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Tesla Motors Opens Michigan Tech Center; Focus on Upcoming Electric Sports Sedan

Tesla Motors, manufacturers of high performance, zero emission electric vehicles (earlier post), has opened its Michigan Technical Center in Rochester Hills.

The 19,240 square-foot facility will focus on R&D for future Tesla products to follow the introduction later this year of the Roadster, starting with a four-door electric sports sedan to be built by the Silicon Valley-based company. That project, named “WhiteStar,” will be a four-door, five-passenger, lightweight, high-performance sedan planned for production around 2009.

This tech center will be home to the engineering, quality and supply chain staff working on WhiteStar and other Tesla cars coming down the line. With our state-of-the-art CAD and CAE design and simulation tools, this center will enable us to bring high-quality products to market quicker than traditional manufacturers.

—John Thomas, general manager of the Michigan Technical Center and senior director of the WhiteStar program

The region’s existing base of automotive companies, facilities and engineering talent, also figured into the decision to place the Technical Center in Michigan.

There are thousands of highly experienced automotive experts in this area. We felt it was smart to use the existing test tracks, validation equipment, wind tunnels and more, rather than duplicating these costly investments.

—John Thomas

Since opening in July 2003, Tesla Motors has grown to a company with more than 140 employees as they prepare to launch their first electric car, the Tesla Roadster, in the fourth quarter of 2007. More than 270 customers have already reserved a Tesla Roadster in advance. Over time, Tesla Motors plans to develop a wide range of electric vehicles, all sharing the common characteristics of great styling, high performance, zero emissions and zero oil usage.

The Michigan Technical Center will be the fourth Tesla Motors facility worldwide, and the second in the US, joining the company’s headquarters in San Carlos, Calif. Tesla Motors also has facilities in England (assembly of the Tesla Roadster) and Taiwan (motor production).

Comments

Cervus

At any rate, glad to see progress from Tesla. I'd love to buy an EV from them at some point in the future.

JMartin

It is easy to bash the UAW, and they deserve the bashing. However, there is plenty of blame to go around -- the UAW, top managment (making how much for losing $?), and the structure of our healthcare system that the "military/industrial/congressional complex has created and maintained. All of these entities was successful at one time, but have failed to keep up with the times. Mostly it is short-term thinking rather than responding to the current reallities, or God forbid, planning for the long-term.

The healthcare issue is structural and national. The Wall Street Journal has an item in today's paper pointing out that the US spends 16% of GDP on healthcare vs. 10.5% in France, which is next highest of developed countries. That and we have a shorter life expectancy and higher infant mortality rate than many other developed countries. So US auto makers are at a disadvantage for lots of reasons, but meanwhile other countries seem to be able to compete and still have unions. What gives?

Anyway, the market will change thing and there will be winners and losers. Let's just hope change comes quickly, and we are not on the loser list.

donee

Hi All,

The UAW and other muli-company unions are why the in the US Engineering is a second class profession. A multi-company union has power over the industry, without the big picture background ( ie PHD's in all the technical arts required). They force companies to live for today, and forget about tomorrow. Nothing can be more illustrative of this than the Prius episode in automotive history. Rather than have thousands of people who would go into engineering for the serious rewards for serious effort and talent, and serious positive change for society (otherwise known as the "American Way"), that money is bled out of the company for the union guys boat payments. And good engineering minds become the people who perpurtrate some of the evil that other professional but parasitical positions in society perpertrate.

Unions really should be limited to single company membership.

Yea, GM was stupid to go for the job banking idea. But, yea, UAW was stupid to push for it too. Those guys could learn automation, or somebody from the line could learn automation, and the displaced guy take that guys' job. The UAW just did not have the wherewithal in economics, engineering and technical education to have the smarts to make the right decision. And the result is catastrophic. Because GM could not come out with anything that can compete with the Prius in time. They were focused on the big home run, because the home run (SUV's and fuel cell cars) are cheap to assemble or high profit or both. When if they had the money, they could go out there and hit singles all day long, keeping a different group of engineers busy on each of those singles and occaisionally the double (Prius), like Toyota did.

Now the weakness of the Japanese system is the reliance and compensation of engineers too. You do not have these guys out there in research. They called the Prius Research, but its really developement. The technically smart guys are all in development, where the money is. So, things are more evolutionary, than revolutionary. The Prius is to a technically aware individual a sum of a bunch of evolutionary technological threads. And what is amazing is most of these threads are American in origin. Hell, there are people who have made their own Hybrid Cars in their garage out there in the U.S.! I saw my first one in 1979. TRW was the first company to patent an electric torque-converting transmisson. Computers were invented in Silicon Valley, and the NiMH battery in Rochester MI. The valving concept in the Prius engine was invented by an American named Miller in the 1940's.

