2016 Shareholder Highlights

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Elon Musk and JB Straubel Talking About the AC Propulsion Prototype Car

I attended in person the almost four hour shareholders meeting in Mountain View, CA.  This meeting was more of a Tesla history lesson than a shareholders meeting.  At times I was very bored as I have been following Tesla since 2007, and a lot of the information was unnecessarily long.  The large recognition of a variety of Tesla employees was nice to see as Tesla is not just Elon. There were a few interesting tidbits during the history lesson and the 30 minutes of Q&A.

Model 3 Supercharging Fees

Elon stated the Model 3 will have a fee to use the superchargers.   The pricing model is unknown and could be a simple upfront fee or a pay per use model.  The 60kWh version of the Model S had a simple $2,000 fee to enable supercharging.

Model X Regrets

Elon admitted that the Model X was over engineered.  He regretted not launching a simpler Model X and following up future versions of the car with these new features.  He also admitted to a lot of problems with the falcon wing doors, and that the remaining issues are software related for a various corner cases when the doors should or should not open.

I really liked that Elon acknowledged this mistake;  I am much more comfortable with honest leaders who both recognize and publicly admit errors.  I also think that if the Model X had a simpler base version with standard doors and standard seats, a lot more vehicles would have been sold.

Model S and X as Technology Leaders

The Model S and Model X will always be the technology leaders and will be continually improved.

Building the Machines that Build the Machine

Elon also demonstrated a huge amount of interest in building the machines that build the machine. He used the analogy of integrated circuit (IC) design to car factory design.  When designing an IC, the designer and software make tradeoffs between speed, size, and power consumption of a chip.  The process is very complex today as the individual components and wires are extremely small.  During this analogy, Elon referred to both the slow rate that cars are leaving the factory and the number of layers in an IC.  With these references, I can speculate that Elon thinks that there are ways the factory robotic process can be combined.  Very simplistic ideas could be that multiple robots are working on a car at the same time; perhaps one robot is above the car, another below the car and a third on the side of the car.

The New Model S Nose

On display at front was an older Model S, a new Model S with the new nose, and a Model X.  I don’t really have a strong opinion about the new nose.  From all the Model Xs I have seen in California, I have found that the new nose looks better on some colors than others.

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Model X in Palo Alto

Yesterday I went to the new Tesla store and service center in Palo Alto.  The old Menlo Park store <now closed> was on Stanford property, and apparently Stanford wants to use that land for something else.  Tesla has since opened up a store and service center along 101 in Burlingame and now this one in Palo Alto.  I noticed the Burlingame building while being driven home from the airport after my trip to Europe, so it is very easy to find.

Chargers at Palo Alto Service Center Overlooking Volvo Dealership

Chargers at Palo Alto Service Center Overlooking Volvo Dealership

I doubt they could have found a suitable facility in Palo Alto for a service center closer to their headquarters.  The two facilities are now only two miles apart.  I think this arrangement is a good idea to keep the communication between development and service strong.  I would hope the engineers would from time to time visit the service center to listen to the customers and the mechanics. The facility itself is nice and includes a large bank of charging stations overlooking the Volvo dealership.  These chargers are not superchargers.

I went to see the Model X.  I personally have no interest in buying this car.  I have a SUV that has 70K miles on it, that I imagine will last at least another 10 years as it is not frequently used.  I  also think this category of vehicle should not be ultra luxury.  When going skiing or venturing in the backcountry, I want a rugged vehicle that I have no qualms about getting dirty or getting scratched by tree branches.  When I bought my Toyota Highlander Hybrid seven and half years ago, Lexus had the same vehicle for sale with three minor unnecessary upgrades (backup camera and two others) for an additional $10K.  I think most of these sales were for the name Lexus not the additional features.

Model X Prototype with All The Doors Open

Model X Prototype with All The Doors Open

The Model X is basically a taller Model S with the gull wing doors.  After spending a month in Europe, I still struggle to see why there are so many large cars in the U.S.  I would want to carry my paddleboard on the top, and these gull wing doors probably prohibit that.  But the Model X could perhaps work as a mini van replacement or for someone with large dogs.

The new Palo Alto store is very close to the Tesla headquarters in the southern reaches of Palo Alto on El Camino Real near Arastradero Road.

