Consistency is Key

For a long time, Chrysler/Stellantis products were considered laughable in both build quality and performance capability. Kia had the same reputation back in the 90’s as well. There was an unproven rumor for a number of years that cars built on Mondays and Fridays would be prone to more errors and problems than a car built midweek. While again, it was unproven, recently Tesla has had some trouble with the build quality of some of their cars, and many of the fixes came quickly, meaning a car built mid month was completely different than a car built at the end of the month.

I wrote a blog a year or so ago about how Dodge could do no wrong. One of the points I made, is that while their Charger and Challenger platforms are over a decade old, they have ironed out all the issues with it and have created a very reliable machine. Something they struggled to do for years. An article on Autoblog listed the best to worst automakers from Consumer Reports. From a very high level view, I want to sum up the top five and the bottom five. These are spoilers and if you want to read more details, you can click hear to go to the Autoblog article, which I believe has the Consumer Reports link in it for even further information.

The top 5 are:
1.) Tesla
2.) Lincoln
3.) Ram
4.) Chrysler
5.) Subaru

My quick analysis of this list is that these are pretty niche auto makers. They only produce a handful of models and what they do have, in some cases, have been around for a long time. They have capitalized on keeping what works and changing only what doesn’t. In some cases, Lincoln specifically, and even Tesla to some extent, they don’t sell a lot of product either. Their volumes compared to some of the bottom makers are only a fraction, meaning they have more time to focus and get it right. Because even with Tesla having as many issues as it does, they are still not pumping out the quantity to make it enough of a market impact. The buyers of theses vehicles are also very different than the bottom bunch as well.

The bottom 5 are:
23.) Mercedes-Benz
24.) Buick
25.) Cadillac
26.) Nissan
27.) Infiniti

The first few things that come to mind of that list are; these are same family vehicles, meaning they have the same parent companies and use the same parts; they are constantly changing up their vehicles and have a vast array of models to choose from; they can be expensive and complex and have a lot of things that can go wrong on them; and they are pumping out a lot of vehicles. Mercedes, Cadillac, Buick, and Infiniti are luxury machines with many technological aids that can fail. That leads to expensive repairs. They are also wildly different in model offerings. While Cadillac, Buick, and Infiniti are somewhat niche, having 22 models collectively offered, Mercedes has 29 different models on their American website alone. Nissan has 17 different models. Mercedes has more models offered than four of the top five manufacturers combined. When you are making that many different cars, at the volume that they are, it begins to paint the picture of why these brands are ending up towards the bottom of the list.

This shows that small, consistent things, done very well, are going to give you an edge over your competitors. Customers want reliable transportation. When a company takes the time to stick to a few models and iron them out over time, the customers will reward that with reviews and returning business. Even if they have issues, like Tesla, they are able to adapt quickly because scale is not at the capacity of the competitors. The fixes can happen almost instantly.

Information like this fascinates me. I’m always excited to look at the market from different perspectives and draw up new and different opinions, commentaries, and conclusions. Facts are facts. So it is fun to discuss the data and then think of ways to make it better. Consistency is the key.

For reference, here are the number of models made by each manufacturer according to their US website.
Tesla 4
Lincoln 6
Ram 14
Chrysler 4
Subaru 8

Mercedes-Benz 29
Buick 6
Cadillac 11
Nissan 17
Infiniti 5

Dyson Ditched Car Making

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2 and a half years later, my shirt is the same but my prediction was completely wrong.

Two and a half years ago, there were reports that Dyson was going to be working on an electric vehicle. I made a video and a blog on September 28th, 2017 where I covered the topic briefly and predicted that Dyson would have a concept on the road before a Tesla semi would be on the road. That was one terrible prediction on my part. Tesla 1, Brentton 0.

Autoweek ran an article recently that explained how the founder of Dyson spent $609 million of his own money on the electric car project, only to find out that in order to simply break even, the car would have to be sold for $180,000. If this isn’t proof that profitability in transportation and mobility services is almost near impossible, I don’t know what more you could ask for.

While I am sad that Dyson abandoned the project, and let me down on my prediction, I can also understand and respect the choice. I want to step out of the auto industry for just a moment to provide an example of high cost, low profit projects. Recently, my wife has been looking into creating a point and click video game for PC and mobile. When you add up the cost of software, talent (if you can’t do everything yourself), time, materials, a somewhat simple game can start off anywhere from 3 to 5 thousand dollars to make. People pay for quality games. In order to turn a profit, we would most likely have to sell the game for $10 which might price out our audience. If we sold it at a $1, we would need to sell over 10,000 copies to turn some small profit. We don’t know if we have an audience that large. So, after counting up all the associated costs, and estimating and understanding the industry a little more, it is not surprising that large game studios spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to produce a top tier game, like The Last of Us or Forza or Fifa. Then, in order to make any sort of profit, there is a reason those games are nearly $80 at launch, even with the quantities they sell them in. The cost to produce video games is an upfront, staggering cost.

Hopefully that will help shed light on just how hard it is for these EV automotive start-up companies to produce a product. The industry is cut throat and expensive. No one works for free. If you can’t turn a profit you won’t stay in business. And for what it is worth, Tesla is barely profitable. Elon can get an Eskimo to buy ice in the arctic and has had investors pour millions into Tesla. If everyone wanted their return on investment right now, the company would cease to exist.

Electric Vehicles are on Fire

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A major subject in the news lately has been that of a Tesla bursting into flames in a parking garage. You can read about that here. While Tesla seems to be in the subject of media outlets quite often, this particular story has actually been quite the finale for a multitude of stories recently about electric cars on fire. And sadly, not in a hip cool way, but literally, on fire.

There was another story a few months ago (read here) about a Tesla crashing and instantly catching on fire. The driver was trapped in the car and perished because rescue personnel could not get the vehicle open in time. That kind of situation probably does not sit well with first responders and even the general public.

Another story out of Europe described an electric vehicle continuously reigniting after firefighters thought the fire was out. You can read about that here. Eventually, they had to submerge the car in a shipping container full of water for a few days to ensure that it would not catch on fire again. That is quite brilliant actually. Simple and effective, but should it be necessary?

Lastly, a Camaro modified to be fully electric was forbidden to take part in a Formula Drift event at Long Beach because firefighters were not prepared to battle an electric car fire. That is the big debate now regarding electric vehicles. Some people see this as a killjoy while others see this as a wake-up call. You can read about this here.

After reading all of these examples (there are many more out there), I lean towards the side of caution and safety, using these situations as a wake-up call. Electric cars are a lot of danger not just moving, but even parked! The evidence is unclear on if and what first responders are trained about electric vehicles and how to handle them in the event of a crash and fire. High amperage and voltage cables pose a risk to the very lives trying to save a life, which one could argue is the chosen job, but life or death scenarios are time sensitive. Will firefighters have enough time to pinpoint and precisely cut an electric vehicle where it needs to be cut in order to preserve their own life along with saving another?

Society has had batteries in devices for quite some time now. However, it is becoming more common to see in the news that even those small devices, cell phones, and electronic cigarettes, have blown up injuring the user. The odds might be relatively low for that happening considering the number of devices that are out there, but still. Automobiles are already a huge danger to human lives. Add in electricity and batteries and that doesn’t make the equation any safer. Take the time to educate yourself and feel free to let me know what you think in the comments below. I am going to proceed with caution as more and more electric vehicles begin to be produced.