Tesla Motors

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The unveiling of the Tesla Motors Electric Car

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EV Journalist spends beautiful holiday weekend holed up reviewing Tesla IPO documents, film at 11

(May 31, Mountain View, CA) - EV Journalist David Herron was found this Memorial Day weekend staring his computer and mumbling about how big Tesla Motors might become if their deals with Toyota and Daimler pan out. Or maybe the deals could go awry and Tesla would die. To David this seemed like a big story, one which needs to be told, despite the cost involved in missing the beautiful weather outside.

Tesla Motors and Daimler agreements revealed in IPO documents is a million boring details about Daimler's investment in and partnership with Tesla Motors. It appears that Daimler bought an amount of control over Tesla and might use that control to create electric vehicles, buy parts from Tesla, and help Tesla to build the Model S. Or that Daimler might use it to stall Tesla's development or prevent Tesla from partnering with other companies.

Tesla's IPO filings reveals details of the NUMMI plant purchase reveals another million boring details about the purchase of an auto assembly plant. Fremont CA maybe used to have manufacturing work but the rise of Silicon Valley remade the area into an R&D center, not manufacturing center, with the NUMMI plant being one of the last remnants of the manufacturing past. Tesla however needs a manufacturing plant and it appears that Tesla and Toyota may be entering into partnership agreements similar to the ones Tesla has with Daimler. However the agreements made with Daimler appear to require that Daimler sign off on any agreements with any other auto manufacturer.

Tesla, Toyota, Daimler, Elon Musk, and a messy divorce delves into how the divorce of Elon Musk and Justine Musk might affect Tesla. Agreements between Tesla, Daimler and the US Dept of Energy are making several requirements on Tesla, among which is that Elon Musk remain as CEO and retain at least a 65% ownership stake. But Justine Musk is demanding 10% of Elon's Tesla shares. Hurm. Very tricky.

How much of the NUMMI plant will Tesla use? The NUMMI plant is very big and has a capacity of perhaps 500,000 vehicles per year production. And Tesla is gonna buy the whole thing? Say what? What are they going to do with that big of a plant? How could Tesla possibly use any more than a corner of the place? It's possible that Tesla and Toyota will enter into agreements to develop several electric cars, some of which might be under Toyota brands. I wonder what Daimler thinks of this.

The New United Motor (NUMMI) plant, Fremont, CA And just for completeness, an overview of the NUMMI plant.

We now see David posting a final article and heading out the door to do something more interesting.

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The Toyota/Tesla/NUMMI deal appears to be pretty darn significant

I put together a set of articles on the Toyota/Tesla deal (links below) and it looks to me like a significant step. This is a summary ...

Background: An interesting factoid is that the NUMMI plant is the last U.S. auto assembly plant west of the mississippi river. That's either because the auto industry outsourced itself to other countries, or else concentrated itself in the eastern half of the country. In the past there were other plants in the SF Bay Area such as the Ford plant in Milpitas which is now a mall. This was originally a GM plant, opened in 1962, then in 1982 GM and Toyota started operating the plant together. The idea was that GM was to learn modern management techniques from Toyota and become a better company. GM failed to learn anything and the plant was primarily producing Toyota branded vehicles. A few GM branded vehicles were built there but the ratio was in the neighborhood of 90% Toyota branding. The plant produced over 400,000 vehicles in 2006ish and had a stated capacity of perhaps 500,000 vehicles per year. It employed over 5000 people at times, mostly UAW unionized workers. In the throes of GM's near death experience last year the GM/Toyota/NUMMI partnership was dissolved and shortly after that Toyota decided to shut down the plant. The official shutdown was on April 1, 2010.

Toyota has long resisted producing battery EV's and insisted that hybrid cars were sufficient. Toyota did produce the RAV4-EV and owners of that SUV are happy with them. I've driven in two of them and they are competently built EV's. For example as a passenger it feels very normal, even riding down the highway at highway speed feels like any gas powered SUV. Despite the praise they get for the RAV4-EV there's no plans to build any more, and the existing RAV4-EV's were in any case hand built conversions rather than produced on a regularized factory line.

This is the first head-scratcher - just what is Toyota after? There isn't much solid information and some articles say they're still hammering out details. But if Toyota isn't interested in EV's then what are they doing hooking up with Tesla?

