http://www.slate.com/articles/techn...

Farhad Manjoo, whose writing for Slate I enjoy only slightly less than his name, is out over his skis.

Honda may be a closer analog than Apple. For most of its life, Honda's primary competitive advantage was superior engine technology - initially applied to 2-stroke and small engines and later, most profitably, to making bulletproof, high specific output engines. But a single technological advantage is not enough. Honda had to build its business through finding markets. It first sold economical cars to a gas crisis world. Later it sold reliability and eventually cut-rate luxury to a growing middle class. Superior engine tech was a great advantage for Honda, but knowing where to apply it and building a complete car around it have always been part of the equation.

Tesla has never been forced to find a market. Even with these better numbers (and believe me, I want to see Tesla succeed) it has never been forced to go out and find its buyers or sell to them in an market undistorted by R&D, manufacturing, and retail subsidies. And even with all this public money sloshing around on Tesla's books (or in the pockets of its suppliers and customers) it is still only a small niche vehicle. As you point out, it's more of a technology company than a car company.

And that licensing business is risky. Tesla's S is a darn fine 2nd product for a young company, but put Tesla's technological advantage in the hands of Toyota, and you run the risk that Tesla gets schooled on how to build a complete car, run out of the market by a superior distribution and marketing operation, and transformed into the electric version of Cummins.

I have my fingers crossed for Tesla, but I'm leaving the cork in the champagne.

BTW, VW is the Apple of cars. Extremely good packaging of reasonably good technology marketed to style-conscious buyers for a 20% premium on its sum-of-the-parts value.