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Where Is Tesla’s Model 3 Beta Prototype?

Tesla

With Tesla’s stock price down 15 percent in the last few weeks, amid a roaring market, it appears doubts about Elon Musk's omnipotence are creeping in once again... and rightly so. Despite the hype surrounding hundreds of thousands of pre-orders due to start production in H2 2017, buried deep within the company's most recent 10-K filing is an admission that there is still no Model 3 beta prototype.

The fanfare surrounding the pre-order-fest for the Tesla Model 3 continues to support the stock in many analyst's (and investor's) minds. However, with production due to begin in H2 2017 (just 4 months away) and delivery in 2018, doubts are starting to appear, judging by the stock's demise since earnings...

(Click to enlarge)

And Car and Driver's Anton Wahlman - who appears to be one of the few who actually read Tesla's 10-K filing - may have found the reason for the doubts...

From the filing:

We expect that the next performance milestone to be achieved will be the successful completion of the Model 3 Beta Prototype, which would be achieved upon the determination by our Board of Directors that an eligible prototype has been completed. Candidates for such prototype are among the vehicles that we are currently building as part of our ongoing testing of our Model 3 vehicle design and manufacturing processes. Related: The EV Myth – Electric Car Threat To Oil Is Wildly Overstated

In other words, Wahlman points out, Tesla has not “completed” a Model 3 “beta prototype” as of, well, either of these two dates: December 31, 2016 (the period that the SEC filing covers), or March 1, 2017 (the date on which the document was filed). Pick your poison.

We know that around mid-February 2017, Tesla is said to have started building the next stage of Model 3 prototypes. It is from this batch that they appear to be creating the first “beta prototype.

What does this mean for production? In theory, there is nothing that prevents Tesla from delivering what a normal car company would call a prototype test vehicle of some sort and simply declare victory on its original timeline. This is what Tesla did for the Model S in June 2012 and for the Model X in September 2015. After those events, it took at least another approximately three months—arguably a fair bit more—for proper volume production to take root.

That is to say that, no matter how immature, Tesla could indeed deliver a Model 3 in July 2017 and declare victory. However, that is not to be confused with what a normal car company would call its start of sales to the general public. Related: Why The Oil Industry Has To Go Digital

Basically, Car and Driver's Wahlman says, it comes down this:

If it’s prudent to start production of an all-new car three to six months after the advent of a “beta prototype,” then why don’t all automakers do this? Why do they take approximately two years for the preproduction testing stages, if only three to six months are necessary?

We will find out in the second half of this year.

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  • JHM on March 06 2017 said:
    Meh. The key issue is the design of the production line, not board approval of a final beta version for the purpose of awarding stock options to Mr. Musk.

    This is Tesla's first vehicle built from the ground up to be manufactured efficiently. This is in contrast with the Model S and Model X where the focus was more on the product itself and less on the process of manufacturing.

    Tesla aims to exit 2017 producing 5k/week Model 3, then exit 2018 at 10k/week. If the can pull that off, then in 2018 they should be able to deliver 500k of Models S, X and 3 combined.

    Other automakers require a six year design cycle to launch a new model. Tesla has much greater innovative velocity than that with a design cycle about 2 to 3 years. Essentially Tesla is innovating circles around traditional automakers. This is why incumbents are still more than 4 years away from anything that even remotely competes with the Model S as it was released in 2012. By 2020, Tesla will be delivering over 1M EVs. How many EVs will the incumbents be selling? The incumbents don't even have plans to make enough batteries to compete with Tesla.

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