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  Jerome Guillen, the company’s director of Model S programs
  previously directed the business business innovation
  department at Daimler AG. He comments, “We are doing things
  in a couple weeks that, at my previous employer, would have
  taken two years.”
Knowing quite some people working within the German automobile industry (mainly BMW) attesting how slow and corporate the decision finding process is, I think this is what will cause the traditional car manufacturers quite some headache in the future.



Major car companies probably don't want to evolve their cars too quickly at the risk of confusing their customers. Tesla, on the other hand, must quickly turn its funding into entirely new cars. The needs of new and established car companies are entirely different.

I also think TylerE makes a great point: cars are expensive machines with high expectations of reliability; this is another argument that established car companies need to be slow and meticulous. Toyota's stuck accelerator issues, which may very well have never even existed, probably cost them more than Tesla's entire marketcap (I read somewhere that the estimated hit to Toyota was in the 6B USD neighborhood).


>Major car companies probably don't want to evolve their cars too quickly at the risk of confusing their customers. Tesla, on the other hand, must quickly turn its funding into entirely new cars. The needs of new and established car companies are entirely different.

They also don't want to alienate their customers. Imagine if you bought a new, $100,000 Mercedes, then they announced a week later that the new one would be more powerful, better styled, had all sorts of new gadgets, and would be immediately on sale for $100,000.

You'd be pretty pissed. You're spending major money, and would want to know that you're spending it correctly. That's part of why the big manufacturers have year-long hype and PR cycles. You don't want to surprise your customers.

The other problem with quickly making new models is repairs. Tesla actually has a lot of luck in this space, because mechanically, their cars are a LOT simpler than a normal, gas powered car. They don't have to worry about things like gearboxes or clutches. However, it is a tendentious benefit for the consumer, especially as the cars become more common, to have spare parts easily ordered or at hand.


In your final sentence, you appear to have mistyped "tangential" as "tendentious", which is an oddly sophisticated typo. Though, in this case, "ancillary benefit" may more accurately convey your (apparent) intended meaning than "tangential benefit".


Autocorrect ate my poor attempt at spelling tremendous, actually.


>They also don't want to alienate their customers. Imagine if you bought a new, $100,000 Mercedes, then they announced a week later that the new one would be more powerful, better styled, had all sorts of new gadgets, and would be immediately on sale for $100,000.

Well, yeah, but I bet a big part of that is how we haven't adapted to expect that to happen, the way we do for computers, smartphones, TVs, etc.

And the rest of it is probably attributable to cars being a much larger, less often-per-person purchase than a computer or smartphone.


The other problem with quickly making new models is repairs.

Yes! Yes! Yes! As someone who has owned 30yo motorcycles that went out of production 30 years ago, and also 30yo motorcycles that are still in production, the difference is tremendous.

Vehicles that have been around for a while have superb parts availability, and a community often develops with a large amount of very specific know-how. Those of you who have not wrenched on vehicles may not realize this, but sometimes the community can be even more valuable than any other feature of the vehicle.


>this is another argument that established car companies need to be slow and meticulous.

They need to be meticulous and deliberate. Being slow is a bug, not a feature.


I think the better word would be "a tradeoff". It's an unwanted feature, but it's an expected and tolerated consequence of the design.


The catch, of course, is that cars are much more difficult to patch than software. There is something to be said for being sure your're getting it right the first time.


Well, somewhat. From the article:

> The most impressive one is the software updates that will change driving dynamics. This update is sent to customer’s cars without them having to visit their service location, just like updating your computer via the internet.

That's pretty slick for a car.


I really, really hope they got their security on that very tight.


From what we know, they do. The car actually VPNs into Tesla HQ to download updates. As such, we don't know what happens after that, but the fact that they've gone to the level of setting up a Car<->Manufacturer VPN suggests that they do more beyond that.


Not just more difficult to patch, but a whole hell of a lot more deadly than most software.

Although I imagine the bug reports still read similarly: "Unexpected user input causing fatal crashes"


I doubt that.

After the Toyota witch hunt trial against "foreign" companies (read as: more American than Ford/Chrysler/GM who outsource everything possible including assembly, which drives down cost, but also drives down quality and safety) for the sudden acceleration problem which ended up being deemed user error by both government agencies that oversee car safety, Telsa is going to do everything possible to repeat this mistake (read as: Tesla is going to continue consistently manufacturing the highest quality cars humanly possible, and exceed every safety requirement as far as possible using existing and next generation technology, following the same model that made Toyota the best car manufacturer in the world).