If a technological revolutionary event happens, it will most likely be in an American or European lab. And whoever brings it to market will have the advantage. A company thinking about today will only do this, if tomorrow is bankruptcy. And that is where Ford and GM are now.

The problem is that technologically revolutionary events are crap-shoots. They happen hap-hazardly, and sometimes with initial mistakes. Which is why allot of the companies that originally came up with those things that got put into the Prius did not necassarily profit from them.


Rick

Unions used their political power to gain above-market wages and benifits for themselves. They enriched themselves at the expense of the politically unconnected. That is the way democracy works, the politically powerful prey on the weak. The biggest offenders today are the government employee unions, the military industrial complex, the government licensed drug industry, and numerous other groups who benifit from subsidies, licensing, privileges, government-enforced monopolies, etc. The complex web of economic regulation has created armies of parasites feeding off a shrinking pool of producers. End of rant.

Patrick

I want to know what type of production numbers Tesla is planning.

1000 sedans is nothing...100,000 sedans is impressive.

I don't believe anyway here commenting on Japanese companies has ever worked for a Japanese company (judging from the comments). An American subsidiary of a Japanese company tends to pay FAR more for American workers. The American VP for my company gets paid 2 times more than the Japanese President of the company. Engineers in Japan are making very little for the number of hours they put in while any of the Engineers who come over to the US and work for an American company see an immediate raise of 25 to 150 percent. They NEED a national healthcare system because they don't make enough money otherwise.

In Japanese companies there are no ownership rights over patents and research for the individual.

In Japanese companies you do not make more pay if you are an exceptional candidate/employee...starting pay is starting pay and raises are given for seniority more often than for any other reason.

As an example, I personally know of an Engineer who left Sony to work for Microsoft and increased his salary by 100%. We lost a guy to Microsoft and his salary increased by about 100% over what our Japanese company would pay.

Just because they hire UAW workers does not mean they are signed into the same contracts as the US big 3. They also won't have to worry about healthcare & pension benefits for a long time since their US based manufacturing facilities are rather young still.

Andrey

The American automotive companies see themselves in a business of making money (by selling cars). Initially Japanese (Toyota and Honda in particular) were in business of making great cars. By building and selling cars of best quality and uppermost technical sophistication (price prohibition as sensible limit). This was the right philosophy; financial success eventually follows. Currently I see BMW as leader in this marketplace philosophy. The only hope of US auto giants is to switch to this philosophy, and do not seek fast fixes and dumb excuses. So far their management is clearly schizophrenic in their attempts to do business as usual and to catch falling knife with paralyzed fingers.

Sad.

kert

Ok, lets take a wild guess. Fred, you are talking about Armor Electric ( ARME.OB ) arent you ?
They sold a bunch of BEVs to mexico recently according to their press releases, and have manufacturing partners in India ( Hero Majestic, famous in asia for millions of 2-stroke mopeds ) for bringing the prices down.
I dont think they own any IP in battery tech, though.

kert

Hm .. might have been wrong.. you meant ZAP and their Puerto Rico deal ? They have a extensive lineup and also battery deals

Nate

Rumor around here in Silicon Valley is that Tesla is having thermal problems with their roadster that they still haven't licked yet. Expect first delivery to be delayed from current predictions.

coal_burner

Wow donee, you just read my mind.
I personally know a group of UAW line workers who faught tooth and nail against being trained to manage robots.
One of them actually said "My job pays for my boat just fine, why do I need to learn anything else"

andrichrose

its strange that even though the assembly of the tesla roadster is being carried out by Lotus in england , the car has been compleatly ingnored by the tv and media in england . Anybody got any suggestions?

Fred

Hello boys,

I thought this post was about BEVs and specifically about TESLA. However, I read a huge amount of rants about the UAW!!!

Anyway, the new BEV Co. is not connected to any of the other BEV companies mentioned above by fellow posters.

All I know is that the ¨name¨(or brand for that matter) is PEAR which I also do not think is related to the delicious fruit.

Their site is not up yet but you can always check once in a while to see any potential news. www.pearmotors.com

Enjoy,

FS PhD

tom deplume

The UAW's big mistake was allowing the auto companies to control the pension funds and therefore failed to put the pension and healthcare plans in a diversified portfolio. OTOH the Teamsters control their pension and health care funds not the trucking companies. If the UAW had followed the Teamster model then the auto companies would have no legacy costs. It was the auto companies that wanted exclusive access to pension fund capital and now want to blame the union for legacy costs.

