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Forget Elon Muskos Troubles-Tesla Had a Blockbuster 2018



When I first ran the Tesla Model 3 in March 2018, I gained so much attention from citizens of Los Angeles that it borders on embarrassing. Hoi Polloi by Beverly Hills went right by Lamborghinis and Aston Martins to tip Tesla. They even walked into traffic to look more closely at Elon Musk's new, cheaper, seemingly common sedan. Nine months later, Angelenos has returned to its billiard box itself. You can't spend five minutes in LA without mocking a model 3. And the ubiquity signals how much Tesla has achieved in the past year.

Car manufacturer has had a tumultuous 2018, much of it centered around Musk, his mood, and his tweets. Just for a moment, Musk's interrupted plans to take the company privately; his bad advice stumbles with the SEC; Out-left-field-hollow rescue missives and insults; bizarre interviews; pot smoking; and over and over again. If you focus on the Tesla company, then 201

8 has been really good indeed. And it couldn't be better: Musk himself admitted that a successful ramp of Model 3 production was the key to the success of his young company.

Tesla will not release official figures until the new year, but Kelley Blue Book estimates that the company had sold around 160,000 cars (including models S and X) by the end of November. "Last year was about 50,000, so it's more than tripled," says KBB analyst Tim Fleming.

The driver of that tripling is of course the model 3 – which Tesla launched in July 2017, but did not produce in large numbers for this summer. Musk warned of impending "production hell" when he handed over the keys (in fact actually) to the first 30 model 3 owners at the launch. He called it right. The company had major problems with the Nevada Gigafactory, which makes the battery pack the cars. Musk later admitted that he had pushed too hard for extreme automation, replacing robots with people, ripping out a "fluffbot". Finally, Musk had rebelled an extra, almost completely manual production line in a tent in the parking lot of Tesla's California factory.

Finally, Tesla began building on 5,000 model 3 cars per week, the speed Musk had noted as a reference. You can now get a start at $ 45,000, and Musk says the $ 35,000 version, w with fewer features and lower range, will arrive in 2019. (Caveat: Musk has a rocky relationship with deadlines.)

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Current price point puts the new Tesla in KBB's "luxury" bucket, but it has not stopped people who buy model 3. "It will be the most sold luxury car this year," says Fleming. ] luxury cars, crazy SUVs included.The next bestselling car Mercedes C-Class, seventh, Tesla sold 2.5 times more model 3 cars than the BMW sold the 3 Series, which is a remarkable achievement, and contrasts with the movements of Ford and GM to stop making small cars and sedans in the US

However, success and longevity do not always come in tandem, the big question being whether Tesla can maintain this momentum in 2019 and beyond A few factors could have made an anomaly in 2018. It was hugely busy demand for model 3 – some 400,000 people placed $ 1,000 on waiting list deposits. Many of these potential buyers are still there, sticking to the cheapest version. But an estimated 115,000 have now bought long distance, all-wheel drive, or performance version they wanted. When Tesla empties its reserves of eager buyers, it must continue to expand its appeal.

Although Musk is working to push down prices, Tesla customers in the United States are losing their right to $ 7,500 federal tax credit that comes with buying an electric car. After a manufacturer sells 200,000 qualified cars, the credit goes out within a year. Tesla is the first car manufacturer to cross the threshold, so analysts like Fleming will look at an impact on sales. "We'll learn it first with Tesla," he says. (Tesla has teamed up with GM and others to listen to an extension.) Maybe customers won't care about spending extra money, or Musk will cut prices to keep their sales busy. He also plans to start Model 3 sales in Europe, home to another section of reservation holders who don't have to worry about US tax credit policy.

At the same time, the competition finally begins to pick up. Buyers who want to go electric can choose from a growing range of models. Jaguar's I-Pace is already on the market; The Audi's E-tron will be available in early 2019. At the cheaper end, the popular Nissan Leaf will have a longer battery solution. These cars – which reviewers have so far had – are often billed as Tesla competitors, or even Tesla killers. But Fleming says that the EV market as a whole is growing. "Competition can be a good thing if it brings awareness," he says – not just for EV, but also for the growing spectrum of charging options.

Several potential issues brew. Tesla is facing a series of lawsuits on its autopilot semi-autonomous system and worker safety issues at the Fremont, California factory.

Tesla's sales figures for the fourth quarter of 2018 will undoubtedly be good. The car manufacturer can repeat its third quarter by making money. And never one to sit still, Musk has already announced plans to keep the company moving forward. He is working on building a factory in China and is planning to uncover a small SUV called model Y and a named pickup in 2019. At the same time, work on Tesla's semi-truck and renewed Roadster sports car continues.

Conventional wisdom would have Musk aiming to have a quieter 2019 than he did in 2018. But if the goal is to make all these vehicles as common on Hollywood Boulevard as Model 3 is now, well, maybe not. And Musk has never been a convention anyway.


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