Commentary: Is Elon Musk masking Tesla’s troubles?

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Is there a better mastermind in the automotive business than Elon Musk? Whenever he talks, people listen. No more so than recently when he held court in fron of VIPs and the media to announce Tesla’s new electric truck and the second generation of its supercar roadster.

To Musk’s credit, he’s changed the car industry. Tesla is the first electric supercar. Its innovation and “green” technology have rocked the automotive world. The Tesla has been tested by some industry publications as the safest car ever made.

But Musk has also realized Tesla will never matter to the public at large and to his environmental causes until it becomes affordable. And that’s where caution prevails.

The second generation Tesla Roadster will accelerate from 0-60 mph in 1.9 seconds.
Elon Musk has announced the new Tesla Roadster will accelerate from 0-60 mph in 1.9 seconds.

Several major publications, including the Los Angeles Times and auto-specific websites, expressed skepticism after Musk’s latest announcements.

The new roadster has been promoted with a 0-60 mph time of 1.9 seconds and as the pending fastest production car ever made. If the roadster’s specs and beginning price of $200,000 are even close to accurate, the Tesla roadster could again change the auto industry.

Comparable hybrid supercars like the Ferrari (LaFerrari), McLaren (P1) and Porsche (918 Spyder), all cost about $1 million. None can match the acceleration of the new Tesla Roadster.

Eiio Motors has announced a new test vehicle but no production vehicle date set.
Elio Motors has announced a new test vehicle but no production vehicle date set.

But here’s the caveat: Was Musk’s announcement simply a diversion from his concerns?

Just what has happened to Model 3? Tesla stopped announcing its reservations numbers, but guesses are between 400,000 and 500,000, all of whom have paid $1,000 deposit with no exact date on the horizon for the car’s public release.

The Model 3’s base price is $35,000, but industry experts have repeatedly opined that you won’t be able to buy the car for anywhere close to the promoted entry price.

There’s no doubt, Musk has helped reboot the industry. The Tesla has resulted in increased competition in the EV industry.

But in some ways, Musk is also not too dissimilar to Paul Elio and his ill-fated three-wheel vehicle, the Elio.

For nearly a decade, Elio has promoted his vehicle and its efficiency and economy. He originally set the price at $6,800 and took deposits for as little as $100. The higher the deposit from an individual portential buyer, the more promises were made.

The Elio website claims more than 65,000 reservations have been taken for a vehicle the owner of the company now says may never be made.

The actual vehicles for Musk and Elio shouldn’t be compared, but business practices?

According to multiple reports, Elio has massive debt and minimal cash.

Likewise, Tesla recently released its 2017 fiscal quarter three financial numbers — a $671 million loss. One year ago at the end of the third quarter, Tesla made a small profit. It was only the company’s second profitable quarter.

High finances are best deciphered by economists.

But from all logical perspectives, Elio is likely done before it starts. Tesla’s future is unknown. But it’s hard to take Musk’s future plans seriously when his company’s losses are massive and the car he’s been touting for the masses is still in limbo.

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