Tesla deliveries drop due to new challenges shipping Model 3 overseas

Tesla delivered 63,000 of its electric vehicles in the first quarter of the year, nearly a one-third drop from the previous quarter, the company reported late Wednesday. Tesla cautioned that it expects first quarter profits to be negatively impacted by lower than expected delivery volumes and several pricing adjustments.

Deliveries included about 50,900 Model 3 vehicles and 12,100 Model S and X SUVs.

Tesla said despite the challenges that it “ended the quarter with sufficient cash on hand.”

Tesla blamed the striking difference in numbers on its efforts to increase deliveries of its Model 3 electric car in Europe and China, which was fraught with challenges and caused delays.

“Due to a massive increase in deliveries in Europe and China, which at times exceeded 5x that of prior peak delivery levels, and many challenges encountered for the first time, we had only delivered half of the entire quarter’s numbers by March 21, ten days before end of quarter,” Tesla said in its report. “This caused a large number of vehicle deliveries to shift to the second quarter. At the end of the first quarter, approximately 10,600 vehicles were in transit to customers globally.”

Those numbers appear to be further pressured by a drop in Model S and Model X deliveries. Deliveries of the Model S and X dropped by nearly half compared to the fourth quarter.

Tesla delivered 90,966 vehicles during the fourth quarter. Of those, 27,607 were Model S sedans and Model X SUVs and 63,359 were Model 3s.

Those logistics challenges are reflected in the disparity between its delivery and production numbers in the first quarter. The numbers typically wouldn’t match. But this quarter, the gap is wide.

In the first quarter, Tesla produced about 77,100 total vehicles, consisting of 62,950 Model 3 and 14,150 Model S and X vehicles. That’s

Ford is bringing an electric Transit van to Europe by 2021

Ford plans to bring an electric Transit commercial van to the European market by 2021, as part of the automaker’s broader plan to electrify its global portfolio.

The automaker announced the Transit EV, along with more than a dozen other electrified consumer-facing models that will be part of its European portfolio, at its Go Further event in Amsterdam on Tuesday.

Ford didn’t provide many other details on the Transit van. And for now, the EV commercial van is only slated for Europe. Ford’s focus on Europe makes sense, considering its sales record in the region. Ford sold 380,900 commercial vehicles in its European 20 markets last year, up more than 8 percent compared with 2017.

The company did say the commercial van is be “designed to address the needs of businesses for a practical and versatile load-carrier with zero-emission driving capability for urban applications.” That type of language suggests a city-focused vehicle that might have a mid-200-mile range. The all-electric Transit will be available in multiple body styles, Ford said.

Ford made several other commercial vehicle-related announcements on Tuesday, including the introduction of in its new Tourneo Custom Plug-In Hybrid that can seat people and will be available to European customers beginning in late 2019.

One of the more interesting pieces of commercial news is Ford’s new initiative to target 100 percent uptime for commercial vehicle operators. Ford plans to hit that target via a usage-based maintenance program that will be powered by a new app called FordPass Pro that was previewed at the event.

FordPass Pro app, which will be launched later this year, is specifically designed to support smaller firms and owner drivers to maximize their productivity.

“Commercial customers need smarter, more integrated solutions, built around a connected business environment,” said Hans Schep, general manager of commercial vehicles at Ford of Europe.

Ford also unveiled a Transit Smart Energy Concept, a 10-seater minibus. The concept, which has about 93 miles of driving range from a 4-hour charge, was developed by engineers at Ford’s Merkenich Technical Center in Germany. The concept uses a Ford Transit chassis fitted with the same battery-electric drivetrain technology as the StreetScooter WORK XL. StreetScooter is the company behind DeutschePost DHL electric vans.

Ford is working other iterations of the concept minibus that increase energy savings and extend battery-electric driving range, including features that would allow the driver to control heating and cooling of individual seats – and deactivation of unoccupied seats.

