. Lol.

Traditional auto manufacturers and their vendors/partners make and sell:

1. Engines
2. Gliders
3. Transmissions

Tesla and its vendors/partners make and sell:

1. Batteries
2. Gliders
3. Electric motors/charging equipment/control electronics

… and I suspect Tesla’s extended business model will include:

4. Autonomy features (subscription or large up front fee)
5. Supercharging (subscription or large up front fee)
6. Battery refurbishment repurpose/resell.

… This is why it’s going to take outsiders (Tesla, apple, Faraday, etc..) to drive the BEV business forward, Traditional OEM’s don’t actually have all that much in common with Tesla, and will have to overhaul the majority of their business model (at the expense of caniballizing their own “traditional sales”) in order to make BEV’s for a profit.

… and that’s before we even start talking about the dealerships.


scott franco (No M3 FAUX GRILL!)

I agree with the other posters. The landscape is littered with companies that saw the headlights of the future running over them and just did nothing.


and many many others…

I think it’s a stretch to put AT&T and IBM in that list. Both of those companies are pretty diverse. Apple is just as questionable given 2/3rd of there revenue comes from one product. A product that has plateaued with the rest of the smartphone market.

Let’s assume GM, Nissan, BMW and Mercedes all have compelling 200+ mile range BEV’s on the market in 2018.


Where can I Supercharge them, at all, let alone for free?

Supercharging is a huge gigantic deal. How exactly are they going to catch up?

I mostly agree that the SuperCharger network is very compelling, but realistically and from experience I can tell you that with a 200 mile range, I will be doing over 99% of my charging at home.
Charging stations are not like gas stations – you almost never use / need them.
Still its a very compelling option.

They make Road trips possible.

With Tesla, I don’t have to own a second car, nor do I have to rent or borrow or use an ICE car to travel.

Flat out, owning a Tesla would increase the number of road trips I take a year by a large number.

A Tesla offers travel freedom like no other car.

Here’s a prediction for you:
Tesla will adopt the CCS standard. Once done, the SuperCharger network will be fitted with CCS plugs in addition to the Tesla proprietary plug. Once the legacy Tesla car sockets have been retrofit or supplied with a free CCS to Tesla adaptor, Telsa will drop the proprietary plug.

Not likely. CCS is way too slow a charge rate. That is why Tesla abandoned it in the first place. It was consieved as a way to recharge commute electric car not cars with large batteries and 200 to 300 miles ranges.

Actually the current CCS standard supports up to 170kW charging. That’s substantially more than the 135kW superchargers top out at. 850W at 200A. The next revision of CCS is rumoured to top 350kW.

Most installed CCS rapids are 50kW but there are a few 100kW and 150kW units around… mostly test deployments.

Tesla uses the standard Type 2 connector here in europe anyway so all they need to add are the two DC pins.

“Where can I Supercharge them, at all, let alone for free?”

You don’t get free supercharging on the Model 3 either..

Even if you do, unless you use it all the time, the price is more than made up by purchase price difference.

“Supercharging is a huge gigantic deal. How exactly are they going to catch up?”

Only for people who “claim” that they need to drive across the country all the time.

CCS/CHAdeMo is acceptable for regional driving which is mostly what people do.

It would be interesting to know what percentage of Model S buyers declined to pay the $2000 lifetime access fee for Supercharging, back when Tesla still charged a separate fee for that.

At any rate, so long as we’re only talking about annual production of 50k EVs or less, which for example is reportedly the ceiling of Bolt production, then I’m sure they’ll have no problem finding buyers. Lots of plug-in EV owners never drive their car beyond its basic range.

Now, Tesla certainly does need to support long-range driving, because — unlike legacy auto makers — they actually do plan to ramp up production of their BEVs to meet demand, so Tesla needs to aim at a wider market.

It takes 1 month for GM to install fast chargers in all their dealerships. At a fraction of the cost of Tesla supercharger network.

In the dealership. Most dealerships will have charging stations. GM has 4000 dealers. It will be a revenue source for them. In 10 years, you will be able to charge in gas stations. Newer gas stations have charging stations as well. None of the automakers run gas station networks but they are doing fine.

