Tesla misses targets, cuts prices, testifies to Congress, keeps Autopilot: is this the masterplan?

July 15, 2016

If you're a regular reader of this site, you're probably familiar with our news roundups for the Volkswagen Dieselgate scandal and Takata's fatally flawed airbags. Now, it seems we need a roundup for Tesla, too, given the recent flood of stories about the boldest electric-car company on the block.

1. Tesla misses delivery targets: In the second quarter of the year, Tesla had hoped to deliver 17,000 vehicles. When all the dust had settled, though, only 14,370 made it to consumers.

That isn't necessarily a big deal for Tesla, which is trying to ramp up production to meet increased demand. However, the delay makes it harder for Tesla to meet its annual delivery goal of 80,000 - 90,000 vehicles. During the first six months of 2016, the automaker delivered 29,190 cars. Even if Tesla were to meet its goal for July - December of 50,000, it would still miss its annual target. 

2. Model X price cut: On Wednesday, Tesla rolled out a new version of the Model X crossover/minivan called the 60D, which starts at $74,000 (or $66,500, after the $7,500 U.S. federal tax credit). That's $9,000 cheaper than the previous bottom-range model, the 75D. The 60D, as you might guess, comes with a 60 kWh battery, which delivers 200 miles of driving on a full charge. The 75D's 75 kWh battery has a range of 237 miles.

Like the cheaper, 60 kWh versions of the Model S that appeared in June, the Model X 60D is likely to increase consideration among consumers. However, as mentioned above, whether Tesla can handle an uptick in sales--especially in light of huge demand for the upcoming Model 3--remains a matter for debate. 

3. No more resale guarantee: As if the Tesla Model S' sleek lines and high-tech gadgetry weren't enough for consumers, Tesla had offered to buy back those cars after three years for at least 50 percent of the purchase price. But no more: as of July 1, Tesla's buyback program is done, over, finito, kaput. That's bad news for the small number of owners who took part in the program and good news for Tesla, which can use the buyback cash it had held in reserve for other purposes--like, say, buying SolarCity.

4. Mr. Musk goes to Washington: A fatal crash in Florida involving Tesla's Autopilot software is being investigated by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the National Transportation Safety Board, and the Securities and Exchange Commission. Now, Tesla CEO Elon Musk has been asked to brief the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation on the collision and Tesla's response to it. The Committee set a deadline of July 29.

5. Consumer Reports begs Tesla to disable (and rename) Autopilot: In a press release, the magazine has urged the automaker to disable Autopilot until it can add a feature that guarantees a driver's hands are on the wheel at all times (much like Nissan's new ProPILOT system does). Consumer Reports also asked Tesla to rename the system because it believes the term "Autopilot" is misleading to owners. According to  Laura MacCleery, the magazine's Vice President of Consumer Policy and Mobilization:

"By marketing their feature as ‘Autopilot,’ Tesla gives consumers a false sense of security. In the long run, advanced active safety technologies in vehicles could make our roads safer. But today, we’re deeply concerned that consumers are being sold a pile of promises about unproven technology. ‘Autopilot’ can't actually drive the car, yet it allows consumers to have their hands off the steering wheel for minutes at a time. Tesla should disable automatic steering in its cars until it updates the program to verify that the driver’s hands are kept on the wheel.”

6. Tesla may add South Korea to its map: It's not all bad news in TeslaLand: the company may create a showroom in Starfield Hanam, which will be South Korea's biggest shopping mall when it opens in September. If the deal goes through, it will be Tesla's first gallery in South Korea, though not its first in Asia. Tesla already operates showrooms in China, Hong Kong, and Japan.

And for those wondering about Musk's top-secret masterplan: still no word.

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