Written by Daniel Burns
Tesla is first and foremost a technology company that also develops electric cars and solar energy products. They produce the Tesla Model S, 3, X, and Y as well as solar panels and the Tesla Powerwall, a home battery backup system. All of their products work together in the Tesla ecosystem to deliver a seamless, all in one, company experience paired with the Tesla mobile app. Their structure and approach to products is very similar to Apple in that they attempt to build and produce every single component to their spec all the way from software to hardware. In a way, Tesla is a bigger software company than others may realize with their Autopilot technology, industry leading car user interface, and energy production in the Tesla app. Plus their upcoming FSD (full self-driving) Beta program is showing very promising results and will be the future of transportation.
Strategic Organizational Goals
Tesla’s mission is to accelerate the worlds transition to sustainable energy. To do this they launched a master plan to help obtain this goal. They started with the Roadster in 2008, a high priced, low volume production, all electric car that was fun to drive and proved their initial concept that electric cars don’t have to be boring. It had to be expensive to fund the research and production of their next car, the Model S. The Model S is a premium, four door, hatchback style sedan that has a lower price point and large electric range. Part two of the Model S plan introduced a larger electric SUV called Model X, which addressed the other half of the premium car market. Both cars still cost a lot, and this was once again to cover new production technique costs and research and development for their next affordable electric car. The Model 3 was introduced in 2017 as a mass marketed, high volume production, affordable car. Starting at $35,000 it opened the floodgates setting the new standard for the electric car market just as they did before with the S and X. It has over 300 miles of range and built using an almost fully automated and streamlined production line.
Now, all their cars are produced using a casting process with the world’s largest casting machine saving both time and production costs. Not only do their electric vehicles help achieve the companies mission statement, but their solar energy products do as well. You need a green grid to live our lives with and charge our cars on. So, Tesla builds their own solar panels at their Buffalo, New York Gigafactory and produce batteries at their Sparks, Nevada Gigafactory for their Powerwall home battery packs as well. This allows homes to be totally independent from the grid if needed (and in blackouts). Putting free energy from the sun right into the battery pack to use to charge the car and power the house. It also helps relieve some of the stress off the grid, especially during peak times. Tesla also has large scalable battery packs that replace substations called the MegaPack. This system allows mass energy storage for local utilities stress relief off the grid. Paired with a solar farm, you can have a whole city running off solar energy 24/7.
Megapack’s are also scalable to smaller sizes to cover large buildings instead of needing many Powerwalls in a series. Part two of the Master Plan is expanding into all forms of ground transportation starting with the Tesla Semi Truck and Cybertruck pickup truck. Adding over 500 miles of electric range to areas of the market that drastically need a shift to green energy. Tesla is also going back to their roots and reviving the Roadster to be the supercar that beats all supercars with a range of 620 miles and a starting 0-60 time of just 1.9s, all for $200,000. An affordable tag in a high-priced supercar market. Their goal is to disrupt every aspect of the transportation market and create a fun and compelling alternative to shift people’s opinions on electric vehicles. Thus, to accelerate the transition to sustainable energy.
As a tech company, Tesla is nothing but technology focused. From advanced cutting-edge tech found in their cars to leading production processes in the factory. Tesla’s focus on technology can be found in four categories. Battery and powertrain, vehicle control and infotainment software, self-driving development, and energy generation and storage. With battery and powertrain Tesla has designed their own proprietary powertrain system to be adaptable, efficient, reliable and cost-effective while withstanding the rigors of an automotive environment. Tesla offers dual motor powertrain vehicles, which use two electric motors to maximize traction and performance in an all-wheel drive configuration and are introducing vehicle powertrain technology featuring three electric motors for further increased performance.
As far as battery development, they maintain extensive testing and R&D capabilities for battery cells, packs and systems, and have built an expansive body of knowledge on lithium-ion cell chemistry types and performance characteristics. In order to enable a greater supply of cells for their products with higher energy densities at lower costs, Tesla is currently using their expertise to develop a new proprietary lithium-ion battery cell and improved manufacturing processes. Vehicle control and infotainment software is a major part of the customer experience as it’s the main interaction between the user and the vehicle. The performance and safety systems of our vehicles and their battery packs require sophisticated control software.