Ford says road trials with the Transit Smart Energy Concept are expected to begin later this year, after completing wind-tunnel tests. Ford engineers will take what they learn from these trials and future versions of the concept and eventually apply its range-extending features to volume production vehicles.

Elon Musk defends tweets in SEC’s contempt proceedings

Tesla CEO Elon Musk argued Friday that his Twitter use did not violate a settlement agreement with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission and that the agency’s request to have him held in contempt is based on a “radical interpretation” of the order, according to court papers filed in Manhattan federal court.

The SEC has asked a judge to hold Musk in contempt for violating a settlement agreement reached last year over Musk’s now infamous “funding secured” tweet. Under that agreement, Musk is supposed to get approval from Tesla’s board before communicating potentially material information to investors.

Musk contends he didn’t violate the agreement and that the problem lies in the SEC’s interpretation, which he describes as “virtually wrong at every level.” The filing also reveals new details about the settlement negotiations, notably that the SEC sent Musk a draft agreement that would have required him to obtain pre-approval for all public statements related to Tesla, in any format.

Musk and Tesla never agreed to those terms. Instead, Musk says the agreement requires him to comply with Tesla own policy, which would require pre-approval for “written communications that contain, or reasonably could contain, information material to the company or its shareholders.”

The barbs traded via court filings are the latest in an escalating fight between the billionaire entrepreneur and SEC that began last August when Musk tweeted that he had “funding secured” for a private takeover of the company at $420 per share.  The SEC filed a complaint in federal district court in September alleging that Musk lied.

Musk and Tesla settled with the SEC last year without admitting wrongdoing. Tesla agreed to pay a $20 million fine; Musk had to agree to step down as Tesla chairman for a period of at least three years; the company had to appoint two independent directors to the board; and Tesla was also told to put in place a way to monitor Musk’s statements to the public about the company, including via Twitter.

But the fight was re-ignited last month after Musk sent a tweet on February 19 that Tesla would produce “around” 500,000 cars this year, correcting himself hours later to clarify that he meant the company would be producing at an annualized rate of 500,000 vehicles by year end.

The SEC argued that the tweet sent by Musk violated their agreement. Musk has said the tweet was “immaterial” and complied with the settlement.

Ola raises $300M as part of a new electric vehicle partnership with Hyundai and Kia

Ride-hailing platform Ola announced today that it has raised $300 million from Hyundai and Kia as part of a strategic partnership focused on electric vehicle development.

This brings the company’s total raised to $3.8 billion according to Crunchbase. Ola’s last funding was announced just three weeks ago, when the company said it had raised $56 million in early funding by investors including Tiger Global and Matrix India (two of its earliest backers) to spend on its recently spun-out electric vehicle business called Ola Electric Mobility.

In a press release, Ola said the partnership will build “India-specific” electric vehicles and infrastructure customized for Ola’s fleet and operating and management software. It also includes new financing programs, such as loans and installment payments, for driver who want to purchase the EVs.

Ola Electric Mobility’s challenges including building EV infrastructure (and gathering related data, including maps) for India’s sprawling and diverse landscape. One incentive is the government’s stated goal of making 30 percent of the country’s vehicles electric by 2030, though it hasn’t formalized that policy yet.

Ola’s announcement said that “data accumulated during service operation will allow the companies to make constant vehicle improvements to better meet local needs and specifications.” For Hyundai, the partnership represents an opportunity to move beyond being an auto-maker to taking control of all parts in the “mobility value chain,” including production, fleet operation and services.

Ola’s goal is to increase its drivers from 1.3 million to two million and offer one million EVs by 2022. Its other EV programs include a pledge to add 10,000 rickshaws for use in cities.

Tesla Model Y orders are now open

Customers can already place an order for the Tesla Model Y, a mid-sized crossover SUV that won’t go into production until 2020.