IMO BMW and most of the others will quietly wait for EV components to reduce in price while keeping up to date with the technology with small series of EV’s or PHEV’s. I would be much more worried for them if trend was in reverse. Meaning that we would be all driving 75 miles range EV’s for the last 100 years and suddenly a disruptor would come with the 21st century revolutionary technology, an ICE engine. As ICE engines and transmissions are so much more complicated, it took a century of R&D to master all of its subtilities. One can’t say that of a e. motor it seems, its way simpler and no new technology at all.

Perhaps Kodak made the same argument, internally, about digital cameras. Putting some electronics and a computer chip into a camera is surely a lot easier than building in quality optics and the parts for reliable mechanical control of the shutter and film. So, surely Kodak doesn’t need to keep up with advances in digital camera tech; they can easily catch up at any time.

How did that work out for Kodak, again? Hmmm… not so well.

I also think the autonomy could be as much a part of Tesla’s success as the drive-train … or rather, both parts go hand in hand.

A very autonomous, very smooth and quiet BEV is going to make a “vibrating” hand driven ICE car seem sooo out of date.

“very smooth and quiet BEV is going to make a “vibrating” hand driven ICE car seem sooo out of date”.

This is probably exactly why Tesla’s have so much success and why EV’s will ultimately win.

A Tesla is like a very good looking young woman, then you need to invent all sort of other qualities when introducing her to your mum.

Most folks don’t want to drive a spaceship. I3 will always be a niche car. Make an i8-worthy i5, and then we’re talking.

BMW, GM et al have a huge problem – they think they are selling Electric cars to compete with other EVs.
Tesla knows the truth – they are selling EVs that compete with all cars in their class regardless of power plant.
Until the ICE builder get that they will continue to fail.

I agree with you Mike. I may also add, BMW has to bring something to Market with 200 or more all-electric miles to even get a second look, then BMW has to beat Tesla on value and options. I have always said, BMW is the only car company with vision and Imagination that will give Tesla a run for their money. I still believe that. Tesla can hold on to my deposit until BMW sees the light.

Maybe Tesla, Apple,Faraday Future decide to align themselves and form an EV autogroup. Same supercharging network, same sales model, same dealer legal battles. The next big 3?

Faraway Faraday Future appears less likely to succeed than Fisker Automotive. Putting FF in the same class as Tesla is not credible.

Like Faraday Future, there is another startup called Edison Destiny.

So FF & ED will come under one class while Apple & Google will be in another class.

Meanwhile there are reports about Sony & Samsung getting into EVs.

Lets see how things turn out.

BMW announced that the i3 MY-2017 will go on sale in July with 50% extra range.

Naturally everyone will wait to buy this model presuming its price does not increase proportionally. Best thing is they should reduce the price of MY-2016 just like Volt-1 price was reduced when the Volt-2 had a significant price drop.

Whether i3 can compete with Model ≡. No way. Model ≡ has racked up 400,000 reservations and every unit sold will be grabbed by the anxious customers.

BMW i3 has only 99 cu. ft. interior space and Model ≡ will surely have 115 cu. ft. + interior space which will place it in category of mid size car.

US Sales
In 2016-Q1 4,167 Benz S Class cars were sold and this is a 18% decrease compared to 2015-Q1.

And CLS Class cars sold 1,025 units in 2016-Q1 which is 21% decline compared to 2015-Q1.

On the other hand, Tesla sold 6,390 units in 2016-Q1 and this is a big increase over the 4,700 units sold in 2015-Q1 .

Did Tesla grab those sales and dethrone King Benz. This gets interesting.

BTW, Lexus LS sales has crashed 30%.

James Wood (JWAmpsOnly)

Very good analysis, but one thing is still missing for all non-Tesla manufacturers: No charging infrastructure. Why the other brands aren’t buying into the already-in-place Superchargers is beyond comprehension. It won’t matter if they build a better EV if there is still no fast charging available. Tesla has it and is willing to share/allow access for a price.

Agreed – people seem to enjoy re-inventing a mediocre wheel.