Saturday, July 4, 2015

Model X Falcon Wing Doors - Supposed Design Flaw?

I read an article the other day by financial analyst James Sanford that claimed the falcon wing doors on the Model X, those doors that open upwards instead of out, are a major design flaw that will hinder sales of the Model X. The author states:

Here's the problem with the Model X: The target consumer is women, according to Tesla, but the design has falcon-wing doors that open up, not out, precluding the ability to attach anything to the roof — like a ski rack or luggage carrier. Would you buy an SUV or crossover that couldn't carry excess luggage, surfboards,kayaks, etc.? Isn't the primary crossover/SUV buyer a large family, sports enthusiast, or both?

I'm not sure what women have to do with this. Are they somehow more likely to store stuff on the roof of cars than men? Why did he bring this up? Is it just a not-so-subtle hint that the Model X is somehow not a car men would want to drive?

Whatever his reason, the other point he makes may be valid - with doors that open up, it becomes impossible to store items on the roof. But is this really a widespread problem? I'm sure there are some people out there that do haul kayaks and surfboards on the roof of their SUV, but when is the last time you saw that? Honestly, I can't think of a time in the past two years when I've seen an SUV on the road with items tied to the roof. I might have seen a Christmas tree tied to the top of a car once in Decemeber, but that's all I can think of and that might have been a regular car, not even an SUV.

In fact, it's something of a cliché that most SUV drivers really don't need an SUV precisely because they don't haul a lot of stuff. The SUV changed from a utility vehicle to a status symbols years ago. The number of people who buy an SUV so they can haul stuff on their roof is likely a remarkably small segment of the potential Model X buyer pool.

The whole article sounds like it was written by someone who has an axe to grind with Tesla, rather than an impartial piece. (And, to be fair, it is listed as a "commentary," so opinions are to be expected and holding him to an impartial reporter's viewpoint might not appropriate.) But if the author put an ounce of thought into it, I think he'd come to a different conclusion. For instance, he mentions that bikers prefer to carry their bikes on the back of the vehicle, rather than on the roof, using a special mount that attaches to a towing hitch. He asks
Are SUV /crossover buyers going to tolerate being forced to dramatically increase the length of the car, carry increased risk when changing lanes, and making it very difficult to park, especially parallel park?

Increased length? Really? Has he ever seen one of these bike mounts? They add maybe 2 feet to the length of a car. You could also make the argument that a roof-mounted bicycle causes you problems when it comes to overpasses and parking garages, making it at least equally difficult to park as rear-mounted bikes do. Bottom line is anytime you mount something large to the outside of your car, you are going to have to make allowances for it.

But a few sentences later, he actually made me laugh out loud:
When the target Model X consumer, the "soccer mom," realizes she can't fit extra luggage, surfboards, etc., what is her reaction going to be?
I can't recall the last time I saw a "soccer mom" hauling a surf board. I think, by definition, they haul soccer balls, which easily fit into the inside of an SUV. Most surfers are old enough to drive their own cars and don't need their mom hauling their gear around for them.

Look, it's an SUV. It has ample storage room in the back and the front trunk as well. That's where luggage goes. Does he really think the entire inside of SUVs are so crammed full of people that a couple of suitcases won't fit? Does he really believe people pile on top of each other in the rear cargo area in addition to using the back seats? Hell, I drive a Prius and it can fit four to five people and two suitcases and it doesn't even have a frunk.

A little bit of digging explains Mr. Stanford's willing lack of critical thought about the Model X: James Stanford is the founder and portfolio manager of Sag Harbor Advisors, a registered investment advisory company. They recommend shorting Tesla stock (PDF file) and it is conceivable they have a short position themselves. Thus, they stand to make money if the stock price falls. His commentary was published the day Tesla announced record Q2 sales for the Model S, 52% higher than the same quarter a year ago, and the stock price took off. He probably dashed off this transparently biased negative piece to try to lower the stock price. should have required that his commentary be labelled with a disclaimer that he and / or his company are short Tesla stock.


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