Tesla requires a $2,500 deposit to complete the order for the all-electric vehicle, according to information posted on its website. A disclaimer on the order form states that “production is expected to begin late next year.” Under that timeline, deliveries wouldn’t begin until late 2020 or possibly early 2021.

There are other clues on the order page, including that the seven-seat interior won’t be available until 2021. The Model Y will come standard as a five seater.

Tesla CEO Elon Musk unveiled the Model Y on Thursday night at the Tesla Design Studio in Los Angeles. During the presentation, Musk didn’t mention that customers could order the Model Y. That’s a departure from previous events, notably the Model 3 reveal in March 2016, which prompted thousands of people to put down $1,000 deposits.

The Model Y bears a striking resemblance to Model 3, and for good reason. The Model Y shares about 75 percent of the same parts as the Model 3.

The vehicle, which will come in a standard, long range, dual-motor all-wheel and performance variants, is larger than the Model 3, allowing it to accommodate seven people (for those who opt to pay the $3,000 up charge). The order page of the Model Y shows that it comes standard as a 5-seater. To get the 7-seater configuration, customers have to pay an additional $3,000.

The Model Y also sits higher than the Model 3, a distinction that is more obvious once you’re sitting inside. One of the most distinguishing differences is the Model Y has a panoramic roof.

The standard range version will start $39,000 and have 230 mile range. However, Tesla will first produce the performance, dual-motor and long range versions. Customers who want the standard range version of the Model Y will have to wait until at least spring 2021. The performance and dual motor variants will be able to travel 280 miles on a single charge, while the long-range version will, as it sounds, have the longest range at 300 miles.

All of the variants are designed to have the same kind of performance as its smaller sibling. The performance version of the Model Y will be able to travel from 0 to 60 miles per hour in 3.5 seconds and reach a top speed of 150 mph.

But that kind of performance comes at a higher price. The performance version will start at $60,000. The dual motor variant will start at $51,000 and the base price of the long-range version will be $47,000.

Drivezy, India’s vehicle sharing startup, is raising $100M+ at a $400M valuation, eyes US expansion

Drivezy — the startup out of India that wants to turn private car usage on its head through a car-sharing network where people lend their cars and two-wheeled vehicles but also have options to use vehicles from a fleet managed by Drivezy — said it is raising more money as it gears up for the next stage of its expansion, including a launch in the US in coming weeks.

The company is in the process of raising $100 million in equity funding, plus another $400 million in asset financing, with the latter to help continue building out the inventory that sits alongside the vehicles provided by its users. This would technically be a Series C and is being raised at a $400 million valuation, the company confirmed to me.

“Currently” is the key word: Ankur Sengupta, who heads up business development for Drivezy, said in an interview that the startup will leave the round open for about a year and continue raising it on a rolling basis, with the valuation varying accordingly. “The valuation we are working at now is $400 million, but we will keep accepting investments, at different valuations,” he said.

(Note: This is not an entirely new way of raising rounds, but in the last few years, it has become a lot more common to see it rather clear “Series” blocks. Fast-growing companies like Snap and more recently Grab in Southeast Asia have chosen this route to tap into readily available funding faster and closer to when it’s actually needed.)

The company is not disclosing any names right now except to note that it is likely to include a new, large investor from Japan, and that it also has commitments from investors in the US, Singapore and China. Previous backers have included the Yamaha Motor Company, Axan Partners and IT-Farm, as well as Y-Combinator — where Drivezy was a part of a 2016 cohort as JustRide, led by its five founders Amit Sahu, Ashwarya Pratap Singh, Vasant Verma, Abhishek Mahajan and Hemant Sah. It has also been through Google’s Launchpad accelerator, although it doesn’t look like Google is investing (yet).

Drivezy last raised money as recently as three months ago, a $20 million Series B, when it also raised $100 million in asset financing. Alongside users’ own cars and the fleet it manages, Drivezy also works with in partnership with dealerships and others to provide vehicles for its inventory.

Between then and now, the company has seen a lot of growth.

