Gigafactory, Model 3 Implications

Tesla’s blog notes its Gigafactory-produced Powerwall home battery system dovetails with SolarCity-produced solar panels. But Goldfarb objects to “the hypothetical connection in that solar can charge a home battery during the day, and this then can be used by the electric vehicle at night — or both batteries could be used to sell back to the grid.” But solar generally doesn’t produce enough to power a home, he says. “And you can’t store power in your car battery during the day because the car is usually not there.”

Goldfarb also says the $4 billion Gigafactory in Nevada has been “a huge bet” and has experienced delays. “It is hard to see how its battery model will be profitable,” he says.

Musk says, according to Vox, that a SolarCity deal will not affect Tesla’s plan to sell its $35,000 Model 3 starting in 2017. But Goldfarb says the margins in this part of the market will be very tight. “General Motors has been promising a late-2016 launch of a 200-mile range Chevrolet Bolt EV, electric car,” he says. “Moreover, the electric car market is crowded in the midprice range. Nissan, Ford, BMW, VW, Fiat, Mercedes, Kia, Mitsubishi and Smart all produce cars in the segment.”

Not Mass-Market Suited

Given the above-noted factors, Goldfarb says Tesla’s mass-market and SolarCity-takeover ambitions appear out of line with Musk’s track record as a master and visionary. For example he’s been out in front of the self-driving revolution (though the self-driving car “is really just a toy right now, and this market is very crowded, too,” Goldfarb says). Tesla can and should focus on what it does best: high-end electric cars, Goldfarb says. “Tesla owners love their cars,” he says. “They should. These are wonderful automobiles.”

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