Tesla Motors. What I learned from Elon Musk

In 1971, Mr. Tetsuro Mori, who was an engineer of Yaskawa Electric Corporation took  the word "Mechatronics" and registered it as Trademark by the company in Japan with the registration number of "46-32714". Later the word was adopted in the world.

I would not have known what mechatronics is, it it wasn't for my son who studies it in Sierra College, in Rocklin

The French, who are always noble and aloof in technology, defined mechatronics as
 “approach aiming at the synergistic integration of mechanics, electronics, control theory, and computer science within product design and manufacturing, in order to improve and/or optimize its functionality".
Fig. 1: How do a take this mechatrronics assembly  and transform it in one of the most coveted status symbols in the world today?
 An electric vehicle was viewed in its maximum sophistication as a golf cart
Figure 2: A Golf cart, rather ugly, who no one even considered to replace a Ferrari with it.
This is an electromechanical deign
It takes a genius, like Elon Musk to make a car with the following customer testimonial:
I sold my 430 Spyder in February because I wasn't driving it anymore. My Model S is more interesting to drive and it feels like the future. In the end I was only driving the 430 out of obligation so that it wouldn't just sit in my garage. When I did drive it I felt like I was driving an antique. I used to love the loud exhaust but now it makes me feel like that's old school and silent accelleration is the new cool. And this all comes from someone who has loved the Ferrari brand his entire life. I've been fortunate to own Ferrari's the last 10 years and I believed I would always have a Ferrari in my garage. I was pretty active with my Ferrari friends attending drives and events. But when I got my Tesla Model S all of that love for Ferrari began to fade. It took 6 months of S ownership to finally put the Ferrari up for sale.

The power of frustration makes geniuses exist

So here is the Tesla Model S:

Figure 3: This is mechatronics design + the genius of Elon Musk
The official title of Elon Musk is "CO-FOUNDER, CEO, AND PRODUCT ARCHITECT". Like Steve Jobs, innovative companies have the Top Product Manager, or Product Creator, as a founder. If they do not own their own companies, it is impossible to deliver what they deliver. Quoting from Musk,  he wanted to get into the electric car business since “no one else would.”
Tesla founder Elon Musk said that he got into the electric car business after it became clear that no one else was going to build an electric car. ..., Musk admitted that getting into the electric car business is probably “one of the stupidest things you could do,” or it might even be crazy.

“For many years, almost all people regarded it as either stupid or insane or both,” Musk said. “The reason for me to do it is not because I saw a huge market opportunity. It was clear that we were not going to see electric cars from major car manufacturers.”
Should any of Detroit, Korean or Japanese big names car manufacturers hire Elon Musk-like Product Creator, there would be frustration and failure to go ahead. Ironically though, the big car companies incited the desire to make Tesla Motors as way to prove electric vehicle s are viable and will be dominant one day

Someone asked on the web: "Can we compare Elon Musk to Steve Jobs?" Absolutely. Both worked to extract only "Wows" from future customers, - whether they asked them or not. The "luke-warm niceness"for them. represented a sign of defeat.

Anecdotically , Steve Jobs had a net worth of $6.7 billion at the time he passed away in 2011. Elon Musk has already a Net Worth of $12 billion I wish him to live up to 120 years old. (he is 43 today)

The Tesla S experience

I decided to visit in person a Tesla shop in Rocklin California and experience what it is like to drive a Tesla car, what one feels. There are no sales people. One deals with a Product Specialist. They do not sell. They answer questions,

In Rocklin I dealt with Kyle Zisk, a graduate from Rocklin Mechatronics at Sierra College, a few miles away. He says last year Tesla sold 22,000 cars worldwide in 2013. I calculate mentally:  at about $80 thousands or more each, that is $1,8 billion per year

By comparison, Ferrari sold in 2012 7,218 cars at around @ $200 thousand or more each. That is $1.4 billion per year

You can not buy a Tesla car from the lot. There are no Tesla available. All car must be ordered and personalized . Jessica Hazen, is an Ownership advisor. Her job is to make sure each customer is thrilled with car. I say 'thrilled" for customers leaving a  $100, 000 a pop on the table.