The company gets more than 53,000 bookings for cars each month, versus 37,000/month just three months ago. Two-wheeled vehicles — primarily motorcycles — add nearly 30,000 more. While cars are typically booked for two-three days, two-wheeler bookings are weekly or monthly bookings.

The inventory has also gone up. Currently, there are 7,500 two-wheelers on the platform, with another 7,500 coming by the end this month; and 3,500 cars. (This is up from 5,000 motorbikes and scooters and 3,000 cars three months ago.) Currently there are 30 dealerships and more than 25 banks and other financial companies in Drivezy’s network.

Drivezy’s growth is coming at what seems to be a key inflection point for the transportation industry.

Some believe the the days of vehicle ownership in mature markets like the US are numbered, with several developments helping that trend along: the rise of over-expensive self-driving cars that many will not be able to afford; the proliferation of affordable Uber-style services; and the emergence of startups like Getaround (which will be a direct competitor to Drivezy when it comes to the US) and Fair to make it easy and cheap to procure a car ride without buying a car or using old-school car rental services.

But in developing markets like India, vehicle ownership is already a relative rarity, even if the desire to use a car is not: currently only seven percent of Indians own a car and sixteen percent own two-wheelers.

“That’s meant that the auto industry has been slow to grow here,” Sengupta said. (That, plus patchy public transport in many urban areas, has also meant a lot of growth, incidentally, for the likes of Ola.)

Drivezy’s response has been to create a completely new supply chain for private car and two-wheeled vehicle usage. Customers include people who are not able to purchase a car, those who do have cars but would appreciate some income to help pay off the loans they took to get them, plus car companies and dealerships who are looking for new avenues and business models to shift more vehicles.

Currently, the P2P side of the business is most popular on the car side of the business, where 70 percent of the inventory has been listed by private owners, while only 35 percent of the two-wheelers come from private owners (all the P2P vehicles get a “fitness check”. Most of the rest are listed by asset financing companies through SPVs on a revenue sharing basis, with less than two percent on Drivezy’s own books. These, the Sengupta said, have been purchased to meet licensing obligations in India.

While Drivezy has definitely benefitted from useful market conditions — low vehicle ownership and a rapidly growing, tech-savvy middle class with disposable income and more reasons for travelling — now the plan will be to take its model to other markets, including both those that have similar conditions to India’s, as well as those that are more developed (and hence, more competitive).

That will include the US, where the company is planning on setting up its first pilots in April to test demand in different markets and market segments, Sengupta said. While it’s a very different market — and certainly more competitive when you consider the likes of Getaround, Turo, Fair and others — Drivezy (its founders having spent time there going through Y Combinator and Google’s accelerator) thinks that there is a gap in the area of microlending and the fact that even with a lot of options already, there can be more.

“People have an aspirational needs, they want better cars, BMWs and Audis for example, and there are no companies tackling the issue of bringing the cost of renting these models down,” Sengupta said. Considering that there is also a burgeoning market for scooters in the country, that could also be an area where Drivezy will get involved.

The pilot/expansion in the US will come alongside building and hiring for an innovations lab in the country, a pattern that Drivezy will also be following when it expands in Asia as well. Other countries where it plans to go this year, he said, include Indonesia, Thailand and Singapore.

It’s not often that you hear about startups out of India expanding to the US, so that in itself (in my opinion) is a great story about how the gravitational pull of the tech world has indeed shifted away from Silicon Valley. Ultimately, the international expansion to North America and other markets will serve a dual purpose for Drivezy. Not only will it help the company grow business, but it’s putting the company on the map, and that too will help attract more funding attention.

Tesla issues $13.8M in stock to buy trailers in bid to improve electric vehicle deliveries

Tesla is using more than $13 million worth of stock to buy trucks and trailers that will transport its electric vehicles to customers, the latest effort by the automaker to improve its logistics and delivery services.

