Fiat/Chrysler wants to copy Model 3, if...

Fiat/Chrysler wants to copy Model 3, if...

At Fiat/Chrysler's investor's meeting in Amsterdam, CEO Sergio Marchionne said that he's skeptical about Tesla's ability to make money with the Model 3, but if they succeed, he'll copy the formula, add some "Italian design flair" and get it to market within 12 months.

No doubt in my mind that Tesla can do it. But Fiat/Chrysler? Unless they either whip up at least a Megafactory, if not a Gigafactory, or become a major Tesla drivertrain/battery customer, I have to say: Sergio, I'm skeptical.

Red Sage ca us | 2016年4月19日

To paraphrase someone at Tesla Motors Club (TMC)...

Tesla Motors already showed Sergio Marchionne how to do it:

1) Release an expensive, but capable, fully electric sports car to get everyone's attention.
2) Build a world beating, critically acclaimed, fully electric full-sized sports sedan that makes you plenty of dough per unit.
3) Follow that up with an equally awesome fully electric SUV that can beat an Alfa Romeo at a drag strip -- while towing an Alfa Romeo.
4) Finish off with a smoking hot sedan that costs a whole lot less than any of the above, which you will power with battery packs from a Gigafactory.

carlgo2 | 2016年4月19日

They can build a fine car, they all can, but it is really about batteries and charging. Can they do that?

David N | 2016年4月19日

He still doesn't get it.
He never mentioned how anyone would drive on long road trips.

jbunn | 2016年4月19日

Sergio does not get it.

I've talked to some 500e customers and they love it. Sergio only wants to do it as a compliance car.

diegoPasadena | 2016年4月20日

Well, at least we have to give Sergio this: He won't lead, but he is willing to follow the trend, if it proves profitable.
Compared to three years ago, when then VW boss Winterkorn said that an EV with a 200 mile range was not possible to pull off - undaunted by (or in ignorance of) the fact that thousands of Model S were already on the road by then -, that's progress.

archvillain | 2016年4月20日

I was looking into some of the things Sergio said about electric, and I'm now thinking he's not a stupid as I thought. It sounds like it's less the case that he doesn't believe in electric, and more the case that he doesn't believe ICE automakers in their current form are able to compete very well in electric, and that the methods a conventional automaker would take (to become competitive in electric) essentially ends with the automaker being relegated to buying the parts instead of making them, then assembling and slapping a badge on, which in turn puts them on the path to being a glorified middleman with an uncertain future.

It may be that Sergio gets the future, and thinks his type of company is just not able to get there, so he is trying to find a path that doesn't end in irrelevance for established automakers like the automaker entrusted to his care.

If so, his influence might be positive for both ICE and electric.
(Or I might be interpreting too generousl :) .)

diegoPasadena | 2016年4月20日

Well, I would of course not seriously call any of those CEOs stupid. They are where they are not by happenstance, but by being extremely capable.

@archvillain - Thanks for shedding a bit more light to Marchionne's thinking. So he apparently sees this coming. In his statements he actually has outlined the way they can hop on the train, and he should follow them: As a quick first step, swallow corporate pride and buy from those who already have the know-how. As a second step, innovate, improve, produce those components more economically, compete! To stop at the middleman stage is a bit defeatist. The future may be uncertain, but we can make efforts to shape it.

I do see major psychological hurdles where billions of investment in ICE tech have not been recovered. They may be hoping to at least hold out and recover some of it before having to invest in a completely new path, one that will effectively kill off their old one. It's hard to just let go.
But let go they must. Their choice is between a) not recovering those billions and having a chance to make money in the future and b) not recovering those billions and becoming irrelevant.

carlk | 2016年4月20日

Yeah right in 12 months! Where is your gigafactory?

Red Sage ca us | 2016年4月20日

archvillain: The problem is that most traditional automobile manufacturers are already middlemen. That is what Elon Musk and others at Tesla Motors discovered upon researching the industry. Traditional automobile manufacturers count on third party Suppliers for components. Everything from lighting systems to braking systems, grab handles to seating, window lifts to radar systems are off-the-shelf bin part designs from those Suppliers. The car company might design a vehicle, and engineer the engine system in-house, but just about everything else is contracted through Suppliers who deliver to the factory for assembly. Mr. Marchionne probably doesn't want the guys who make electric motors to be their primary external Suppliers, nor does he want to bring them in-house to hold a position of power within the company.

Haggy | 2016年4月23日

Here's Tesla's formula. I'll leave out such mundane details as working up through the Model S, building the Tesla factory, the design considerations and so forth.

