Zero to ‘Insane’ Mode: Haute Living Drives in the Fast Lane in Tesa’s Model S

24 Sep 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Apple’s Car: If True, ‘One of the Most Important Moments in Transportation,’ Says Morgan Stanley.

When Tesla introduced its extra-fast Ludicrous Mode for the Model S, it also raised a big question: is that acceleration advantage over the already-quick Insane Mode actually meaningful? Weighing in today on The Journal’s story yesterday that Apple’s (AAPL) going to ship its own car in 2019 are Morgan Stanley analysts Adam Jonas, who follows Tesla Motors (TSLA), and is one of the biggest bulls on its stock (he recently set a $465 price target, as my colleague Ben Levisohn noted), and Katy Huberty, the Morgan analyst who regularly follows Apple, and who is a bull on its stock.It’s not a secret that Tesla’s oft-delayed Model X crossover will finally be in customers’ hands this month, and now we’ve got an event to go along with the launch: next Tuesday, September 29th in Fremont, California — home of Tesla’s factory.

We believe the opportunity for tech firms to disrupt the auto industry is large enough to fundamentally and permanently change how investors view transportation… setting off a wholesale reassessment of end market sizing, growth, competitive dynamic, margin potential and valuation […] The addressable market for mobility is on the order of $10 trillion (10 trillion vehicle miles x $1/mile), more than 13% of global GDP. Look no further than the operating margins of the established auto makers: In the second quarter, Ford Motor posted an operating margin of 6.6%, according to FactSet.

DragTimes has posted a drag race between a Model S (using Insane Mode) and a P90D (using Ludicrous) to see how much that added performance really matters. Recently, there have been a couple of authors estimating that Tesla isn’t seeing particularly strong orders, and thus its deliveries estimates for 2015 are clearly at risk. Early deposit-holders have already been invited by the company to spec out their vehicles on a private site, but that’s been for the limited edition, fully loaded “Signature” model — beyond those early builds, there will be some more variability in how much (or how little) buyers will need to spend. I have been one of those authors, in my article titled “Here’s My Prediction For Tesla’s 2015 Deliveries And More On Model X Foibles,” where I put my 2015 deliveries estimate at 46,500 (at most).

Tesla has the first electric cars that are both desirable and well-built—the recent Model S variant broke Consumer Reports’ rating system—and CEO Elon Musk plans to bring electric cars to the mass market. The Model X, with its bigger interior and unique “falcon doors” — is an important model for Tesla, but arguably not the most important one in the company’s pipeline: everyone is looking at the upcoming Model 3 to help bring volume where the pricy Roadster and Model S have not. (The Model X will be just as expensive as the S, keeping it well out of reach of the mass market.) The 3 is expected to hit dealerships in in 2017.

You’d expect this kind of lead when it costs at least $5,000 extra to get the Ludicrous setting, but it’s still good to have evidence that you’re getting more than just a spec bump. The authors suggest Apple might have ideas on the “non-productive” time that you spend behind the wheel — a collective 400 billion hours annually by all drivers: “What is the value of 400 billion hours a year? Here’s how things look today: As you can see, an order placed today gets a delivery estimate of “Late November,” or two full months from order to delivery. You’ll get to keep your current user name (as long as it doesn’t contain invalid characters, in which case you’ll have to go through a few extra steps to make the transfer), and all your old comments will eventually (not immediately) migrate with you. Part of the move has to do with Tesla’s practice of favoring foreign markets at the start of the quarter, and domestic deliveries at the end – so that it can deliver as many cars as possible within the quarter.

Right now, Tesla is a lot like BlackBerry in 2007: It’s got the controlling share of a relatively new market and the most popular products in that market. Apple ended up winning the smartphone race against BlackBerry partially because it was a computer company (and phones became small computers), but also because it built a better smartphone and excelled at marketing. And even if the electric cars end up like smartphones, there can still be multiple winners—Apple and Samsung today only share about 35% of the entire smartphone market. It means that the public “Late November” delivery dates are more like “Late October” and remain consistent with the thesis that these cars are not flying off the shelves – quite the contrary, demand seems sequentially stagnated, along with Tesla’s delivery guidance for Q3 2015 versus Q2 2015. Chevrolet has slowly—and to date, pretty unsuccessfully—tested the electric waters with its Volt hybrid, ahead of its development of the fully-electric Bolt model.

The data comes from the fact that a few customers have already had access to a restricted site for them to configure their Model Xs for the September 29 delivery date. Traditional car companies have heritage on their side, and if they can bring in the necessary technology to modernize, there’s no reason why they shouldn’t be able to carry that forward into the electric era. This compares to 268 EPA miles for a similarly configured P90D (which shares the powertrain with a 259hp motor upfront and a 503hp motor in the back, as well as the battery size). Toyota recently announced it would invest $50 million in an MIT and Stanford-led partnership into advancing AI and robotics, putting Gill Pratt—the former head of the DARPA Robotics Challenge—in charge of the initiative.

With electric and self-driving cars, the proof will come in whether it ends up being easier to put technology into cars, or turn cars into technology. The company will have four models on the streets—the Roadster, the S, the X, and the 3—by the time Apple or any other competitor is likely to have a single model. Indeed, perhaps the whole 70kWh/90kWh battery launch was even partially dictated by that problem as a 60kWh Model X would have seen its range drop below the magical 200 EPA miles. The main conclusion to be drawn here is that the longer delivery dates being seen in Tesla’s order pages are misleading and there’s still no reason to doubt that Tesla will miss even the lower end of its 2015 deliveries guidance.

The company is building out its Supercharger network—a series of charging stations that rapidly charge Tesla cars—across the US’s major interstate arteries. He’s been described as a real-life Tony Stark, and when he’s not running Tesla, he’s sending rockets into space, and trying to figure out how to get humans to Mars.

Apple is ramping up its car program—expanding it to 1,800 people—and is bringing in, as The Wall Street Journal reported (paywall), automotive and driverless car experts. A Google spokesperson previously told Quartz that that the self-driving program was a “good candidate” for being spun out into its own Alphabet company.

Google’s moves seem to suggest that the company wants to ramp this project up into a business, although it’s previously said it doesn’t want to build its own cars, instead preferring to partner with auto makers. This is not a wholly different model from how Google operates with Android—it developed an open-source operating system that smartphone manufacturers can use.

If Tesla lets its lead slip away, and Apple ends up producing the Apple Pencil of cars, there’s another company that could end up dominating our automative future: Uber. Perhaps in a few decades, assuming the legal and logistical hurdles of incorporating robotic cars into our highway systems can be overcome, the concept of buying a car—electric or otherwise—will seem as quaint as sending a telegram.

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