Instead of using cash, Tesla  issued $13.8 million in stock, a new securities filing posted Monday shows. Tesla used 49,967 shares at a maximum price of $277.05 a share as of Feb. 12 to buy the trailers from Central Valley Auto Transport.

The California-based company specializes in car carriers. Tesla’s statement within the securities filing:

As part of Tesla’s ongoing logistics strategy to increase its vehicle transport capacity, reduce vehicle transportation time, and improve the timeliness of scheduled deliveries, Tesla agreed to issue shares of Tesla’s common stock in connection with its acquisition of certain car-hauling trucks and trailers from Central Valley Auto Transport, Inc. (“Central Valley” or the “selling stockholder”), an automotive transport provider. We are registering these Tesla shares pursuant to registration rights granted to the selling stockholder in connection with the acquisition.

In November, Tesla CEO Elon Musk tweeted that the electric automaker had “acquired trucking capacity,” a move aimed to boost deliveries of its Model 3 vehicles before the federal tax credit begins to wind down December 31. Musk nor the company revealed more details. The company never posted any regulatory filings of an acquisition.

Musk later tweeted that Tesla had both purchased trucking companies and secured contracts with major haulers to “avoid trucking shortage mistakes of last quarter.”

It’s not clear if this latest purchase from Central Valley Auto Transport reflects actions that Tesla took last year or if this is additional capacity. Tesla did note in its fourth-quarter shareholder letter that it is “continuing to purchase our own car-hauling truck capacity for vehicle shipments.”

Tesla’s new Supercharger slashes charging times

Tesla is rolling out a third generation Supercharger that is designed to dramatically cut charging times for its electric vehicles as it seeks to keep its edge over new competitors.

The V3 Supercharger, which was unveiled Wednesday at the company’s Fremont, California factory, supports a peak rate of up 250 kilowatts on the long range version of the Model 3. At this rate, the V3 can add up to 75 miles of range in 5 minutes, Tesla said.

Improvements to charging times are critical for the company as it sells more Model 3 vehicles, its highest volume car. Wait times at some popular Supercharger stations can be lengthy. Early adopters might have been content to wait, but as new Tesla customers come online that patience could dwindle.

Tesla says its improvements will allow the Supercharger network to serve more than twice as many vehicles per day at the end of 2019 compared with today.

The V3 is not a retrofit of the company’s previous generations. It’s an architecture shift that includes a new 1 MW power cabinet, similar to the company’s utility-scale products, and a liquid-cooled cable design, that enables charge rates of up to 1,000 miles per hour. Tesla uses air-cooled cable on V2 Superchargers.

The new power cabinet will provide a dedicated 250 kW to four Superchargers. This means that vehicles will no longer power share when charging.

Tesla announced other improvements in a blog post, including ones aimed at improving charging rates for its Model S and Model vehicles. When combined with the V3 Supercharger, the time spent charging is slashed by an average of 50 percent, Tesla said.

A new software feature called “On Route Battery Warmup” will also be released for all vehicles. This update prepares the battery pack to accept that vehicle’s peak power for the longest possible time, reducing average charge time by 25 percent, the company said.

Tesla plans to open thousands of V2 and V3 Superchargers in 2019. The V3 stations, which Tesla will begin installing in April, will be placed where there’s the highest use. Tesla has more than 12,000 Superchargers across North America, Europe, and Asia, according to the company.

Tesla plans to update its V2 Superchargers as well to provide a new peak charge rate of 145kW for single-vehicle charging.

Tesla will roll out V3 Supercharging to the wider fleet of vehicles — meaning beyond the long range Model 3s — to all owners in the second quarter. The company plans to ramp up V3 installations in North America in the second and third quarters. The V3 installations will begin in Europe and Asia-Pacific in the fourth quarter.

Audi’s new Q4 e-tron concept is a compact electric crossover with 280 miles of range

Audi provided Tuesday an advanced look at what will be its fifth production electric vehicle, a compact crossover concept that is expected to come to market at the end of 2020.

