Tesla Store opening in Westfield Mall, London, Oct 2013Enlarge Photo
Tesla Motors has received plenty of praise in the media for achieving the unlikely and improbable goal of launching a fast, good-looking, long-range electric car and building more than 70,000 of them to date.
The company's successes both as a startup automaker and a promoter of electric cars are certainly impressive, but not everybody is buying the story.
Like anything else, Tesla has its skeptics.
The Model S is an excellent car, but there's still plenty wrong with Tesla, Jonathan S. Geller of Boy Genius Report argues. (Geller's Twitter profile describes him as a "professional smack talker.")
Tesla has an all-electric car with good infrastructure to support it, he says, "but that's it."
Tesla Model S P85D, 2015 Detroit Auto ShowEnlarge Photo
Geller explains that, no matter how attractive the Model S appears at the moment or how comprehensive the Supercharger network appears to be, there's always the possibility another carmaker will surpass those achievements.
While they were clearly blindsided by the Model S, the German luxury establishment of Audi, BMW, Mercedes-Benz, and Porsche are all reported to be working on plug-in electric cars aimed at Tesla.
And while many analysts have pointed to Tesla's youth and outsider perspective as advantageous or "disruptive," Geller claims the experience of established brands will prove more important when it comes to improving cars over the long term.
He said he personally didn't buy a Model S because he found its fit and finish poor--although he praised the power and responsiveness of its electric powertrain.
Geller also suggests that Tesla's sales model will ultimately prove a disadvantage as the company grows.
The company sells cars directly to customers, which has ignited battles with auto dealer associations trying to preserve the traditional franchised dealer model in multiple states.
Tesla Store Los Angeles [photo: Misha Bruk / MBH Architects]Enlarge Photo
Geller argues that Tesla Stores can't adequately handle trade-ins, and their lack of inventory means buyers will always have to wait for their cars to arrive.
Now that Tesla has established itself as a legitimate automaker, the next question would seem to be whether it can continue to grow--and whether it can turn a profit in the long term.
CEO Elon Musk said last month that the company might not reach profitability using Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP) until volume production of its planned Model 3 car was achieved in perhaps 2020.
Indeed, much of Tesla's plans for growth hinge on the upcoming Model 3.
That car's prospects could be threatened by the 200-mile 2017 Chevrolet Bolt, argues a recent Seeking Alpha article written by an author who has shorted Tesla stock.
The Model S isn't profitable and the Model X crossover won't be either, that article says, although Tesla does make money selling California zero-emission credits to other carmakers.
That makes the larger volume Model 3 the key to profitability. But given the delays that preceded both the Model S and Model X, the author predicts the Chevy will arrive well before the Tesla.
Chevrolet Bolt EV concept, 2015 Detroit Auto ShowEnlarge Photo
The Bolt is expected to start at $37,500 before any incentives, and Tesla has said the Model 3 will start at $35,000.
However, industrial giant General Motors could more easily lower the Bolt's price--as it has done with the Volt--and still break even or make a profit on the car.
Many in the industry suggest as well that a subcompact Chevrolet electric hatchback is an unlikely competitor for a compact electric Tesla sport sedan.
As always, the future of Tesla is far from guaranteed--although the company has managed to achieve a number of goals widely viewed as impossible.
If nothing else, the next few years of Tesla's development promise to be equally as interesting as its launch of the Model S and that car's sales success to date.