Conclusions and Recommendations For Tesla Motors

Conclusions and Recommendations For Tesla Motors

Tesla Motors 

Melissa A. Schilling 

In 2013, Tesla Motors was a 4500-person company on track to set history. It had created two cars that most people agreed were remarkable. It had posted its  rst quarterly pro t in 2013, and had repaid its government loans ahead of the major auto conglomerates. Most im- portantly, it looked like it might survive. Perhaps even thrive. This was astonishing as there had been no other successful auto manufacturing start up in the U.S. since the 1920s.

The road leading up to Tesla’s position in 2013 had not always been smooth, and there were many doubts that still lingered. Tesla had bene ted from the enthu- siasm of the “eco-wealthy”—a rather narrow portion of the market. How would Tesla fare when it was in direct competition with General Motors, Ford, and Nissan for the mass market? Would it be able to turn a sustainable pro t on its automaking operations? Furthermore, some questioned whether Tesla’s goals to sell to the mass market even made sense. In the niche market, it had a privileged position with customers that were relatively price-insensitive and were seeking a stylish, high per- formance car that made an environmental statement. To compete for the mass market, the car would have to pro- vide good value for the money (involving trade-offs that might con ict with Chairman Elon Musk’s ideals), and the obstacles to charging would have to be overcome.

History of tesla

In the year 2003, an engineer named Martin Eberhard was looking for his next big project. A tall, slim man with a mop of gray hair, Eberhard was a serial entrepre- neur who had launched a number of start-ups, including a company called NuvoMedia, which he sold to Gemstar

in a $187 million deal. Eberhard was also looking for a sports car that would be environmentally friendly—he had concerns about global warming and U.S. depen- dence on the Middle East for oil. When he didn’t  nd the car of his dreams on the market he began contem- plating building one himself, even though he had zero experience in the auto industry. Eberhard noticed that many of the driveways that had a Toyota Prius hybrid electric vehicle (or “dork mobile” as he called it) also had expensive sports cars in them—making Eberhard speculate that there could be a market for a high per- formance environmentally friendly car. As explained by Eberhard, “It was clear that people weren’t buying a Prius to save money on gas—gas was selling close to in ation-adjusted all-time lows. They were buying them to make a statement about the environment.”i

Eberhard began to consider a range of alternative fuel options for his car: hydrogen fuel cells, natural gas, die- sel. However he soon concluded the highest ef ciency and performance would come from a pure electric ve- hicle. Luckily for Eberhard, Al Cocconi (founder of AC Propulsion and one of the original engineers for GM’s ill-fated EV-1) had concluded the same thing, and had produced a car called the tzero. The tzero could go from zero to 60 miles per hour in 4.1 seconds, but it was pow- ered with extremely heavy lead-acid batteries, limiting its range to about 60 miles between charges. Eberhard approached Cocconi with the idea of using the lighter lithium ion batteries, which offered six times more en- ergy per pound. Cocconi was eager to try out the idea (he had, in fact, been experimenting with lithium ion batter- ies himself), and the resulting lithium ion based tzero accelerated to 60 miles per hour in 3.6 seconds, and could travel more than 300 miles. Eberhard licensed the electric-drive-train technology from AC Propulsion

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