At the first-ever TeslaCon Florida conference toward the end of 2022, automotive engineering superstar Sandy Munro was one of the featured speakers (ahem, I was another one). Initially, I wasn't sure what to expect from his presentation, but when I saw that it was primarily going to be a Q&A, I knew it was going to be juicy. So, I pulled out my phone and moved up to the front in order to hopefully grab a few great soundbites. It ended up that Sandy delivered a ton of soundbites.
Below is a roundup of some of the top ones I pulled out of the Q&A. (Also, before I roll into these, note that we will be interviewing Sandy Munro soon for our CleanTech Talk podcast series.)
Above: A Tesla Model 3 (Image: Casey Murphy / EVANNEX).
Tesla's pace of innovation in product development as well as manufacturing evolution is unmatched, Munro indicates. Talking about the mind-bogglingly fast innovation, he said, “I equate Tesla to basically engineering at the speed of thought. They move faster — 10, 20, 100 times faster — than any company I’ve ever seen. We can’t believe how many changes they made in two years on the Model Y.”
This has long been one of the key Tesla strengths Elon Musk has highlighted. In fact, it was a few years ago that he responded to a CleanTechnica article on Twitter saying that it was all about the pace of innovation. He also reiterated this a few times to me in direct messages in various ways.
Nick Howe, President of Florida Tesla Enthusiasts and lead organizer of TeslaCon Florida (which, we should note, EVANNEX was a major sponsor of), mentioned some comments from a recent Tesla shareholder conference call in which Elon Musk indicated Tesla was working on a platform that was approximately half the cost of the Model 3 platform. He deduced this would mean a cost of about $24,000. He then asked Sandy whether anything would stop Tesla from achieving this target. Sandy's response was a concise, firm, and quick "No." After pausing for dramatic effect and quite a bit of laughter, he elaborated a little bit by discussing Tesla's approach (including some exclusive tidbits) to molds, casting (gigacasting), and other manufacturing processes.
Sandy Munro loves the Ford F-150 Lightning. He had a number of positive things to say about Ford during the Q&A, including how well he thinks the Lightning will do in the conventional pickup truck market. That also led him to the Cybertruck, which he doesn't see as fitting in, exactly, to the pickup truck market. Rather, he thinks it will create a whole market segment of its own!
“To me, that truck will kick the daylights out of a market we don’t even have right now. And that’s a fact. It’s got its own unique market, and any car that can come out and have its own unique market will basically dominate it forever — unless they do something stupid. I think Tesla is going to make a ****load of money on the Cybertruck.”
Clearly frustrated at the lack of innovation, courageousness, and engineering efficiency from legacy automakers, Munro talked about his long love of casting and how long it took for an automaker to join this lovefest. He said he heard every excuse in the book for why automakers couldn't do hardcore casting and the lonely cast frame sitting on his office floor.
“15 years and nobody picked up on it, and then Tesla, I criticized them — I said, ‘you’ve got 120 parts, it should be one’ — and the next thing you know, they made the change. How they do things and how everyone else does them — there’s no comparison.”
Asked about which automakers he thinks are doing things right (besides Tesla) and will survive, Sandy explained that he saw automakers shrinking as they struggle to evolve in the transition. It's a tough challenge for them, having to scale down ICE development and sales while scaling up EV development and sales. “I think there will be survivors. I think it’ll be a whole lot smaller,” he noted. But the most interesting part of this conversation — for me, at least — was his dream of investing enough money into Chrysler to get on its board (once Stellantis is forced to spin it out).
Speaking about various legacy automakers: “And they’re going to have to divest a whole lot, in a hurry. I don’t know what those characters are gonna do, but they’re in deep trouble. You saw what happened with Fiat — they’ve fallen off the table; nobody wants them. [Sandy’s referencing my presentation here, which referenced this auto industry sales report.] Stellantis — the new company, which is Fiat and PSA — I believe that they’re gonna need money. They need money, they’re gonna have to sell something off. Something they’re probably going to sell off is Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep. And when they sell that off, I’ll buy stock. I’ll buy enough stock that I will have a word, I will have a word on their board or something. I’d like to see Chrysler survive, and they’ll never survive under Stellantis, never.”
Chrysler Chairman of the Board Sandy Munro — how does that sound?
Sandy included a lot of praise for Chinese electric vehicle producers (and the Vietnamese automaker VinFast) in his Q&A. When prompted, he said:
“So I can tell you right now because I worked on a lot of the cars that are going to be coming in from China. These are not poor-quality cars. I have one of the cars — we have at the office — a Chinese vehicle. It’s not one of the ones that I worked on, but I worked with BYD, I worked with Beijing Automotive EV Group, […] the NIO, the Geely cars — I mean, I would do workshops that had 500 people in a tiered audience learning how to use our techniques, and we only worked on electric vehicles. These guys have had a lot longer to work on electric vehicles than the guys here in North America or Europe.”
He expects a big long wave of high-quality Chinese electric vehicle imports, and production of these electric cars stateside as well.
Sandy noted that he decided to completely ditch any work with internal combustion engines and Munro & Associates only works on 100% battery-electric vehicles now. He referenced global heating and climate crisis as reasons for this, but also think he just finds EVs more fun now. He added that he wouldn't work with automakers, even giant ones, if he didn't believe in their approach to EVs. He even mentioned turning down a $1 million partnership or project from one of the world's largest automakers.
Furthermore, he noted that he had modified his 50% BEV market share forecast. Instead of predicting we'd reach that in 2030, he's now predicting we'll achieve it in 2028.
Guest Contributor: Zachary Shahan / CleanTechnica; Look out for the CleanTechnica CleanTech Talk podcast discussion between Zachary Shahan and Sandy Munro! And check out the full Sandy Munro playlist on CleanTechnica.TV for more.