Bob Lutz thinks Tesla’s in trouble

Bob Lutz Driving

Since Tesla’s 2003 founding, there’s been a steady stream of articles explaining why it would soon go belly-up. The latest comes from a seemingly unlikely source: Bob Lutz, the “father of the Chevrolet Volt.”

Back in the day, Lutz and Musk seemed like fellow travelers – the former GM exec said he would always be grateful to Tesla for “breaking the ice” on EVs, and the classic film Revenge of the Electric Car showed the two men companionably examining a Nissan LEAF together.

More recently, Lutz has been on an anti-Tesla kick. In 2014, he said the EV trendsetter would “remain a fringe brand,” and in June of this year, he pooh-poohed the Powerwall, saying that “having batteries as backup storage has been around for hundreds of years.”

Lutz’s latest lashing out is an opinion piece for Road and Track, in which he says Tesla is “showing all the signs of a company in trouble: bleeding cash, securitized assets, and mounting inventory.”

It’s no secret that Tesla is losing money, and as long as it keeps introducing new products and new features, it’s likely to continue to do so. However, Elon Musk insists, and most of the press believes, that the company is “demand-constrained.” Current Model S buyers are reportedly facing wait times of weeks or months for delivery, so it’s hard to see where the big inventory would be.

Lutz writes that Tesla should be concerned about Audi’s plans for a luxury EV, but oddly doesn’t mention BMW, Volvo, Mercedes, VW or Porsche, all of which have also announced plans for what the press calls “Tesla-fighters.” Musk and others at Tesla have said over and over that they welcome other automakers’ electrification efforts. Whether you doubt that or not, it will be at least a couple of years before any of these go into production to confront the by-then-entrenched S and X (actually, Porsche has offered plug-in versions of its Panamera and Cayenne since October 2013 and November 2014 respectively, and sales of both remain nominal).

“Which would you rather buy?” asks Lutz. In fact, Model S has often outsold most of its competitors in the large luxury class (though it isn’t really fair to compare those legacy gas-burners to a trendy Tesla).

Lutz’s prescription to save Tesla? “An entry-level model with a cheaper, range-extended hybrid driveline. Something with a much smaller battery that also looks great and drives great.”

Does Model S not look and drive great? Do EV buyers want something with a much smaller battery? Moot points, because Tesla building a plug-in hybrid is about as likely as Lutz’s former employer Chrysler deciding to become an EV leader.

 

Source: Road and Track