FRANKFURT/BEIJING/DETROIT (Reuters) – Tesla Inc’s (TSLA.O) rapid rise to become the world’s most valuable carmaker could mark the start of a new era for the global auto industry, defined by a Silicon Valley approach to software that is overtaking old-school manufacturing know-how.
Tesla’s ascent took many investors by surprise. But executives at Daimler AG (DAIGn.DE), the parent company of Mercedes-Benz, had a close-up view starting in 2009 of how Tesla and its chief executive Elon Musk were taking a new approach to building vehicles that challenged the established system.
Daimler, which bears the name of the man who invented the modern car 134 years ago, bought a nearly 10% Tesla stake in May 2009 in a deal which provided a $50 million lifeline for the struggling start-up.
That investment gave Mercedes engineers an inside view of how Musk was willing to launch technology that wasn’t perfect, and then repeatedly upgrade it, using smartphone style over-the-air updates, paying little regard to early profitability.
Mercedes engineers helped Tesla develop its Model S luxury sedan in exchange for access to Tesla’s partially hand-assembled battery packs, but in 2014 Daimler decided to sell their stake amid doubts Tesla’s approach could be industrialised at scale.
Tesla would go on to pioneer new approaches in manufacturing, designs in software and electronic architecture which enable it to introduce innovations faster than rivals, leaving analysts to draw comparisons with Apple (AAPL.O).
Three people directly involved with the Mercedes side of the collaboration said the brief partnership highlighted the collision of old and new engineering cultures: the German obsession with long-term safety and control, which rewarded evolution, and the Silicon Valley carmaker’s experimental approach which embraced radical thinking and fast innovation.
“Elon Musk has been walking on the edge of a razorblade in terms of the aggression with which he pushes some technologies,” said a former Mercedes engineer who worked on the partnership.
By contrast, Mercedes and other established automakers are still not comfortable about releasing a new technology, such as partially automated driving, without years of testing.
Tesla did not respond to requests for comment.
Investors favour the Tesla model, in an industry undergoing fundamental and dizzying change even though the U.S. carmaker will face an onslaught of competing electric vehicles from established automakers during the next few years.
They are putting their money on Musk and his company, even though Mercedes-Benz alone sold 935,089 cars in the first half of 2020, dwarfing the 179,050 delivered by Tesla in the same period.
Today, Tesla is worth nearly $304.6 billion, more than six times Daimler’s 41.5-billion-euro ($47.7 billion) market capitalisation.
Two cultures collide
Daimler and Tesla began collaborating after Mercedes engineers, who were developing a second-generation electric Smart car, bought a Tesla Roadster. They were impressed by the way Tesla packaged batteries, so arranged a visit to Silicon Valley to meet Musk in January 2009 and ordered 1,000 battery packs.
The collaboration expanded. At a joint press conference in the Mercedes-Benz museum in Stuttgart in May 2009, Tesla said the partnership would “accelerate bringing our Tesla Model S to production and ensure that it is a superlative vehicle”.
For its part, Mercedes wanted to use Tesla’s batteries to power an electric version of its compact Mercedes-Benz B-Class. The Tesla Model S would hit the road in 2012. An electric B-Class, arrived in showrooms two years later.
Despite having batteries supplied by Tesla, the Mercedes had a shorter operating range after Daimler engineers configured the B-class more conservatively to address their concerns about long-term battery degradation and the risk of overheating, a second Daimler staffer who worked on the joint projects told Reuters.
German engineers found that Tesla engineers had not done long-term stress tests on its battery. “We had to devise our own programme of stress tests,” the second Daimler engineer said.
Before starting production of a new car, Daimler engineers specify a “Lastenheft” – a blueprint laying out the properties of each component for suppliers. Significant changes cannot be made once the design is frozen.
“This is also the way you can guarantee that we will be profitable during mass production. Tesla was not as concerned about this aspect,” the second Daimler source said.
Daimler’s engineers suggested the underbody of the Model S needed reinforcing to prevent debris from the road puncturing a battery pack, the first Daimler engineer said.
To quash doubts about safety and security, following a series of battery fires, Tesla raised the ride height of its vehicles, using an over-the-air update, and a few months later, in March 2014, said it would add a triple underbody shield to new Model S cars and offered to retrofit existing cars.
Musk was able to make adjustments quickly thanks to Tesla’s ability to burn through more cash during development.
“At Mercedes you can make such adjustments every three years at best,” the engineer said.
