By now most car enthusiasts will be aware Tesla is returning to its roots with plans to manufacture a new roadster. In the hysteria that followed the most recent Elon Musk concert, we should all be forgiven for forgetting, there are also plans for a truck.
I say concert because Musk doesn’t do traditional announcements, he’s a showman. Yet despite being worshipped as something of a modern-day Moses leading us to the promised land of sustainable motoring, there was something hollow about last month’s roadster reveal.
In watching the man rattle off the car’s proposed performance capabilities, the applause didn’t seem as enthusiastic or genuine as we’ve come to expect when Musk takes to the stage. Those in attendance appeared reluctant as their hands came together cautiously as Musk waited for his customary clap.
Now I like Tesla. This is a brand that has done more to popularise the move away from dinosaur juice than any other. Tesla has made sustainability sexy and Musk’s persona has been the driving force behind its rise. Of course, there has also been generous support from the American taxpayers.
Tesla’s influence over the future of automotive engineering has caused all manufacturers to reconsider their trajectory. Even those like Toyota that painstakingly established the hybrid and fuel cells as beacons to the future have been largely forgotten. The once obligatory Prius no longer occupies as many celebrity driveways.
No one can argue Tesla hasn’t changed the game. Even the most hardcore petrol head needs to concede Tesla wields a pretty big stick.
In the early days of Tesla, the thing that caught my attention was the idea of providing electric cars for the masses. The brand’s tagline still reads ‘accelerating the world to sustainable energy.’ This is something Tesla is not even close to achieving and the decision to do another roadster takes them further away from this principle.
Affordability is the word I keep coming back to when electric cars are mentioned. At this stage, there is no EV currently available that makes financial sense from a car buying perspective. Tesla’s new roadster only serves to reinforce this fact. At a whopping $200,000 US dollars ($262,000 in Aussie money, plus the usual Australia tax) it’s not really a car of the people.
As Musk listed the roadster’s capabilities, only one point really made my ears prick, it promises a range of 1000km on a single charge. Every other aspect was just more of the same.
We know Tesla can do performance, we know Tesla can deliver the wow factor, so why do they need to constantly remind people of how clever they are? Tesla’s car division has bigger issues to focus on.
Tesla hasn’t been able to take advantage of the hype surrounding its ‘affordable’ car (I tried to keep a straight face as I typed that), the Model 3. From a manufacturing standpoint, Tesla hasn't been able to deliver on volume and quality promises. This is why expanding the range makes no sense.
Now is a time for Tesla to consolidate its existing portfolio. If it is unable to adequately address the issues that prevent prompt manufacturing with appropriate build quality, the future of the brand isn't likely to be prosperous.
Failure to improve could see Tesla exit the car game to further its battery business, or it could remain a boutique brand for society’s elite.
Undeniably, Musk is a visionary, an ideas man. Big ideas can only carry his brand so far. The rockstar reception that Musk enjoys wherever he goes, the hordes of fans and a favourable media will eventually evaporate if ideas aren't converted to reality.
Whether or not Musk is a modern day Moses or false prophet remains to be seen. What we do know is Tesla continue to drift further away from the promise of an electric car for the masses. As it currently stands, the most affordable price listed on Tesla’s Australian website is $112,050 for the entry grade Model S. Accelerating the world to sustainable energy? Tell him he’s dreaming.
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