Control systems in their vehicles optimize performance, customize vehicle behavior, manage charging and control all infotainment functions. Tesla develops almost all of their software, including most of the user interfaces, internally and update their vehicles’ software regularly through over-the-air updates. Self-driving development is coming along fairly quickly as this category will become one of the defining factors of Tesla’s long-term success. If it hasn’t already done so yet. Tesla has expertise in developing technologies, systems and software to enable self-driving vehicles using primarily vision and radar-based sensors.
The FSD Computer runs Tesla’s neural networks in their vehicles, and they are also developing additional computer hardware to better enable the massive amounts of field data captured by vehicles to continually train and improve these neural networks for real-world performance. Currently, Tesla offers users certain advanced driver assist systems under Autopilot and FSD options. It is extremely important to note the driver is ultimately responsible for controlling the vehicle, and Tesla’s systems provide safety and convenience functionality that relieves drivers of the most tedious and potentially dangerous aspects of road travel much like the systems that airplane pilots use, when conditions permit. As with other vehicle systems, Tesla improves these functions in their vehicles over time through free over-the-air updates.
Finally, energy generation and storage offer customers an extension of the Tesla ecosystem to fully integrate a sustainable energy lifestyle. They leverage many of the component-level technologies from their vehicles in their energy storage products. By taking a modular approach to the design of battery systems, Tesla can optimize manufacturing capacity among energy storage products. With the expertise in power electronics, it enables them to interconnect battery systems seamlessly with electrical grids while providing fast-acting systems for power injection and absorption.
Tesla has also developed software to remotely control and dispatch energy storage systems using their real-time energy trading platform for larger scale productions such as Megapack. They have also engineered Solar Roof over numerous iterations to combine aesthetic appeal and durability with power generation. The efficiency of Tesla’s own solar energy products is aided by their own solar inverter, which also incorporates their power electronics technologies. Both products have been designed to integrate directly with Powerwall.
All of Tesla’s goals directly relate to their mission statement and goal of transitioning the world to sustainable energy. With their battery development Tesla is developing their own battery and unique dry cell manufacturing process to reduce production time, waste materials, and produce a highly efficient battery to transition all their cars to 400-to-500-mile range plus vehicles. This new battery process will also allow vehicles to ultimately cost less to the consumer as well. Their goal of achieving full autonomy with all their vehicles that have a Full self-driving computer already installed is very close to being ready. Tesla intends to establish a future autonomous Tesla ride-hailing network, which would also allow give Tesla access to a whole new customer base even as modes of transportation evolve.
Moving forward, all new orders for Tesla solar or Tesla Powerwall will require both to function. Meaning if you purchase solar you must purchase a Powerwall and vice versa. This streamlines the process of installation to be simple and require less involvement with permitting and PTO (permission to operate) from the city and local energy utility. It also allows solar panels to directly connect to the battery eliminating an inverter and additional installation costs. Public charging infrastructure continues to grow as the Supercharger network adds many large-scale and medium-scale charging stations worldwide, every single year. Supercharger stations are typically placed along well-traveled routes and in and around dense city centers to allow Tesla vehicle owners the ability to enjoy quick, reliable and ubiquitous charging with convenient, minimal stops. Adding stations in areas that are needed the most as customers request specific areas to add a station.
Information Systems Guidelines
Tesla doesn’t disclose much about its information systems guidelines as a strategic advantage in their competitive market, but we can infer some from looking from the outside. Tesla adheres to a hectic schedule of streamlined goals. Whether it’s during production hell and building a semi-temporary production line to increase capacity or raising and lowering prices without notice. Tesla does this to survive, to maintain focus, and achieve long term growth. Even if some of their tactics seem odd, there’s always a driving goal in mind. Tesla is also a data driven company. With huge amounts off data coming from their vehicles every day, improving self-driving modeling.
