• Oct 15th 2007 at 11:01AM
  • 43
Recently, I wrote that Tesla's co-founder Martin Eberhard made a joke about the lack of quality in other electric car companies. Does Martin really feel that other electric car companies suck? YES! In a video interview (which you can watch below the fold) with the Wall Street Journal, Martin says all other electric car companies business approaches are "wrong" and they make "crap." Here is the full quote:
"In general, it seemed to me that, the way all other people started electric car companies, got in the business, was wrong. They wanted to make a car that would save the world. So, they needed to make a car that everyone could afford and they tried to come in at the bottom end of the market. They try to go up against very, very mature companies in a very, very mature industry. Every single component they buy costs them double what Honda or Hyundai or somebody pays for that same part. So they wind up with a car that's a piece of crap. No one wants to buy it.

No other industry does that happen. No other industry do you start in the low end and work your way up. Think about cell phones and flat panel TVs and camcorders and refrigerators and air conditioners. All these things start off as an expensive product and are sold to people who can afford it that are buying it not to save a lot of money but to experience the luxury of this new thing. That allows the companies to develop their technologies, to develop their supply chains and to drive the costs down, step by step as they reach a broader and broader market every time."

Martin also explains Tesla was delayed a year (from the original schedule) because they added safety equipment to the battery to absorb the heat of a burning cell. The safety equipment added 15 percent to the size of the battery and hundreds of pounds to the car's weight. The interview ends with Martin talking about the mistakes of DeLorean and Tucker that, of course, Tesla is not repeating either. If Tesla fails, this interview will not seem ironic at all.

Editor's UPDATE: if you're going to comment on this post, which you're welcome to do, please read the comments that have already been posted. Mr. Eberhard himself contributed and said the WSJ took his "piece of crap" comment out of context. Just want to make sure we're all aware about the full story here. Thanks.

[Source: Wall Street Journal]

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    • 1 Second Ago
      • 7 Years Ago
      Obviously a couple people are always place a shadow over anything that is not certain. Its those same people that will likely take spoken words and restate them out of or without any context.

      This blog is leading toward contributing less and less input outside of borderline plagiarized quotes from articles it references. You might as well just put the video up and say please comment. The title to this "article" along with the video say everything you need to being good trolling thread.

      If you weren't so good on staying on top of all the "green" auto sources of information I would not bother coming here.

      I just hope others are able to take the articles and the respective replies (including this one) with a grain of salt. I just hope the average reader can see through all this crap and appreciate the real underlying story fro what it is.

      • 7 Years Ago
      Argh, I can't watch the video until I get home from work :(

      why not the LS2/LS7?: Battery prices are a problem all EV makers need to figure out. Consider that at Tesla's target WhiteStar sales volumes, they'll be one of the world's largest consumers of Lithium Ion cells... that'll get the attention of every cell manufacturer on the planet, and they'll be bidding very aggressively to land a Tesla contract.
      • 7 Years Ago
      I think Mr. Eberhard is correct.
      The WACKO's at MotorWeek, for example, called last year's Taurus 0-60 in 10 seconds "LETHARGIC". These IDIOTs are going to BASH ANY low cost Electric, unless it's built to be UN-ECONOMICAL and therefore Un-Usable by any Adult in the Green Community.

      You've got to make a car that appeals to the Horsepower WACKO's First.
      • 7 Years Ago
      The failure of DeLorean was also attributed to the the depression in early 1980's. With the economy slowing in the next couple of years (caused by weak real estate market and weak currency, etc.), high-end car market might experience increasing pressure.

      Anyway, I am not looking for an answer but it's just something Tesla should watch out for.

      I am more interested in the overall environmental impact a new car can deliver - not how many affluent individuals it entertains. The real intention of Tesla, to me, remains unclear.

      David W. Lee
      Society for Sustainable Mobility
      • 7 Years Ago
      Kert, Martin was clearly talking about past, and mostly failed, EV efforts, and trying to explain why they failed.

      And that Subaru R1E only has a 50 mile range. Most American consumers would indeed call that crap, when they can simply buy an ICE car that goes 300 miles on a tank, and costs far less.

      That's exactly what Martin was trying to say. On it's own, the R1E may be a fine example of an electric car, but up against competition with ICEs, it simply won't sell.
      • 7 Years Ago
      According to Porsche's website the Tiptronic S 911 Turbo can do 0 to 60 in 3.9s and gets 14.3 mpg urban and 29.4 mpg non urban. It's available to buy right now, but is its 67 litre (17.7 US gallons) fuel tank really worth the extra $100,000 over the price of a Tesla Roadster?

