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商业 - 汽车

特斯拉驶往电动汽车市场的坎坷路

Shelley DuBois 2011年02月23日

特斯拉公司已经围绕卓越技术打造了一个很棒的故事。现在,它必须证明自己能造出非凡的车来,而且是大批量的造。

    它已经造出一辆了,那就是2008年发布的Roadster。这辆车线条流畅,风驰电掣,符合特斯拉开发豪华电动汽车这一细分市场的战略。从今年开始,特斯拉已经售出了1,500辆这种车。现在,这家公司得证明它能大批销售这种非凡的车,让公司盈利。这并非易事,即便2010年特斯拉公司上市后就做好了上线生产的规划,并基本准备就绪。

    上周二,作为上市公司的特斯拉赶在其首次发布年报前发布了其全年盈利的新闻稿。该公司的亏损加剧了——特斯拉所报告的2010年第四财季净亏损为5,140万美元,而2009同期的亏损额为2,420万美元,那时它还是一家私营公司。

    从积极面看,该公司收入增长了95%。第四财季,特斯拉的收入从2009年的1860万美元增长到3630万美元。

    这一消息让市场感到振奋。很多分析师将该公司的评级调为持有或买入,这既是受到公司收入增长的鼓舞,也是因为了解到特斯拉似乎走上了正轨,能按其宣称的那样在2012年中期推出S型轿车。

    不过,市场也许忽略了特斯拉在抵达目标之路上可能碰到的重大挑战。来自Capstone投资公司的替代性能源高级分析师卡特尔•德瑞斯克尔表示,汽车生产需要巨额资金。

    德瑞斯克尔说,特斯拉现在不差钱。2009年6月,公司从美国能源部获得总额达4.65亿美元的政府低息贷款。目前大部分钱是来自于此。但继续往前推进的话,特斯拉比起竞争对手来就会有点囊中羞涩了。在推出新车的过程中,常常会碰到类似“减速装置”的各种困难。

    德瑞斯克尔表示:“他们需要将这款车打造得完美无缺,才能让特斯拉公司为人瞩目。而因为种种原因,这“比人们一般所认为的要困难得多”。其中一个原因就是,对于非自产的配件,特斯拉无法获得大宗采购折扣。

    特斯拉计划2012全年推出20,000台车。这不算大数目。德瑞斯克尔说:“美国弗林特或兰辛的郊区汽车厂一个月就能生产就么多辆车。”

    并且,跟进入电动汽车市场的来自底特律和外国的公司不同,特斯拉在生产上会有一些劣势。其中一大劣势就是无法获得大型汽车厂商所掌握的雄厚资本。

    而这些厂商也正在进入电动汽车市场。通用汽车的雪佛兰Volt和日产的Leaf都计划与特斯拉的S型车在几乎同一时间上线。通用与日产都是汽车业巨头,两者的市值都有约500亿美元。相形之下,特斯拉上市后的市值预计在几十亿美元。

    特斯拉的目标客户是想买豪华电动汽车的小众消费者。Leaf在扣除税收抵免后的价格将是25,280美元,Volt扣除税收抵免后的价格将超过32,000美元,相比之下,特斯拉S型电动车此价格将近50,000美元。

    德瑞斯克尔表示:“确实有一部分人想要绿色环保并开上一辆很酷的车。但这并不意味着值得为这么一款车投入巨额资金。如果这款车没能成功,即便是时间安排耽误上几个季度,也将带来现金流的巨额不足。”

    他还表示,新车型总是会受到拖延,特别是在安全评估的环节上,而电动汽车市场的情况尤其起伏不定。

    预测客户对电动汽车的需求颇有难度,尤其是考虑到市面上已有其他类型的环保汽车,比如混合动力车和插电式电动车。

    特斯拉的主要优势一直是电动汽车电池及传动系统的差压变送器(stellar)技术。传动系统是从引擎实际传送动力并输送到车轮的部件。据德瑞斯克尔所说,特斯拉在这些方面的技术属于业内顶尖。而其他汽车厂商也正在获取这一技术。比如,特斯拉正与丰田公司合作,计划由特斯拉为丰田的新款Rav4开发传动系统。

    这一合作对作为公司的特斯拉而言是个利好,但像丰田这样正在利用特斯拉电池技术的汽车厂商也正在推出潜在的竞争性产品。比如,丰田仍然在制造其混合动力车普锐斯(Prius)的另一系列,该车预计于2011年夏季到2012年间投放市场。其中一款就是普锐斯插电式混合动力车。该车不像电动汽车,它无需特别的充电站。这款插电式混合动力车能让丰田也赶上潮流,直至电动汽车市场大到足够丰田盈利之日。