Tesla, like Apple, takes privacy very seriously and Elon Musk has affirmed his stance on the user’s privacy by anonymizing incoming data. He is also very adamant about his stance on AI (Artificial Intelligence) and machine learning. The need to control who has the most power and contain a healthy level of AI to survive as humans. This take would be assumed across all instances of Information Systems at Tesla. We know that Tesla uses AGL (Automotive grade Linux) for most of its computers and lobes to customize their software widely. No secrets are to get out and we can infer everything is very secure.
SWOT Analysis of Technology Goals
1. The Power of the Tesla brand name.
The Tesla logo and brand name is everything and highly recognizable around the world. Tesla came at the perfect time when both adoption, innovation, demand, and market shift made them a list of Tesla’s greatest hits. They have the premium electric vehicle market too themselves and are dominating in new vehicle sales. Tesla has become a household name just as Toyota and Honda have but for electric vehicles solely. Leaving behind legacy auto to continuously struggle with miss after miss as Tesla pushes forward getting farther and farther ahead of the competition.
2. Tesla has the best range of any electric car.
Tesla’s focus on consistently achieving the highest range in every category is paramount to its success. In combination with their future battery manufacturing process and efficient powertrains, Tesla will continue to out range perform the competition. The Model S Plaid+ currently has a whopping 520 miles of range. The Model 3 and Y are approaching 400 miles too. Killing the age-old myth that gasoline cars a more reliable because they have a longer range.
1. Customer service needs help.
While customer satisfaction is the highest of any car on the road today, Tesla customer have some of the worst interactions with customer service. Calling in to customer service to help with an issue takes forever. Getting help during the buying process isn’t as reliable anymore. And wanting to instantly talk to an actual person is pretty rare especially if you have a custom request or project regarding solar.
2. Tesla = Musk
When you think of Tesla you instantly think of Elon Musk. Whatever he does in his life can affect Tesla whether those decisions involve Tesla at all. There’s also the fact that he runs 3 other successful companies at the same time such as SpaceX, The Boring Company, and Nueralink. If he retires or just vanishes, will Tesla survive on its own? I’d like to think so, just as Steve Jobs did with Apple. But it’s remained to be seen and one guy can only do so much.
1. Gigafactories are growing left and right.
Tesla has the opportunity to be in every corner of the world distributing its vehicles anywhere. Currently there is a Gigafactory in California, Nevada, New York, Texas, China, Germany, and now possibly Japan and Asia. This factory blueprint can scale massively and have the ability to out produce very other car brand in both quality and by number.
2. Tesla could sell fleets to corporations so they can meet their environmental goals.
As electric vehicle adoption becomes widespread, bigger companies need to race its gas guzzling fleets of vehicles. Tesla has the opportunity to sell the Model Y, 3, Cybertruck, Semi and a possible van to hundreds of companies around the world. They just need to meet current production demand, helped by the growing number of Gigafactories and refining their production process.
Competition is heating up from companies such as Ford with its Mach-E and GM with their Bolt and Hummer-EV. Legacy auto still has a lot to learn but they also have deep pockets. So, it is only a matter of time until they catch up. Catching up to charging infrastructure and self-driving technology may take even longer for them as Tesla has an even bigger lead on that technology. Almost every major car manufacturer has recently announced that they will go all electric by 2024 so it’s only a matter of time for Tesla to uniquely position themselves as the better brand.
2. Self-driving car acceptance.
For their self-driving division to succeed they need mass market acceptance of the technology. And as usual with new technologies, people are apprehensive. Other car manufactures may make it normal but that will take some time. Tesla being the first to do it right will always come under scrutiny even if it’s much safter than driving the old fashion way. People don’t like change, it’s human nature, and that will take some time for people to get used to.