      Or is Porsche over-engineered and over-priced crap?
      • 7 Years Ago
      What is the big deal that there is a delay on the delivery?

      Of course there will be delays. Cars are increadibly complex, requiring more testing than perhaps almost any other product available to the product.

      And what's the big deal that Martin says all previous EV companies are bad? You all know it's true.
      • 7 Years Ago
      My frustration with Mr. Eberhards's realization that a succesful EV must start at the "top" of the market and work its way down:

      I likely won't have an EV anytime soon.

      Just being realistic. I don't have a cell phone or a flat-panel TV, either (hoping to save that money for an EV). I've been shopping eBay for an EV project - among them are the names mentioned in the "failed" list above. But most won't work for me for the same reasons they didn't succeed in the first place.

      Ed B's EV quote:

      "It's true these cars cannot meet the needs of everyone. They can only meet the needs of 98% of the population."

      ...doesn't ring true as soon as you include one important factor: Affordability. Sure, he already has his RAV4EV. Recent examples on eBay (and there aren't many out there) go for about $50K. Well out of my price range for any vehicle, let alone a used one with a problematic future when it comes to parts and service. Can you afford one?

      Still, I wish the Tesla well - and hope its success helps create a vibrant, competitive and affordable EV market.

      • 7 Years Ago
      Interesting opinion from a man and a company that has yet to actually produce anything!

      • 7 Years Ago
      Delorean made a hot looking car with a pathetic motor.

      Till Doc
      • 7 Years Ago
      It's kind of annoying to have my words quoted out of context like this. This is a small slice of a wide-ranging interview - part of which the reporter chose to publish as video.

      Like so many other reporters before him, this reporter asked me why it was that we are making a $98K sports car instead of a more affordable car, if our goal is to reduce gasoline consumption. Everybody knows that we cannot sell enough $98K sports cars to make even a slight dent in gasoline consumption.

      My point here - as I have said so many times before - is that you cannot successfully enter a market ( any market) at the low end. Successful companies start by selling high-end products that compete on attributes other than price. They use success in a higher-end market to build experience, production capability, purchasing volume, supplier relationships, etc., allowing them later to create lower priced products with wider appeal, eventually moving into mainstream markets.

      My point here is that most electric car companies since the '60s have attempted to make a low-priced car as their first model. They did this for the very best of reasons: they wanted to make a difference with their very first car; they wanted to offer everyone an alternative to a gasoline-powered car.

      But as I point out in this interview, every single component that a startup car company buys cost lots more than the same part purchased by Honda or Hyundai or Ford: wheels, windshield wiper motors, paint, carpeting, airbags, brakes, etc. Add to that the plain fact that an electric drive train (including its battery) costs more than the highly-evolved gasoline drive trains from the OEMs.

      The result is that by any objective measure, for the same money, a low-cost electric car is crummy when compared to a gasoline car for the same price. The fit and finish, the creature comforts, the plain usability of a low-cost Hyundai are clearly a whole lot better than that of a ZENN, a TH!NK, or a ZAP!. Better also than an Electra King, a Stuart, an Elctro Master, Spook, a Vanguard, a Marathon, a Voltra, a Comuta-Car, and an Amerigon, too, looking back at EVs past.

      This is not a slam against these EV companies, but it is an honest assessment of their cars. If we expect most people to give up their gasoline cars, we must be honest about the cars, and we must be honest about what motivates most car buyers. The plain fact is that most car buyers will not accept a significant downgrade in creature comforts in order to "do the right thing." This is why so many EV companies have failed in the past, and why I chose a different path for Tesla Motors.

      Martin Eberhard
      Founder & President of Technology
      Tesla Motors
      • 7 Years Ago
      "it's "Five years away"."

      Bollocks. MiEV is in fleet testing with TEPCO, with ship date eta 2010. So is R1E. Thats about two years.

      Electric Twingos and Pandas by MES-DEA are on the streets now, on sale.

      Tesla will not beat Mitsubishi with affordable car for sure, their WhiteStar price bracket is north of $60K, where MiEV, R1E and Mixim are designed to compete with likes of Ford Ka's, Hyundai Getz and the like, so like five or four times cheaper.

      Telsa has kept pushing back their release date which is now in 2008. The announced WhiteStar production plant has not seen any construction activity. Mr. Eberhard can boast all he wants, but the proof remains in the pudding.
      Deliver a car, and let the consumers tell us whether its crap or not. Until then, words dont mean much.
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