by Jim Anderton
It’s the most talked about auto manufacturer in decades, led by a man often compared to the character Tony Stark in the Iron Man movie franchise. Tesla is dominating popular culture like no automaker has since the Mustang craze in 1964. Tesla’s great hope is the Model 3, a compact sedan that Elon Musk hopes will win a dominant share of the middle of the BMW 3-Series market.
That was the plan, but a year into the ramp up, Tesla is struggling to meet production targets, targets that are smaller that the output of industry heavyweights like Toyota, who typically produce double that number from operations.
And murmurs that demand isn’t what the EV world thought it would be are leaking onto the Internet.
EVs from other major automakers also barely move the needle in sales volumes. So why does a car from a struggling automaker with one assembly plant, a handful of dealers and a service network that often lets owners wait for weeks for simple replacement parts, outsell EV’s from state-of-the-art builders like BMW and GM?
The answer is Elon Musk’s personal brand. He lands rockets on barges, builds Hyperloop trains and solar roofing tiles. Making a simple mid-size sedan should be easy, right? As it turns out, landing rockets or developing self driving technology is hard, but it’s a lot harder to make money assembling cars.
Is the future a Tesla-dominated one of maintenance-free EVs with no need for aftermarket support or gasoline? With 11 billion dollars in debt, there’s a chance that by the time you read this, Tesla will be bankrupt. There’s also a chance that they will become the world’s biggest carmaker, dwarfing Toyota, VW, Ford, GM, etc. But I doubt it.
All the sales of even the most affordable EVs like Nissan’s Leaf and the Chevy Bolt, don’t add up to the sales of the Chevy Silverado or Ford F-150.
In twenty years, maybe, but for the foreseeable future, gaskets, filters, sensors, and rotating electrical parts will be the bread and butter of the service side of the business. And by the time EVs take over, the aftermarket will be installing reman battery packs, electric motors and the usual wear items in the chassis, with support from aftermarket parts vendors. EV fans think that Bosch, Denso, Continental, Delphi and the others will curl up and die.
We know better.
The death of the aftermarket has been predicted many times before and as long as there are cars, there will be an independently-owned infrastructure to maintain and repair them.
Jim Anderton, a veteran automotive writer, joins the Indie Garage team as Content Specialst. Welcome aboard Jim!