If you look at the engine compartment, the first thing you notice there is no engine in sight.

Figure 4 Where is the engine? There is no engine!
My daughter Michelle and my son David accompanied me to the dealership

Figure 5: You will not resist the temptation of a souvenir photo
The car can fit a rather corpulent guy like me, no problem. I am easily recognizable as I wear a Nepalese Cotton traditional  Boho Round cap. Together with my Red Nikes max air. But if I ever buy a car like that, I must loose some weight. I promise.

Figure 6: The author, trying to learn what can we do with
high performance computing, to make it as nice as a Tesla S.
The handles of car are flush. As soon as Kyle, the Product Specialist walks by, the car recognizes his key. The handles pop out. Once inside the car, this is what I see:

Figure 7: Just like a tablet, ergonomically designed for a car
To start the car, see the lever in between the steering wheel and the dashboard. There is no engine, as we saw in Figure 4, to start.  I move the lever up to Drive of R to drive backwards. I press the tip of the lever and I touch, like any normal car, the throttle pedal. The car moves in complete quietness. "Give is kick", said Kyle. Wow, the car shot like bullet with an amazing reassuring sensation of stability.

The steering was firm, and it it kept the car glued to I-80 West towards San Francisco. I took the exit back to Tesla's office and Kyle showed me the three settings for the steering. Comfort, Standard and Performance. The Comfort is like a Cadillac old style. One can steer with the small finger. The other two settings are Ferrari-like steering experiences.

See the size of the GPS screen One can really see the surroundings, not only the road ahead.

Figure 8: What one see instead of odometer
I can see how many miles I have left, the date, the time the temperature, the radio station. As is something programmable, sure I can see much more, like maybe my horoscope. Everything is intuitive,  natural, goes with my senses.

The business lease Tesla 80 S at $408 per month?

From AutoblogGreen we read:
The estimated effective cost of $408 a month sure sounds great but, just as with the first consumer lease plan for the Model S, there are a lot of caveats to be aware of. For one thing, the actual monthly payment is $1,012, well over twice the $408 number. Tesla estimates that you'll save $261 a month in gasoline costs and $343 a month in business tax benefits (with Tesla calculating a 40 percent effective tax rate and 70 percent business use). Those gas savings, "are calculated assuming $0.11 per kilowatt hour compared to paying $4.90 per gallon for premium gasoline with a fuel efficiency of 20 miles per gallon," so if your business already runs a fleet of Toyota Priuses, you can forget the $408 number. Oh, and the business lease program is currently only available in ten states - CA, CO, CT, FL, IL, MA, MD, NY, TX, and WA.
Ok, maybe is not $408, maybe is $508 per month. Compare with the special offer for a Mercedes Benz 2014 GL450 4MATIC® SUV at $729 /month for 36 months and $6,523 due at signing

The Revolution

What Elon Musk did with Tesla Motors exceeds all techniques and studies for creating habit in consumers (like Nir Eyal Hook model)  or changing people behavior  through product development (Fog Behavior Model). See here.

From the latest HBR, we read:
Despite the $11 billion spent on CRM software annually, many consumer companies don’t understand customer relationships at all. They aren’t aware of the variety of relationship types and don’t understand what kind their customers want.
... For example, some customers want to be best friends with a brand; others are looking for a passionate fling; still others find themselves as ex-friends and would welcome a closer bond.
 This is what Elon Musk does best. He does not want to ask customers whether they will move to Mars to live. (SpaceX). He is building a place , so anyone who desires, will go there

The take away

I had a recent conversation with some coders of high performance computers. They show each other how the code is made, raving among themselves and wondering why they don't have a single paying customer, not even other scientists.

I hope they read this blog. I know a few will say: yes, but we sell no cars. But the majority will open their eyes. Here is what is happening now,The video is here for convenience, originally published on October 23, 2013 on this blog.

Read Part 2:  Madame Bovary and product creation

Also see:      Ford 1036 versus Tesla 2013


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