Every software update needs to comply with the testing methodology that is put forth by the US government, and most likely will be tested by a battery of inputs that are impossible in the real world just to see if the software malfunctions.

Safety-oriented software (such as in cars, military weapons, or in space) is written in such a way that operations are not unbounded, hard real time can exist in hardware, possible infinite loop conditions can't happen, runtime memory allocations don't happen, and if things can be mathematically proven, they are.

See the NASA programming manual, I think its been linked here on HN before. This is the kind of programming you see in mission critical software. This is the kind of programming Tesla does.


You know you are making the same argument as the light-hearted quip of your parent post, right? Everything you mentioned that goes into safe programming combined with meatspace actors yields the bug report "if I accidentally press on the accelerator instead of the brake, I crash faster".


Come on, I was making a joke.


On the flip side what these car companies manufacture in 2 weeks will take Tesla two years to manufacture.

On the other hand, Tesla is not doing the kind of innovation on the automotive side that would create a meaningful barrier to entry. The big players are all catching up (already caught up) and are going to chisel marketshare away from Tesla. IMHO, Tesla will close or sell within two years!


GM makes about 345 thousand cars in two weeks. At 400 cars per week, that would take Tesla about sixteen and a half years to make. The scale difference at present between Tesla and the major manufacturers is huge.


Ah but GM is not one plant. Its not even really a car company, its a financing company that happens to own all the shares of stock in numerous sub-corporations, some of which happen to make cars, just like Tesla.

A reasonably fair comparison would be GM's Bowling Green Corvette plant which makes, on long term average, about 200 to 300 cars per week for a grand total around 10K to 15K per year. About the same as Tesla, more or less.


That does not even remotely make sense. The point was to compare companies, as they are compared on their turnaround they are compared on their output.


Is there an equal to the Model S? Seems unlikely they'll be closing since they're profitable and their flagship model has no equal.


That's not really a fair point. I think it's better to look at their market segment. The people who want a nice-looking (luxury) car, roomy with 4 doors who are environmentally aware. That being said, there are/will be numerous established players (American, German, Japanese) who will provide a vehicle that could fulfill this market segment in one way or another.

Keep in mind consumers with certain existing brand loyalty are more likely to buy from your trusted brand before buying from a relatively unknown car maker. Especially, one that doesn't have as many dealership footprints around the country, which further reduce the probability of a sale.

You can make the argument of Ferrari who have a niche market and who have stayed in the business despite all the competition. However, Ferraris had/have a long history of racing history and certain brand around handling and driving. They are targeted to that audience. Tesla sedan is marketed to a whole different segment that could as easily buy a BWM, GM, MB, VW or Lexus before they would buy a Tesla.

Tesla is innovative, but their innovation is not something that can hold everyone else back. I've seen the car and how beautiful the interior and the center console is, but it's not enough to hold the competition back.

Lastly, Tesla is yet to offer a leasing plan. Nissan is offering an amazing deal on their Leaf. I looked at it and my projected fuel cost saving was roughly the same as my lease rate. Meaning I could drive a car for FREE for 3 years.

So now Tesla is going to move to a saturated market and they need to start adding marketing costs, dealership expansion costs and other unseen expenses to maintain their sales and suddenly they are not going to have the same profit margins and are going gradually get squeezed out. Their only hope is to sell to Toyota or MB who already buy components from tesla.


There really isn't many.

Although this isn't the kind of car you compare to the Lincoln Town Car, Cadillac DTS, Mercedes S-Class, BMW 7-series and Lexus LS, you would compare it against the Cadillac CTS, Mercedes E-class, BMW 5-series, and Lexus GS.

Price and feature wise, it doesn't seem to fit in the mid-sized luxury/executive class of cars, but its not quite into the full-sized luxury class either, its sort of stuck between.


Traditional manufacturers are already in trouble. Tesla will ramp up relatively very quickly once infrastructure gets in place.


I'm a huge fan of Elon Musk. That said, if you think that Tesla is a source of trouble for traditional manufacturers then I think that goes against every bit of wisdom out there at the moment.

