Tesla comes dead last, who steps up next?

In today’s Exponential Investor:

  • My decision is made
  • The real results…
  • Some EV names to keep an eye on

Firstly, I want to say thinks to everyone that wrote in to me yesterday with my lawnmower dilemma.

I was unexpectedly inundated with replies way more than I had expected. As such I won’t be able to reply to everyone that wrote in. I really wasn’t expecting that many replies.

And I greatly appreciate the effort put in to take a little time in the day to think about my dilemma and respond.

But the real burning question is… what did I decide?

I must say there were a few options thrown in as well that I hadn’t considered. A large support for the old-fashioned hand push manual mower. Which is a fair call, but the lawn is pretty large, and I want to dispose of the cuttings, so that was a no as well.

Artificial lawn was also suggested. I had considered that but it was an exorbitant price to have that put down because of the size of the lawn. At that cost I could go through at least a dozen robot mowers and two dozen petrol ones. Plus, I like the idea I can maintain a yard as the only sense of “green thumbery” I have.

A few suggested getting a goat. My black-eyed, psycho, fluffy-shark cat would go mental at the thought of that. And the dog would bark at least ten times more than he currently does… and he already barks too much. While my wife likes the idea of a goat, the cat and dog don’t, and the yard isn’t quite big enough for a goat to have the space he deserves either.

In short, I’ve ordered a four-stroke petrol mower. Yep, it’s not the “green” option. But it’s going to get the job done, with the power needed and the range to not worry about it conking out with a job half done. The smell of it is also too enticing and as a few pointed out, it give me “non-negotiable” time to ponder with one’s own thoughts as the lawn must always be mowed.

Thanks for your feedback again. It was a great read to see all the varied responses.

What this really tells us

There’s another reason why I wanted to ask you for some help with my decision.

You see, I think that something as very literal as buying a lawnmower is something we can all relate to.

Most of us have a lawn that needs mowing at some point. Not everyone has a spare £30,000, £60,000, £100,000 to throw at an electric car. So, the idea of wondering when and if you’ll buy an EV is practically out of the realm of a lot of people at this point in time.

The promise of “cheap EVs” while getting closer and faster, is still quite a stretch.

But most people at some point have to figure out if they want to spend a couple hundred quid on a lawnmower. And I think that decision-making process is more reflective of attitudes towards “new energy” solutions.

I think on the balance of things, people can see what the future will look like in regard to that. I think we’re all smart and wise enough to know that longer term, there’s no doubt our choice of energy power will revolve around the likes of electric, hybrid and hydrogen powered vehicles.

There will be an abundance of high-tech gear in them as well. Everything from 5G-enabled and connected services through to autonomous systems and greater interactive components.

But right now, there’s still a cost-prohibitive factor for a lot of these things. It’s too expensive to get a robotic mower and (as some of you rightly pointed out) some of that energy for the batteries is still from fossil fuels.

The longevity argument also popped up several times. Experience seems to tell us that the mechanical “old world” power seems to last a long time with regular maintenance. But there’s an element of distrust for just how long the new electrified devices might last.

Tesla: dead last

I’m unsure if this is merely a perception issue or we’ve just not had these options long enough to give real world data on how long they last. But if some of the data we do have is anything to go by, then right now perhaps our “new energy” vehicles and devices aren’t as reliable as we’d expect and need them to be.

The J.D. Power reliability and quality survey is the go-to survey in the auto market for the reliability and quality of 32 major car manufacturers. These are brands from Dodge and Kia to Lexus, BMW, Ford, Nissan and now Tesla.

J.D. Power notes that interestingly, “Tesla doesn’t grant us permission to survey its owners in 15 states where it is required.”

However, it was able to collect sufficient data in 35 other states to include Tesla for the first time in this year’s survey. And it makes sense now as to why Tesla perhaps isn’t keen on the survey.

Of 32 brands in the J.D. Power survey, Tesla came dead last. Now it does have a disclaimer that the “brand is not rank eligible because it does not meet study award criteria.”

But Tesla was still last with an average of 250 problems per 100 vehicles. Land Rover was just above it with 228 problems per 100 vehicles. And up the top, Dodge and Kia shared first place with on average 136 problems per 100 vehicles.

This doesn’t completely tell the whole story. It doesn’t break it down into models. Kia has a range of EV and hybrid models. And it may prove that EV technology is actually very reliable. But as Tesla is the only sole EV maker on the list, it’s not exactly a glowing reflection of the state of play for EV reliability.

What that does, however, is also open the door to pure EV competitors. Already we’re seeing the resurgence of interest in EV makers, from Tesla, Nikola, Rivian, Polestar, Fisker and more. These are the next generation that perhaps could slide into contention for the “top dog” of EV makers if Tesla leaves the door ajar too long.

All names to keep an eye on as the market for pure EV plays heats up.


Sam Volkering
Editor, Exponential Investor

Category: Commodities

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