Olison

I am working in greater Detroit area. Our company has been developing BEV over two years. Right now we are working on phase 2 vehicle, which is aiming for mass production. I cannot give more information. I believe that there are lots more activities happening now. There will be big show in next two years so for BEV.

kent beuchert

Originally this second Tesla product was billed as a
small econobox whose price was about half that of the roadster, or around $50,000. I suppose it finally dawned
on the amateur automakers that a $50,000 econobox is an oxymoron for those not a part of Eberhard's circle of wealthy customer friends. Eberhard's brilliant solution: now it's called a "sports sedan."

hamed

Hamedwannous@yahoo.com

Fred

The best solution for now to lower the battery cost issue is to offer the vehicle with a few range option and let the consumer decide on how much they are willing to spend and how much they truly drive every day.

This way, any potential BEV buyer could start at a lower price and if needed or wanted he-she could upgrade the range by ´adding´ more energy power by paying for the the needed labor costs and the added batteries. For example, it could start at 50 miles range (city drving), then 150 miles range and hopefully double that at 300 miles range as soon as the technology allows for ´smaller´ packs (nano) etc...

What do you guys-gals think about this idea?

Fred ´The-BEV-Man´ Sands

zogger

re: the negative comment about unions.

Are you nuts? The union workers build what they are told to build, design and marketing is 100% management. It's the primary reason we even have anything resembling a middle class in this nation, and it is under assault as it is.

With that said, I think they SHOULD sometimes negotiate marketing decisions, even to the point of striking if it doesn't happen.. Everyone and their cousin leroy knew that the market for hybrids and high mileage vehicles was there, yet ford and gm did nothing about it until the japanese came and stole the show from them. That's pure management and major stockholder fault there, because they all live in millionaire la-la land and the price of a tank of gas to them is less than chump change they wouldn't stoop to pick up if they dropped it on the ground. They have no frame of reference the same as normal working folks..

I think the UAW should be MORE proactive in helping bring about positive change. In fact, they should do what the workers in argentina are doing, take over the plants and run them with pure profit sharing and based on the ideals of not only being a profitable company, but being of public service as well, which was part of the original deal when companies got their PUBLIC GRANTED incorporation charters. They should have a big complete strike and DEMAND ford retool some of the plants they are closing and devote them entirely to pure electrics and hybrids RIGHT NOW and stop promising pie in the sky "hydrogen fuel cell" crap which is a decade away.

There is no "right" to organize a corporation,get it? It is the public's business to say yay or nay on that.

We've suffered way too many defeats, we being the middle class workers in this nation,the people who actually produce the wealth that all the middle man skimmers and traders and politicians leech off of, by allowing wall street and a handful of billionaires and grossly overpaid Cxx manager types to dictate economic policy. Without unions, you wouldn't have ever seen such things as benefits or safety on the job in the workplace or pensions.

Cervus

Here's an article on CNN that explains the disparities between the foreign and domestic automakers.

A big reason is the cost of labor. As analyzed by Harbour-Felax, labor costs the Detroit Three substantially more per vehicle than it does the Japanese.

Health care is the biggest chunk. GM (Charts), for instance spends $1,635 per vehicle on health care for active and retired workers in the U.S. Toyota (Charts) pays nothing for retired workers - it has very few - and only $215 for active ones.

Other labor costs add to the bill. Contract issues like work rules, line relief and holiday pay amount to $630 per vehicle - costs that the Japanese don't have. And paying UAW members for not working when plants are shut costs another $350 per vehicle.

Here's one example of how knotty Detroit's labor problem can be:

If an assembly plant with 3,000 workers has no dealer orders, it has two options. One is to close the plant for a week and not build any cars. Then the company still has to give the idled workers 95 percent of their take-home pay plus all benefits for not working. So a one-week shutdown costs $7.7 million or $1,545 for each vehicle it didn't make.

Unions aren't prefect. No human institution is. The idea that unions can't be as greedy as any CEO is fallacious. Don't get me wrong, they do serve a vital purpose. But don't put them on a pedestal.

J Rouleau

Please take the UAW discussions to a different forum. We all have raves and rants for both UAW and management, but this is not the place. This forum is supposed to focus on battery-electric vehicles, specifically Tesla Motors.

I am curious to see how Tesla leverages Detroit engineering talent to bring a refined EV to to market. I worry, though, that something like a rash of dramatic battery failures (remember Sony batteries exploding in Dell and other laptop computers?) could kill the whole industry for another decade or more. Battery and control refinements should be Tesla's primary focus, not the introduction of several new body styles. Let's hope battery energy density can be safely increased, while keeping simplicity, all-weather useability, and cost to acceptable levels.

Schmeltz

J.R.:
I have the same worries about Tesla and the durability and quality of their product. Any bad publicity due to mechanical failure could send the BEV community back to the stone age, so to speak. Lets hope they are doing their homework for their own sake, and the fate of the BEV world.

Bobolikesmilk

Go see or rent Who Killed the Electric Car and you will see how the big 3 has sealed their own fate by killing their electric car programs. The trailer can be viewed here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pChh-F8dtwI

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