A little bit of “trivia” in regards to the name El Camino Real.  El Camino Real and highway 101 in some parts of the state begins in the south in San Diego and ends 600 miles north.  The road was built by the Spanish missionaries connecting the 21 California missions.  Real in Spanish is royal in English but all the roads during the period of Spanish crown were called “camino real”.  The term was not used when Spain was ousted from Mexico and California but revived in the 20th century to boost tourism.

For many Californians like myself, I always translated “El Camino” from Spanish to the word “Road”.  I learned during my time in Spain, that the word camino really means dirt path or trail, or the type of road we can imagine the Spanish missionaries traveling on.   The word calle is a better translation for road, and carretera for highway.

Tesla Service Visit

I had the opportunity to review the P85+ because my car went in for service. One of the reasons for the service was that the dash had issued the warning: “Service Tire Pressure System…Contact Tesla Service.”   This warning came up repeatedly on my long road trip down the coast during long stretches of freeway driving.

Tire Pressure Warning

Tire Pressure Warning

Since I was far away from home I called the 800 number to speak with a Tesla person.  He said it could be the tires or the warning system itself.  I looked at all the tires and they looked fine.  I have to confess, I do not carry a tire pressure gauge and did not venture to a gas station, my check was solely visual.  The light came on and off about six times.  When the warning showed up it was on for 30 miles or so.  From the forums, it looks like several people have had problems with the tire pressure systems.  During the service, they replaced the TPMS module and repositioned it.

The Roadster also had physical sensors.  The car also told you the actual tire pressure in a screen readout.  The Model S does not have a numerical readout, simply a warning if the pressure is incorrect.  I hope that the software will eventually have a numerical readout, as I am not particularly prone to noticing low tire pressure.

I also hopefully had my last door handle replaced as my doors like to open by themselves.  This time, my driver side rear door handle has been replaced.  I hope this problem is fixed for good.

The service also included installing some new rear window regulator clips.  It appears that some people have had issues with the rear windows remaining open and these small parts will solve that issue.  More detailed reports of this problem can be found here.   In the past I had problems with my Toyota windows after putting a small strap through the rear window while driving but I have not had any problems myself with my rear windows.

The service department also tried to reproduce my intermittent noise and bluetooth issues.  Occasionally, often but not always near power lines, my car makes noise similar to tv or radio static.  The noise can be quite loud, and seems to be more frequent with passengers in the rear seats.  I have tried many times to drive over the same route to reproduce it consistently but have been unable to.  During my test drive of the P85+ I also experienced this same noise but it was quieter than my own car but not less frequent.

I have also had intermittent problems with the bluetooth connection to my Iphone while listening to music or audiobooks.  The connection fails and is difficult to reconnect.  Rebooting the Iphone does not solve the problem.  I had to reboot both the car and the Iphone to get the connection back again.

Unfortunately, since both these problems are intermittent, Tesla could not reproduce them and neither can I in a consistent manner.

Haunted Doors, Again

My doors still like to self open!  I thought this problem was completely fixed a couple of months ago.   I have already written two posts on this topic:

https://teslaowner.wordpress.com/2013/04/05/stuck-and-self-opening-door/

https://teslaowner.wordpress.com/2013/05/12/haunted-door/

I have been in for service twice already with my self-opening doors.  I am beginning to loose count how many door handles I have been through with this car.

The latest self opening door incident occurred a couple of weeks ago.  The passenger driver side door was open after I returned from a stroll near a beach.  I was quite surprised looking at the car as the handles were all in the open position, and this back door was open.  That back door had not been opened in a few weeks.  Other owners have had problems with the door handles, but my self opening doors seem to be unique.

I still very much like my car and so far the problems I have been experiencing have been acceptable but not ideal.

Another Self Opening door Incident

Another Self Opening door Incident

Opening A Different Car

I came out of a store in a small shopping area, and saw a grey Model S nearby.  I walked over to the car and the passenger door handle did not retract.  I was planning to throw on the seat the small items I had in my hand.  Since I am an environmentalist, I always say “no bag please” when I buy a few items that I can carry.