The Model S, a four-door electric sedan would go on to outsell the flagship Mercedes-Benz S-Class in the United States in May 2013, and outstrip S-Class deliveries globally by 2017.
Musk: Innovate or go
Musk’s relentless focus on innovation explains, in part, why he has disrupted the traditional auto world. In an interview here at the 2020 Air Warfare Symposium, published on YouTube, he was asked about the importance of innovation among his employees.
“We certainly need those that do advanced engineering to be innovative,” Musk said. “The incentive structure is set up … such that innovation is rewarded. Making mistakes along the way does not come with a big penalty. But failure to try to innovate at all … comes with a big penalty. You will be fired.”
Established automakers are playing catch-up to Tesla, designing their own software operating systems and dedicated electric cars.
Mercedes will release its EQS next year – a four-door limousine built on a dedicated electric vehicle platform, with an operating range of 700 km. A new version of the Mercedes S-Class, which will have combustion and hybrid powertrains and semi-autonomous driver assistance systems, is due this year.
From an investor perspective, traditional players face billions of dollars in restructuring costs as they transform product lines and factories to move away from internal combustion technology
“No one is going to give an OEM (established automaker) a five-year window to say … you can totally retool your business, and I am going to buy in and fund this journey,” said Mark Wakefield, co-leader of automotive and industrials practice at consulting firm AlixPartners.
Start-ups, however, get time from investors to learn, make mistakes and grow, he added.
Investors are betting on Tesla’s ability to scale up manufacturing just as they once backed Toyota Motor Corp (7203.T), which defined the auto industry’s last era with its mastery of highly efficient, high-quality lean production.
Toyota overtook the market capitalisation of former industry leader General Motors (GM.N) in 1996, though it wasn’t until 2008 that it sold more vehicles than its Detroit rival.
The Japanese giant also cultivated ties with Tesla, with the U.S. startup helping it design an electrified RAV4 compact sports utility vehicle under a 2010 deal.
Toyota was impressed by the speed with which Tesla came up with the new design, but ultimately decided Tesla’s methods were not suitable for mass production by a mainstream manufacturer when Toyota’s standards for product quality and durability were applied, two company insiders familiar with the partnership said.
Toyota said the joint project involved cooperation on the development of electric cars, parts and production system.
“Toyota accomplished what the project set out to achieve, and it ended in October 2014 after Tesla delivered roughly 2,500 electric powertrain systems over three years” for an electrified RAV4 crossover SUVs, a spokeswoman said.
Both the Toyota and Daimler collaborations were agreed before the Volkswagen (VOWG_p.DE) emissions-cheating scandal in 2015, which prompted a global regulatory backlash and forced carmakers to step up investments in electric cars.
“That was all before dieselgate, which changed the economics of electric and combustion-engined cars,” a senior Daimler manager said. “Tesla has a lead. Let’s see if they can scale up.”
Reporting and photo: Reuters
Atmosphere Core expands in South Asia with Atmosphere Living ultra-luxury residences
Atmosphere Core, a globally renowned name in hospitality, has announced the launch of Atmosphere Living as part of its continued expansion in South Asia. Headquartered in India, this new company will offer branded ultra-luxury residences with customised end-to-end amenities and indulgences, including coffee lounges, wine cellars, private transport, and bespoke concierge services.
The global branded residences market has experienced a remarkable 150 percent growth over the past decade, and projections indicate a surge in demand. With the real estate veteran Sandeep Ahuja at the helm as Managing Director, Atmosphere Living is strategically positioned to capitaliSe on this demand.
Atmosphere Living will focus on a conscious design philosophy. All properties will be built in harmony with the environment and will incorporate features such as smart recycling, efficient waste and water management, and green energy solutions.
Sharing his insights on the launch, Salil Panigrahi, Managing Director, Atmosphere Core, said, “Atmosphere Living will bring a distinctive offering to India, and is a brand to watch out for. It will combine Ahuja’s decades of experience, knowledge, and industry network in real estate with Atmosphere’s hospitality expertise, introducing unparalleled serviced residences in India.”
Positioned in major metropolitan areas, established second-home destinations, and undiscovered scenic locales nationwide, these projects will also present lucrative investment opportunities. Elite homeowners will have the option to lease their residences back to Atmosphere Living, allowing them to be rented out for income generation.
Sandeep Ahuja, Managing Director, Atmosphere Living, said, “There is currently a gap in the Indian realty landscape for ultra-indulgent serviced homes catering to affluent consumers. We aim to bridge this gap by curating serviced homes that offer indulgences such as entering homes using smart key cards, 24/7 butler services, fine dining, and co-working spaces, among others. Our ultimate desire is to enable our customers to experience a life of true luxury and exclusivity.”