    德瑞斯克尔表示,不是说特斯拉不能盈利,它可以做到。但是与竞争对手相比,它承受风险的能力更小。如果电动汽车需求稍有起伏,或出现了生产延误,特斯拉就可能遭受重大打击。

    德瑞斯克尔说:“要盈利还为时尚早。在他们大规模生产出其王牌汽车前,他们实际上只是家设计公司。”

    译者:清远

    It already built one, the Roadster, which it released in 2008. It's a slick, fast automobile, in line with Tesla's (TSLA) strategy to tap into a niche market-luxury electric vehicles. As of the beginning of this year, Tesla had sold 1,500 of them. Now, it needs to prove that it can sell great cars on a scale that will make the company profitable. That's going to be challenging, even though Tesla is mostly on track for the rollouts it outlined after it went public in 2010.

    On Tuesday, Tesla issued a press release on its full year earnings, ahead of filing its first annual report as a publica company. Its losses grew -- Tesla reported a net loss of $51.4 million for the fourth quarter of 2010 compared to a loss of $24.2 million for the same time last year, when it was still a private company.

    On the upside, it boosted revenue by 95%. Tesla's fourth quarter revenue grew to $36.3 million from $18.6 million in 2009.

    That pleased the market. Many analysts rated the company a hold or a buy, heartened by the fact that the company's revenue is up and that Tesla seems on track to launch its Model S sedan when it says it will, in the middle of 2012.

    But the market may be overlooking some of the major challenges that Tesla could face in getting all the way home. Car production takes a tremendous amount of capital, notes Carter Driscoll, a senior alternative energy analyst with Capstone Investments.

    Tesla has enough now, Driscoll says, much of it from the $465 million in low-interest government loans that the company received from the US Department of Energy back in June 2009. But going forward, Tesla will have less of a cash cushion than competitors. In the process of rolling out new cars, there are often speed bumps.

    "They need to execute on this model perfectly to get Tesla on the radar screen," says Driscoll. "It's just so much harder than people recognize," for several reasons, one of which is that Tesla won't get volume purchasing discounts for the parts it doesn't manufacture.

    Tesla plans to release 20,000 vehicles for the entire year in 2012, which isn't very many. "That's a good month at a suburban facility in Flint or in Lancing," Driscoll says.

    And unlike the Detroit and foreign companies entering the EV market, Tesla will have some manufacturing disadvantages. The main one is lack of access to the kind of capital that huge auto manufacturers have on hand.

    Those auto manufacturers are getting in on the EV market. GM's (GM) Chevy Volt and Nissan's Leaf are both scheduled to go online around the same time as the Tesla Model-S. GM and Nissan are power players in the automotive world, both with market caps around fifty billions dollars. Tesla, in comparison, was estimated to have a market around a couple billion when it went public.

    The company targets the niche consumers who want luxury electric vehicles. Compared to the Leaf, which will cost $25,280 after the tax savings and the Volt, which will cost over $32,000 after tax savings, Tesla's model S will cost right under $50,000.

    "There's a segment of the population that wants to be green and wants to be in a very sexy car," says Driscoll. "It doesn't outweigh the tremendous amount of capital you have to put into one car. If that car doesn't succeed, even if that time frame gets delayed by a couple of quarters, you're talking a big shortfall in cash flow."

    New models of cars get delayed all the time, especially with safety reviews, he says, and the electric vehicle market is particularly volatile.

    It's difficult to predict consumer demand for EVs, especially since there are other forms of green cars out there for consumers, such as hybrid cars and plug-in electric vehicles.

    Tesla's main strength has been stellar technology for electric car batteries and powertrains-the portion of the car that actually transfers energy from the engine and transmission to the wheels. Tesla's tech for these parts is some of the best in the business, according to Driscoll. Other car companies are accessing that technology too. For example, Telsa partnered with Toyota, the plan being for Tesla to develop the powertrain for Toyota's new Rav4 car.

    The partnership is great for Tesla as a company, but carmakers such as Toyota that are capitalizing off of Tesla's battery tech are also pushing products that could potentially compete. For example, Toyota is still building another family of its hybrid car the Prius, set to hit the market between summer of 2011 and 2012. One of which is a Prius plug-in hybrid, which, unlike an electric car, doesn't require a special charging station. The plug-in hybrid and could tide Toyota over until the electric vehicle market becomes big enough to profit off of it.

    Not that Tesla can't become profitable, it can, Driscoll says. But it's working with a tighter margin of error than competitors. If the demand for electric vehicles switches a bit, or if there are production delays, Tesla could get slammed.

    "They're a long way away from profitability," says Driscoll. "Until they produce vehicle number one on a commercial scale, they're essentially a design shop."

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