Some articles make a claim that Tesla is falling behind Mitsubishi and Nissan. With the Prius, Toyota has had a lot of thought leadership credibility due to creating a very popular green car. But their runaway-Prius problem is one problem, and both Mitsubishi and Nissan are coming out with (or already have) credible EV's that stand to become popular. Mitsubishi and Nissan would appear to be taking thought leadership. I can't imagine though that sales of either the iMiev or Leaf will be approaching sales volume of the Prius any time soon.

Some articles claim the two companies are planning to develop a range of smaller affordable electric cars. That will be fun to see, if true.

Tesla's background strategy was to stay at a relatively small production level. In theory a smaller company could be profitable at a smaller production volume at which a large company would go bankrupt. The large automobile companies are modeled on hundreds of thousands of vehicles per year sold. Thus a large company has to develop car models which sell in huge volumes. Smaller companies can use smaller factories that cost less to run and be profitable at smaller volumes. Tesla's strategy was to stay in this realm, so it's a head scratcher why they're "buying" such a large plant as the NUMMI.

If Tesla is to remain at a 20,000 car/year production volume that's expected for the Tesla Model S, how can they possibly use a factory with a 500,000/yr capacity? Indeed the articles quote Tesla people saying that they're only going to use a corner of the factory.

See: How much of the NUMMI plant will Tesla use?, and In surprising move Tesla Motors and Toyota announce NUMMI partnership

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Zap! about to join Tesla with Lotus-designed electric cars?

Zap! about to join Tesla with Lotus-designed electric cars? - Filed under: , While there is already one Lotus-designed all-electric car making headlines, the Tesla Roadster, perhaps it's time to get spoiled. We might soon find out what Lotus can do for electric car company Zap!, which currently operates in the NEV market. An exterior redesign does not automatically come with dramatic changes under the hood, but NEVs might evolve far beyond their current boxy or too-futuristic looks if this arrangement works out. The details of the deal are that Lotus Engineering is working on a feasibility study for Zap! to develop "a number" of new electric cars. The idea is to integrate major components, like new motor designs, controllers, batteries and charging systems to build a stylish EV with maximum consumer appeal. Lotus technical centers in Hethel, UK, Ann Arbor, Michigan, and Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, will be involved in the study.I'm not sure how this relates to the news from Obvio! (of Brazil) late last month that it had picked Lotus Engineering to help develop two new microsports cars. Obvio!'s distribution partner in North America is Zap! We'll try and find out.Related:

[Source: Just-Auto (subs req'd)] Read | Permalink | Email this | Linking Blogs | CommentsBOLD MOVES: THE FUTURE OF FORD Step behind the curtain at Ford Motor. Experience the documentary first-hand. [EV's @ AutoBlogGreen]

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Tesla opening a new tech center in MI to work on a CUV?

Tesla opening a new tech center in MI to work on a CUV? - Filed under: , Tesla Motors has already made clear their intentions to expand their product line beyond the Lotus Elise based roadster that's due this summer. They've previously announced plans for at least the sedans, one in the $50,000-70,000 range and another down at the $30,000 range. Now comes word via TheCarConnection that Tesla has opened up a tech center in Auburn Hills, MI, north of Detroit and has hired a dozen engineers there. The Michigan tech center will initially be working on the $50,000 vehicle which is code-named "White Star" and may turn out to be a sedan/crossover. A crossover would make more sense at this point than a sedan, because the higher floor would allow space for a larger battery pack to maintain the range achieved by the lighter roadster in the larger form factor vehicle. The product timing for this second vehicle is pretty aggressive since it will be a new-from-the-ground-up vehicle, meant to have substantially higher production volumes than the Roadster, which is derived from an existing vehicle structure. Designing, certifying and tooling up such a product in only a couple of years is hard for an established manufacturer that has facilities in place. It seems likely that Tesla will probably team up with a company like Magna or ASC, that have built full concept vehicles and have been itching to get a niche production program like this for years. The fact that they have set up shop in Michigan definitely points in this direction.[Source: TheCarConnection] Read | Permalink | Email this | Linking Blogs | CommentsBOLD MOVES: THE FUTURE OF FORD Step behind the curtain at Ford Motor. Experience the documentary first-hand. [EV's @ AutoBlogGreen]

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