The all-electric Q4 e-tron SUV concept, which was revealed at the Geneva International Motor Show, is equipped with dual motors with a power output of 225 kW and a 82 kWh battery provides 280 miles of range. The vehicle is smaller than the e-tron that debuted in September. The first e-tron vehicles will be delivered to customers before the end of March, Audi said.

The Q4 e-tron is an all-wheel drive vehicle that can travel from 0 to 100 km/h (62 miles per hour) in 6.3 seconds and reaches a maximum speed at an electronically limited 180 km/h (112 mph).Audi Q4 e-tron concept

Inside the Q4 e-tron is the virtual cockpit. A digital display showing speed, charge level and navigation is located behind the steering wheel. A large-format head-up display with an augmented reality function is a new feature and display important graphical information, such as directional arrows for turning, directly on the course of the road, Audi said.

The steering wheel has toggles that a driver can use to control some functions. A 12.3-inch touchscreen located above the center console. caps off the whole infotainment system. Meanwhile, the center console is designed as a stowage compartment that  includes a cell phone charging cradle.

Audi Q4 e-tron concept

Interior

There are details about the Q4 e-tron that remain mystery. For instance, there’s no word on the price. But expect the Q4 to be cheaper than the $74,800 e-tron.

 

Audi is working towards electrifying its portfolio, a commitment that was borne out of parent company VW Group’s diesel emissions scandal that erupted in 2015. Audi plans to have 12 all-electric vehicles by 2025.

Like other electric vehicles under the VW Group umbrella, the Q4 e-tron has a modular electric drive toolkit chassis, or MEB. The MEB, which was introduced in 2016, is a flexible modular system for producing electric vehicles that VW says will make it more efficient and cost-effective.

Later this year, Audi will introduce the e-tron Sportback and the first Audi Q2L e-tron, which was designed specifically for the Chinese market, will roll off the assembly line.

In the second half of 2020, the company will unveil the production version of the four-door high-performance coupé Audi e-tron GT, which is being developed at Audi Sport GmbH. The compact Audi Q4 e-tron is expected to make its production debut at the same time.

Mercedes Concept EQV delivers an all-electric luxe vision of van life

Mercedes-Benz revealed Tuesday the Concept EQV, an all-electric premium van designed to travel up to 249 miles on a single charge.

Concepts often times never become production vehicles. But this one will.

The EQV, which was unveiled at the Geneva International; Motor Show, will go into series production. The automaker plans to produce an electric van based off of the EQV concept. The production version will debut at the Frankfurt International Motor Show later this year.

This isn’t the typical “van life” vehicle.

The EQV, which can seat up to 8 people, is designed to appeal to customers seeking a more luxurious ride.  Mercedes is marketing this towards families, upscaled adventurers and corporate clients who might be looking for a shuttle vehicle. The vehicle’s seating can be configured in a numerous ways to meet various customers’ needs.

The EQV comes with a compact electric drivetrain on the front axle that produces 150 kW or 201 horsepower. The vehicle is also capable of rapid charging that enables a range of 62 miles within just 15 minutes, according to Mercedes.

The company’s EQ brand is supposed to represent a tech-forward approach, including the EQV. The vehicle is equipped with Mercedes new MBUX infotainment system, which boasts a self-learning voice control system with connectivity features. The navigation system has been modified to take into account the charge level of the battery. The system will also include apps that can enable control of the pre-entry climate control or allow for cashless payments at public charging stations, the company said.

This concept is part of Mercedes’ “EQ” technology brand that the automaker kicked off in 2016. A few “EQ” related concepts have been introduced since then, including the first “Concept EQ” and later the Concept EQA.

In September 2018, the company introduced the first series-production vehicle, the EQC electric drive SUV. The company plans to invest more than $12 billion to produce a line of battery-powered models under its new EQ brand and spend another $1.2 billion in global battery production.