Information System Strategic Initiative
Customer Service and PR Overhaul
Tesla’s current customer service is abysmal and how they respond to major issues and false stories is almost nonexistent since they got rid of their PR team. A plan is needed to fix those faults and remedy their public image on the customer relations front.
The cost of expanding customer service alone will be an extra 2 million dollars a year plus reviving the PR department at another estimated 2 million. Their current services revenue is 19 million and can easily cover the 4 million needed to fix this issue. This estimated value is more on the high end to cover customer service overhaul and department expansion. This will also be adding a whole new PR department which was recently defunct 2 years ago. So, some infrastructure may still be present, technology moves fast so it will have to be checked and upgraded.
Some risks include an outcome where increased customer service availability may not fix reliability of customer service. This will need to be addressed with a management change and mass department training. Making sure the right policy is written to respond to any case necessary. Being a high-profile company. Any major issue that may arise in customer service should be looked at by PR in anticipation of false information in the media or customer retention on social media. Elon Musk also does not believe in the value of PR and would first, have to allow the department to be reopened, then try to see the value and believe in its greater good for the company’s public image.
Looking at job listings at Tesla we can infer that their network infrastructure is built very similar to other major players. Listings looking for people experienced in using Juniper and Palo Alto Network firewalls, configuration management with Ansible, Puppet or Terraform systems, and Linux operating system internals knowledge. Docker, GCP, Kubernetes, and AWS experience is also needed. So, it would be a secure Linux based environment, at least on the network side. On the employee side with customer service, Windows is the standard choice on small form factor computers at the desk of employees paired with modern VoIP phone systems. Standard practice seems to be in play here even without the exact knowledge of what programs they use to respond to and look up customers.
Current network engineers and help desk employees will suffice for the initial expansion. Adding one or two more help desk employees will help with ongoing issues in the expanded user base in the customer service department. There may be a need to add an additional network engineer who already has specific knowledge on customer service systems, especially if a new system is needed. A new system may only be needed once an internal audit is taken on the current feedback from employees.
Interestingly their current customer support is a division of the sales team. A separation of the teams may help distinguish operations and procedures to better suit the customer’s needs. That way it will be quicker for a customer calling into sales help and another customer calling in for support for their car or solar system. This also avoids any conflicting interest to sell more products to existing customers increasing customer satisfaction and simplifying department processes. This helps the infrastructure team on the software side to create two separate programs to aid employees in the assistance of customers.
It is not specifically known if a third party or internally developed program is used for support. But we can infer from job listings that it may be internally developed due to no requirements of industry known systems. Just customer service environment experience seems to be needed. Because of the unknown and possibly internal systems used, in addition to Tesla’s position on secrecy, outside contracts and business partners are not used in the PR and customer service divisions. This is only more apparent on their production lines with building contractors, machine companies, and new equipment processes.
New training initiatives and programs will be created after receiving internal feedback from customer service employees in addition to surveys conducted by Tesla owners who call in as well. As for the PR side, a new take on public relations and press release tactics using social media will garner modern support while connecting directly with the ever-strong Tesla community on Twitter and Facebook. Since dissolution of the previous PR team, Twitter has been the defending ground by Tesla owners and enthusiasts on Tesla’s behalf when any incidents occur. By leveraging social media and precise responses, Tesla will have better control of the narrative while only needing a smaller PR team, when compared to other major tech companies. This approach saves Tesla money and is a modern alterative to mass distributed teams.
The timeframe of expanding customer service, retraining employees, and recreating the PR division will take roughly one year. This include searching for new hires, expanding network capacity, and with the help of a work from home option, an easy expansion without needing a lot of on-site workspace. This will cost an extra $4 million a year with the possibility of customer service budget expansion later if needed. Adding 25 new employees to customer service and 15 new employees to the newly created PR department.
To succeed with this initiative Tesla must:
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Meet the Writer
Daniel Burns is the owner of Adium Tech and has been in the IT buisness since 2014. He occasionally shares his rant on technology and strives to help make use of tech easier for the everyday user. You can follow him on Twitter for his latest opinions.