Step one. Design a nice car based on 13 years of EV experience. Step two. Build a battery factory that will be capable of producing more than the current world's supply of lithium batteries, so battery packs can be affordable. Step three, build affordable cars using those battery packs.

Red Sage ca us | 2016年4月25日


brando | 2016年4月28日

Right on Red - and Elon even supplies patents to help engineers with car details.

finman100 | 2016年4月29日

Thanks brando for the link. Very cool to see all of these! wow. and people doubt Elon and Tesla still? just look at some of the technical details and...I'm in awe. So what does it cost when others finally wake up and 'copy' Tesla? hmmm, looks to be free. on the internet. let's get going everyone (I'm looking at you ICE mfgs)

Darko | 2016年4月29日

Agree - let go they must. However even choice a) is not likely.
Any transition to a high scale production of a new technology, and in this case lower profit one (EVs) will not look good on the overall balance sheet. The profits, growth, bonuses on the overall company level would go south, and in the red. Investors. owners and stakeholders would not have patience and do not like to wait a year or two for investment returns.
Managers who create red balance sheets in the near term are replaceable, and there would be no volunteers for that
I can't really see how choice a) would work at all...

MarlonBrown | 2016年4月29日

I read this article days ago. Macchione sounds so pathetic on this. First of all, if copying the success of a profitable entity was that easy, it could be more achievable to Fiat copy the success of BMW and Benz. The man is so clueless that he doesnt realize Tesla has delivered the most cost effective battery technology. Fiat, BMW etc are from 5 to 10 years behind of Tesla in battery technology alone. Tesla lead has been extended now with the gigafactory. Even with his deep pockets, if Marchione started yesterday, it would take him 3-5 years for him to build a gigafactory to be able to compete against in battery technology along. Then it comes the software capabilities, which is Elon background. Is Sergio going to start a software development company? In Italy? How about building a network superchargers? Can Seegio attract the type of culture and employees to work at Fiat? Maybe if he hires the right advisors he could in 5 to 10 years.

diegoPasadena | 2016年4月29日

Yup, even a) is not very likely. But given that there are really only the two options I outlined, a) would be the only one with any hope at company survival. One would think that investors can see past the tip of their noses. If they don't - and I agree with you that they may very well not -, perhaps they should be out of the stock market altogether. In fact, that's exactly where they'll end up, at least with the investments in ICE makers.

mos6507 | 2016年4月29日

I can see a sort of Tesla endgame where they focus more on battery manufacturing than on selling its own branded cars. That would amount to Tesla becoming the middle-man themselves rather than having to compete head-on with the big boys. I think that was Musk's original plan, for Tesla to be an agent provocateur and then watch the majors copycat and then back off. I know Tesla wants to sell a lot of batteries for fixed renewable storage. The gigafactory isn't just for cars. Tesla may really be a battery company in car-company drag.

Red Sage ca us | 2016年4月30日

I get the impression that JB Straubel would be happy to have the majority of their business in the battery storage business. He just happens to really like fun to drive cars too. His attitude for the technology and Elon Musk's notions of a better world just seem to mesh seamlessly. I doubt either wanted to take over the automotive industry. They would have preferred to be an example, and then a partner with others, while remaining independent. As time goes by though, the resistance to change in the traditional automobile industry makes it clear that strategy may not come to pass.

Where the plan changes though is in what I call 'The Stick and the Carrot'. Tesla Motors presents its cars as the example that traditional automobile manufacturers should strive for in electric vehicles: beauty, desirable, sporty, capable, utility, fun, comfortable... and long range -- all while being popular and profitable. That is the Carrot. Tesla Motors also presents the Stick as their willingness to beat the utter crap out of everyone that shares a market space with them in sales.

When the Tesla Roadster was not enough to convince everyone to go to fully electric vehicles, they moved on to Model S. When the Model S defeated incumbents from Porsche, Jaguar, Lexus, Infiniti, Mercedes-Benz, AUDI, BMW, and Cadillac year-after-year in US sales, that still wasn't enough to convince the others to go to fully electric. OK, fine. So now we move to Model ☰ as a means to take on 3-Series, A4, IS, XE, ATS, and Q50 directly while also 'stealing' sales from Accord, Altima, Camry, Malibu, and Sonata.