A night of celestial wonders, luxury, and cosmic inspiration at Anantara Kihavah SKY Observatory by British astronaut Tim Peake
Anantara Kihavah Maldives Villas celebrated a historic milestone with the exclusive visit of the renowned British astronaut, Tim Peake. On the evening of November 2, Astronaut Peake hosted an exclusive space talk at SKY Observatory, the finest overwater observatory in the Indian Ocean, housing the most powerful telescope in the Maldives.
Perched gracefully over the pristine Maldivian waters, SKY Observatory provided an idyllic setting for this extraordinary event, complemented by a stunning sunset. The exclusive gathering attracted a full house of eager guests to a delightful evening that seamlessly blended science, luxury, and natural beauty.
The evening commenced with a lovely cocktail reception, where guests were serenaded by the soulful tunes of a live saxophone band. Attendees savoured exquisite cocktails and canapés as they eagerly awaited Tim Peake’s presentation.
Tim Peake’s talk unveiled his personal journey, where he shared his path to becoming an astronaut and narrated the rigorous training that astronauts undergo. He provided insights into life in space, the daily challenges faced by astronauts, and the awe-inspiring experiences he encountered during his
historic mission. He also offered a glimpse into his exciting future projects, leaving the audience both inspired and spellbound.
Following Tim’s presentation, an interactive Q&A session allowed guests to engage directly with the British astronaut. The audience posed thoughtful questions, deepening their understanding of astronauts’ unique experiences and the intricacies of space exploration.
The event was further enriched by the presence of the resort’s three SKY gurus, Hammadh Rasheed, Zunnoon Ahmed, and Ali Arushal, who conducted a stargazing session for the guests afterward.
The success of the event was evident in the overwhelmingly positive feedback from attendees, who left with a deeper appreciation for space exploration and a memorable evening to cherish.
The evening marked a significant moment in Anantara Kihavah’s history, showcasing the resort’s commitment to offering unique and memorable experiences for its guests. The presence of Tim Peake, a celebrated astronaut and highly accomplished author, added an extraordinary dimension to the resort’s already spectacular offerings.
Tim Peake is a renowned British astronaut who made history as the first official British astronaut to visit the International Space Station (ISS) and conduct a spacewalk during his six-month mission. He also achieved the remarkable feat of running the London Marathon from space. Beyond his extraordinary space endeavours, Tim is also a bestselling author with his most recent book Space: A thrilling human history published earlier this month.
An astronomer’s paradise, Baa Atoll in the Maldives, is one of the best places on earth to enjoy stargazing due to its proximity to the equator. Anantara Kihavah Maldives Villas promises a voyage of discovery on a private Indian Ocean Island, with Sky—an overwater observatory and luxury cocktail bar—providing guests a chance to sip champagne under the stars and explore the Universe.
Visit Maldives website adds atolls segment to showcase diverse regions
Maldives Marketing and Public Relations Corporation’s (MMPRC/ Visit Maldives) has added a new segment to the official Visit Maldives Website specified for atolls showcasing the diversity of the Maldives.
The segment, now live at atolls.visitmaldives.com provides in depth information regarding the different regions of the Maldives, divided by atolls, to refine the traveller’s experience, commencing with an in-depth exploration of Addu Atoll and Fuvahmulah Atoll.
With 26 atolls, the Maldives offers a wide array of unique accommodations and awe-inspiring travel experiences, and this informative section of our website will serve as a gateway to discover the hidden treasures unique to each area. This falls under MMPRC’s initiatives to encourage tourism growth in all regions of the Maldives, broadening exposure to the diverse tourism products available in the Maldives.
The goal is to elevate Visit Maldives’ digital marketing landscape by showcasing the Maldives as more than just a honeymoon destination with various accommodation options. This initiative is driven by a desire to increase awareness about the distinctive offerings within each of the Maldives’ atolls. It aims to positively shape their perception of the Sunny Side of Life brand by curating engaging content that highlights the unique features of the atolls and diverse experiences available in the islands.
Additionally, the initiative will target the affordable luxury market to promote the Maldives as the most appealing option for short holidays and weekend getaways under a unified Maldives brand umbrella.
MMPRC aims to continue exploring other atolls in the Maldives as well, encouraging growth and tourism development in all regions of the Maldives, building on the foundation we have created to promote the destination beyond the traditional paradigms of sun, sand, and sea.
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