I’m not a huge fan of Autoline After Hours, as it’s a bit lightweight at times, and too much distracting chit-chat. But if you can get past a bit of that at the beginning and in some parts here and there, their guest Sandy Munro has some very interesting things to say, about Tesla, China, EVs, US competitiveness, and at the end, a final prognosis of the domestic industry. Hint: it’s not upbeat.
Munro and Company tears cars apart and dissects them to their smallest components, and then does a cost and technology analysis. Munro has been tearing apart Teslas for several years, and initially, he was quite negative about them. But as he’s dug into them deeper and compared them to the EV competition, he’s slowly come around and has become very deeply impressed. And no, Tesla is not a Munro client. This is just Sandy Munro straight talking, which is the only kind he does.
His very extensive travels to China has also left made him highly impressed with the speed they are developing their automotive EV technology, as well as their approach to other business challenges. Numerous Chinese companies bough his reports on the Tesla, as have some European companies and FCA. GM and Ford (his former employer) passed. This guy knows what he’s talking about, unlike the nattering nabobs of negativity and exuberance that make up the endless daily media and social media circus about and around Tesla.
I am deeply frustrated with that circus, as it’s almost impossible to talk about Tesla without being branded a hater or cult member, or a short or long. My feelings very much mirror Munro’s, as in: Tesla has remarkable and class-leading technology and cars that perform better than anyone might once have imagined. And are still well ahead of the competition, including the very latest from Jaguar and Audi, both of which are significantly less efficient, and therefor have lower range. And they’re not standing still.
Much has been made about the imminent “Tesla Killers” coming from Germany, Jaguar. The Audi e-tron crossover ($74,800) finally arrived, almost a year late due to serious software issues (of course nobody carries on about that in the media), and it just got its EPA range rating: 204 miles (328 km); and an efficiency of 74 e-mpg. That’s surprisingly (shocking, actually) low, considering its large 95 kWh battery. The Jaguar I-Pace ($63025), with a 234 mile range, is also an efficiency laggard, with the second worst rating. Meanwhile various versions of the Tesla Model X, a larger SUV, have a 289 to 295 mile range. And the Tesla Model S gets up to 335 miles, and the Model 3 LR, the efficiency champ in its class, has a 325 mile range and the MR version has a rating of 123 e-mpg. Even the cheapest $35,000 Model 3, which is due to go into production imminently, has a 220 mile range.
The Audi does allow somewhat faster charging, but that’s a painful trade-off: charging quicker but more often on a long trips? And that’s if one can find one of the very new high speed charger that can actually deliver those potential faster charges. Its very conventional shape and poor aerodynamics (it looks like a conventional IC Audi with a blanked-off grill) and other factors result in a range that’s less than much cheaper EVs like the Bolt (238 miles) and all the new Hyundai/Kia EVs, all of which are in the 230-260 mile range. Even the new Leaf Plus goes 226 miles.
The e-tron’s 0-60 times of 5.5 seconds is also rather modes, slower than even the cheapest Tesla, and significantly slower than the ones in its price range.
So let’s address one more last item on the EV news front, which is old news by now: Tesla Q1 production and deliveries was not as good as they had hoped for or projected, a total of 63k cars delivered and another 10k in transit. They’re still up strongly over Q1 2018, but that was before the Model 3 was in mass production. And sales of the Models S&X were down significantly. The Tesla bears are salivating, once again.
It is what it is. Nobody said it was going to be easy to pioneer EVs. Nobody knows just how quickly the market will develop. Tesla is pioneering, and it’s been a rocky ride from day one and it will likely continue to be a rocky road for some time.
It boils down to what I said to my son back in 2011 or so when the Model S was heading towards production: It’s all a matter of demand, which no one knows how large it will be. Certainly not in 2011, and not yet today. Tesla has the best technology and cars, and that apparently continues to be the case, given the performance of the new Audi and Jaguar. And Tesla’s not standing still: the Model S and X are getting new more efficient motors similar to the Model 3’s, and a major refresh with a new battery pack and interior are heavily rumored to be inevitable before long. I would not be surprised if the Model S gets a new battery pack good for 400 miles of range. That’s only a 19% increase, and having 400 miles will be something big to crow about, especially when the competition can barely break 200 miles.
Nobody can predict the EV market. If Tesla struggles or falters, it will be because of that and not because of its technology or products. And on that Sandy Munro and I agree 100%. As well as his final words about the domestic auto industry. If need be, skip to 1:27:00 to hear his one word answer.