Road Ahead

The World According to Tesla


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If you work at Tesla, which is valued at about $25 billion and sells just one very good luxury car, the possibilities must seem limitless.

TRAVERSE CITY, MI – If you want to succeed in the electric-vehicle business, you can’t do anything halfway. You need truly compelling design inside and out, exhilarating performance and at least 200 miles (322 km) of electric range.

And you need battery chargers in locations where it’s convenient for drivers to use them, not situated for politically beneficial photo ops such as libraries and town halls.

Diarmuid O’Connell, Tesla’s vice president-business development, starts off with an informative tutorial on how to be successful building EVs at the Center for Automotive Research’s Management Briefing Seminars here.

But then his speech takes a wrong turn as he seems intent on denying Tesla competitors the same state and government help and taxpayer-funded incentives that enabled his company to build a groundbreaking product and achieve a market capitalization that at times has been half that of giant General Motors.

O’Connell criticizes plug-in hybrids as bad for the environment and knocks established automakers for allegedly hoarding credits they legitimately accrued years ago by doing risky, innovative things that help the environment.

He also expresses concern about taxpayers being forced to finance the development of a nascent hydrogen refueling infrastructure. The irony of Tesla complaining about taxpayers being forced to fund a risky green venture is almost too much to bear.

Without a taxpayer-supported start-up loan of $465 million (now paid off with interest) and taxpayer-paid federal and state incentives that give up to $12,000 in tax breaks to wealthy individuals buying $100,000 Model S cars, Tesla would not exist.

O’Connell says he doesn’t like PHEVs because studies show many owners don’t bother to plug them in, opting instead to run on internal combustion, thus denying society the benefit of zero emissions.

Check any of the online owners’ groups, and you will see Chevrolet Volt drivers are obsessive about plugging in.

I’d guess O’Connell doesn’t like PHEVs because Tesla is losing sales to the BMW i8, Porsche Panamera PHEV and others because there are quite a few rich guys out there who don’t care about the environment and just want a luxury car with EV perks, such as access to carpool lanes and primo parking spots.

Discuss this Blog Entry 2

on Aug 7, 2015

O'Connell's comments indicate a high level of arrogance on the part of Tesla. Surprising considering how far behind their model X is. However Mr. Winter is correct with his conclusion. The Tesla team clearly believes they are on a mission from God. Time and the market will tell if it is viable.

on Aug 11, 2015

Sounds like this guy should have been par of the circus last Thursday night (clown nose and all).

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Drew Winter

Drew Winter is Editor-in-Chief of WardsAuto World magazine and a Senior Editor at He was won numerous awards for his work in both print and digital media and has been...

Tom Murphy

Tom Murphy is executive editor of WardsAuto World magazine, with an emphasis on technology and suppliers. He leads selection of the Ward’s 10 Best Engines and Ward’s 10 Best Interiors...
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