I took the key fob out of my pocket and shook it a bit.  I opened the door and looked inside to find on the black seat an odd outer garment of some kind.  The coat was black with some trim.  I did not have a coat on the seat.  The water bottle also looked unusual.

I looked around and then realized.  THIS IS NOT MY CAR!  The car had identical colors inside and out along with the 21″ wheels.   My car was parked not very far away in this small parking lot.  I looked around to see who owned this car, and the one person I talked to gave me some strange looks.

I was quite surprised that my key could open another Model S.  I have been experiencing a series of strange intermittent problems:  self opening doors, rare electrical noises, occasional bluetooth connection issues and a flakey tire pressure gauge.  Perhaps these are somehow related?  I am planning to blog about these other problems soon but they are minor and I have not had the time.  My car is going in for service in August and I do have the VIN # of the other Model S.

In this area there are a lot of Teslas on the streets, but I have not seen any reports of this issue.  I did not try to drive the car.  I vaguely remember another car manufacturer having similar issues in the past.

This Photo is Not My Car!

This Photo is Not My Car!

 

 

Door Handles, Again

My car went in for service again.  I have run into Tesla’s Achilles heel.

Tesla's achilles heel

Tesla’s Achilles’ heel

I have had a series of problems with two of my doors.  The initial problems were two door handles that were stuck.  The door handles would extend but even with a huge amount of pressure, the door simply would not open.  The workaround was to open the door from the inside by either entering the car from another door or rolling down the windows through the fob or the app.

The car went in for service, and they replaced the offending door handles.  A full report is available on this blog post.

After the fix of the door handle, the problem re-occured again with slightly different symptoms.  The door was never stuck, but would open by itself.  This occurred twice in two months and more details are found on this blog post.

I tried to contact my local service center.  Several times I got busy signals.  I called again another day and got sent to voicemail and left a very detailed description.  After a week, I had not heard back from Tesla as I reported here.  Although my problem was not serious, it did make my car a bit insecure as the door would open when it wanted to, and once in a public location, where I was notified by a friendly person.

I happened to be one block away from the service center for completely unrelated business, and decided to talk to the service personnel.  I think they were a little surprised to see someone stop in to make an appointment, but it worked and my car was scheduled for a week later.  Their backup I think is significantly longer, but my issue could leave the car in an unsafe position.

When the day came for the valet service to pick up my car, I had to call Tesla back to inquire about my appointment.  I am not completely sure if they somehow misplaced my appointment or one of us wrote down the wrong day for the appointment.  Regardless, they sent out their valet service to my house.  The valets now come wearing ties.  Although this touch is nice, I also liked “the old days” when the valet service was often a mechanic or service advisor.

The haunted door was hopefully fixed this time for good.  During the service call, they replaced the handle a 3rd time, only to find the door would not open.  So they replaced the door handle again!  This door is now using its fourth door handle!

As the service center folks pointed out, the door handles are clearly their Achilles’ heel.

I’m always curious about the origins of myths and expressions and decided to look up the Achilles’ heel.  Achilles was a Greek warrior that was dipped into magical waters by his mother.  The only part of his body that was not submerged was his heel.  He was eventually shot by an arrow into his heel and died.  The term Achilles’ heel means weak spot or vulnerability.

I think at this point, both the unreliable door handles and the lack of sufficient service staff are both Tesla’s Achilles’ heels.

Service Complaints

If I make a call into the service center and leave a message, how long is a reasonable turnaround for a call back?

I have been waiting 3 days, or 72 hours so far for a return call or email.  I provided a telephone number, my email and even my VIN # for reference.  My problem is not urgent, but I don’t think it is particularly safe to drive around a car that can open its door randomly without any warning.  So far this problem has happened only when stopped but that could allow someone to enter the car or for it to rain on the interior.  I would not have this complaint if someone at least returned my call to discuss the issue or schedule an appointment sometime in the next month.

The last time I took the car in for service, I also had to call multiple times to schedule an appointment.  And I never got the promised callback to discuss the issue again after the problem occurred the first time post service.

Elon Musk recently tweeted and acknowledged the problems with service.  I am not faulting the individuals who work there as they have all been great, they are just significantly understaffed and the understaffing problem is not new.

Elon Musk's service tweet

Elon Musk’s service tweet