Tesla is interesting, a pioneer, much like Elons other ventures. But it is not a threat by any stretch of the imagination to established car manufacturers. Think of it as a large scale testbed, technology to be licensed when proven over the longer term, just like what happened to every other technology in the car industry.

Don't forget that the era of the electric car already came and went once before, it definitely looks like it is here to stay but it will be a long time before Tesla will be named as a viable contender to Toyota, VW, MB, BMW, Ford or even GM. This is not virgin territory, the cards have been dealt, customers have to be won from other suppliers and brand loyalty counts for quite a bit.

By the numbers Tesla is still a very small player, and likely to remain small for quite a while.


Electric car came and went because the oil industry bought up the technology. I imagine this scared many investors away from investing time and energy into it, and I imagine this drove many people into research and wanting to develop technology that would not be for sale to oil giants.

Tesla is already compared to BMW, and even as a better option. You should look into / watch some videos on Tesla as from what your saying seems like your knowledge on them is limited; Not saying this as a put-down, I've just kept up with Tesla a lot.

Do you know about their Supercharger stations, etc? And Tesla is building a very strong brand, beautiful product, etc.. Tesla's growing at exactly the speed they're wanting to, demand for their product is higher than supply. They're getting everything prepared, testing the processes, and I imagine will ramp up in a big way once it makes sense.


Nowhere in the parent post was it imputed that Tesla was causing the trouble that traditional car manufacturers are having.


But why is it taking so long? Given how profitable they are, and how much demand there is, and how much could be gained from scale-related cuts in unit production costs, why haven't they been able to raise enough money to produce at a closer rate to the bigger car makers?


Why the rush? Quality and proper execution take time. They are going to destroy the existing car industry, and they are doing the same with SpaceX to the space industry. Apple takes just as much time developing their products, and planning marketing launches, and preparing for increased future demand -- you just don't hear about it because they don't want you to for the 2-3+ years they are polishing everything.


I'm gonna push back a little bit by raising a few questions:

Jerome Guillen is talking about incremental improvements because when they launched, the car wasn't good enough. Being able to update the software is great but is it really a strength ? It's not, unless your car has Google Car type of innovation in it !

Imagine how exciting it would be to get updates for the Nokia phones we bought in the 90s ? It's not exciting at all. The Model S is a year 2000 design, still on the market 10 years later. I know I'm not being nice when I say that but when did that ever help someone invent the future ?

Now look at the Model X. They are catching up and that's good. But the concept was revealed in February 2012 and it won't be ready before early 2014. I don't know what I will be thinking in 2014 but I do know an incremental software update won't make me go wow. What we really need is not another walkman. We need an iPod. We don't need an iPod, we need an iPhone. We don't need another PC, we need an iPad. Are those falcon doors impressive ? They are a gimmick, designed to attract attention. Those doors are a problem and I bet they are giving Elon's team headaches!

I did see those backview mirrors in the Model X. My first thought was MEH... But if what Elon is really doing is secretly building camera's inside the car, then I'm gonna be like NOW THAT'S WHAT I'M TALKING ABOUT !! Imagine everyone driving around with those camera's recording everything !! Imagine Tim Cook signing a deal with Elon in order to get the map data. Up she goes !! But as far as I know, that's not the case.

The article mentions 20,000 Model S cars a year. The first prototype was revealed in I think September 2009 and the first one was delivered in June 2012. Henry Ford was making 1 Model T a day in 1908. He electrified his factory with Tesla's invention. Fast forward 2 years and he was building over 100,000 cars a year. That's 5 times more than Elon. It's not about how fast you can do your software updates. It's about creating demand and how fast you can build those cars !

I do like the solar power play. It disrupts everyone's business model. But a major concern has to be the fuel cell threat. Lots of car manufacturers are placing their bets on it. Is it because Elon has the market locked up with his patents ? Should he be working on fuel cells as well ? Are the fuel cell problems too big to overcome or is that market locked up with patents ?


luckily for the majors, tesla and its peers are making such a small volume that it isn't going to kill any of the old-guard any time soon. 400 cars a week, GM makes that per HOUR.


If you imagine GM making cars 24/7 they'd produce about 1,000 cars per hour. Its incredible how big they are.


actually you are spot on. GM made 9,288,277 cars in 2012, works out to 1057 cars an hour.


you are probably right, don't they sell 10M cars+ globally each year?




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