If that doesn't work? Then it will be time for a Generation IV vehicle that can snatch the bread and the butter from the automotive industry's table by going head-to-head with perennial worldwide favorites such as Corolla, Focus, Golf, Elantra, and Civic. That, combined with a simultaneous assault on the most popular gas guzzlers/diesel drunkards of all in North America, by releasing a full sized heavy duty pickup truck that exceeds the capabilities of traditional entrants in the market while carrying the equivalent energy capacity of five-to-ten gallons of gasoline, should bring the automotive industry to their knees.

Well before that point though, sales of new ICE vehicle will begin to slide. More and more people will demonstrate a willingness to wait for a custom ordered car than they are to stop by an 'independent franchised dealership'. It will take longer and longer to make the numbers for even the most popular cars on the market. But the automobile manufacturers will not recognize the cause for far too long to make a difference.

Badbot | 2016年5月8日

I have tried to order from the ice guys 3 times and All I get is blown off or bullied to buy what they have on the lot.
I am SO glad to be able to order a tesla!

mos6507 | 2016年5月8日

Here's an open question. Let's assume for the moment that GM makes a car that is an almost 1:1 Model 3 clone, including Supercharger access. How do you think such a vehicle would fare being sold through traditional dealerships? Even though I'm seeing Chevy Volt TV ads, I am NOT seeing any promotion of Volts (or Leafs for that matter) in newspaper ads paid by local dealerships. This tells me that the dealerships have no real interest in actively promoting plugins. Wouldn't think intrinsic bias kneecap sales of even a "perfect" vehicle? I, personally, would not want to step into a Chevy dealership and deal with a disinterested dealer vs. a Tesla showroom.

bj | 2016年5月9日

@mos6507 - everything's online now, newspapers are history :) I've seen Leafs advertised by dealers in online websites. The dealer who sold me my Leaf was totally into it, very keen for me to try it out (and ultimately buy!). But the sales guy had been specifically train in the Leaf. Maybe that's the exception.

KP in NPT | 2016年5月9日

@mos - if GM were to build such a car, which lets face it isn't going to happen in the near future, it would be because the Model 3 is smoking the segment and they were pretty much forced to. To compete with the best selling cars in a segment, the dealers would have to get on board. As will GM, with some sort of charging solution.

And I do see the model 3 smoking it's segment, as the S is now doing. As each manufacturer scrambles to catch up, more competition to the point that those who don't enter seriously will be left in the dust. All part of the master plan. ;)

Hi_Tech | 2016年5月9日

Strong possibility of Model 3 being in the top 3 in US sales for 2017 (first year it's out), then taking the top spot in 2018 in US, and possibly in Europe.

As for GM (or any other companies) building the "perfect" vehicle, I'm very skeptical of this. The issue they have is their own business model, not the technology.

warren_tran | 2016年5月9日

GM only know how to piss money away. Another reason why I would never invest in GM.

GM invests $500 million in Lyft, sets out self-driving car partnership

http://www dot reuters dot com/article/us-gm-lyft-investment-idUSKBN0UI1A820160105

Red Sage ca us | 2016年5月9日

mos6507: At first Ford dealerships were happily surprised by the interest in the Probe when it first arrived. Then the second generation Probe came out, it continued the winning ways of the original. But there was a 24v overhead cam Performance version of the new Probe -- that immeditely started outselling the more expensive base version of the Mustang. Most don't realize it isn't the V8 Mustang that defines the segment -- the V6 has always been the big seller -- people buy the car for its looks, not its Performance. So Ford killed the Probe, so as to save their hero car.

The Chevrolet VOLT was basically a large battery plugin version of the Chevrolet CRUZE for twice the price. The Cadillac ELR was basically a Cadillac ATS Coupe with Chevrolet VOLT drivetrain for twice the price. That tells me that even if Chevrolet were to build a car meant to compete directly with the Tesla Model ☰ on price points, their 'independent franchised dealerships' would simply levy a 100% surcharge above and beyond MSRP. That would be justified by being 'what the market can bear'. My guess is that they would market it as 'A Real AMERICAN Electric Car' to the sort of people who don't know about Tesla Motors, or who think the Model S is a fancy foreign car... Y'know... Like a Corvette.

I do not believe the buying experience would be a good one at Chevrolet dealerships at all.


NKYTA | 2016年5月9日

There was a glaring omission in your April 20th post, Red Sage.

Clearly lighted Vaninity mirrors should have made the list.


Red Sage ca us | 2016年5月10日

Yeah. Lighted vanity mirrors, adjustable shoulder belts, low temperature tuckus coolers, refrigerated wine racks, and saddleback leather are also among those features that should be on tap for a 'true luxury vehicle' and stuff. But not everyone has the extra $125,000 for a Panamera Exclusive series.