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Tesla Motors has changed the face of the electric car and sparked fear in competitors. However, a recent IHS Technology teardown of a 2013 Tesla Model S shows that the company's disruption runs even deeper.
Tesla produces cars unlike anything else on the road. The company understands the impact that user experience has had with mobile technology.
Consumers expect responsive touch screens, intuitive interfaces and processing power to do whatever they want. The S provides all that with a 17-inch screen and 3G wireless data connectivity that can download over-the-air upgrades. The processing system controls infotainment, navigation, phones, windows, door locks, headlights, and steering. An additional 12.3-inch display handles standard instrumentation displays and controls.
Although outsourcing is nothing new to Detroit—companies have mechanical systems made for them and delivered in real time for assembly—Tesla has brought Silicon Valley culture to the control systems, using electronic manufacturing services (EMS) companies to make the infotainment system, instrument cluster, and other systems to specifications. Already, other auto companies are trying the EMS approach, although some have found it more difficult than it seemed.
The hardware and software-heavy systems combined with the embedded cellular connections give Tesla advantages when it comes to maintenance and upgrades. When the company had a recall in January 2014 for overheating charger plugs in the Model S, Tesla simply downloaded a software update to 29,222 vehicles and fixed the problem in a day. Compare that to the repeated recall woes of from the likes of General Motors and Toyota—both of which have had major software-related recalls in the recent past.”

Above: The center console of the Tesla Model S is dominated by a 17-inch touch screen infotainment system, which is an industry benchmark for automotive display integration.
The Model S powertrain offers double the driving range of any other electric vehicle while offering performance similar to gasoline-powered cars. Tesla also is developing a chain of charging stations that can quickly swap out batteries, offering a temporary loaner so that drivers don't get stranded on long trips. Similarly, the company announced a new battery plant, to be built and operated in partnership with Panasonic, boosting manufacturing capacity.
To continue its advance, Tesla will need to meet five challenges.
Company marketing must reach beyond high-worth buyers. The company likewise needs high-volume manufacturing. Furthermore, Tesla must get consumers to embrace electric vehicles. It also must challenge the legal limitations to its direct-sales model. Finally, it will have to keep pushing innovation forward.
Now if Tesla can manage to keep advancing despite those challenges, the automotive establishment might find that it has no choice but to follow.
Mark Boyadjis is senior analyst of infotainment and human-machine interface for IHS Automotive
Posted December 5, 2014


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