Tesla misses expectations, but says battery factory to come early

Tesla is slightly ahead of schedule with its gigafactory and now plans to begin producing batteries there by the end of 2016, according to the company’s fourth quarter shareholder letter. Previously Tesla said it would deliver batteries starting in 2017.

Construction of Tesla's gigafactory is underway.

Construction of Tesla’s gigafactory is underway.

Construction on the enormous factory’s structure began two months ago, according to the letter. Equipment installation will begin later this year.

But Tesla missed analysts estimates, which were expecting earnings of 32 cent per share for the quarter. Tesla posted a loss of 13 cents per share instead. As a result Tesla’s shares dropped close to 3 percent in after hours trading.

Tesla built 35,000 Model S vehicles over the course of 2014, but, as projected at the end of the third quarter, it wasn’t able to deliver all of them. Instead, 1,400 vehicle deliveries were pushed to the first quarter of 2015.

Tesla attributed the delivery delays to “one-time manufacturing inefficiencies” created by the introduction of new features and the dollar’s strong performance.

By the numbers:

  • Revenue for the fourth quarter (GAAP) was $957 million, up from $615 million for the fourth quarter in 2013.
  • Net loss (GAAP) was $108 million or $(0.86) per share, up from $16 million or $(0.13) per share in the same quarter in 2013.
  • Automotive gross margin (GAAP) for quarter four was 22 percent.

Tesla expects to deliver 55,000 Model S and X cars in 2015, compared to 35,000 in 2014. It expects to produce 10,000 of those in the first quarter.

After Panasonic takeover, Aupeo’s Personal Radio goes car-focused

When Panasonic Automotive bought the internet radio service Aupeo in 2013, it was clear that the Berlin-based streamer was going to head off in a different direction from rivals such as Pandora.

And now we know how. In the coming days, Aupeo Personal Radio will become Personal Radio by Aupeo — this may sound like a trivial rebranding effort, but it marks the birth of a new app, focused heavily on the in-car experience, that’s going to try to be the only audio app that drivers need.

First, function: Personal Radio will do what it says on the tin, allowing drivers to set up highly personalized streams that present audio content in a timely manner. So for example, whereas drivers usually have to wait until fixed times to hear the traffic report, Personal Radio will instead time these reports according to when the journey’s taking place.

Over time, the stream will also gain weather, news and sports reports, according to the driver’s wishes as pre-set through the app — here, Aupeo’s teaming up with content providers such as [company]CBS[/company] News and AccuWeather.

Of course, music and talk radio will probably form the bulk of the experience. On that front, Personal Radio will still offer its genre-based mixes that learn from the user’s demonstrated tastes, and the user will also still be able to mix in tracks and podcasts that are stored on her mobile device. The app can figure out when to use what – if the car is roaming outside national borders, or if the connection is too patchy to allow live music streaming (buffering creates copyright issues), then it will switch to stored tracks.

App competing with app platforms

Personal Radio is, shall we say, interestingly positioned. On the one hand, it’s an app that will run on [company]Google[/company]’s Android Auto and [company]Apple[/company]’s CarPlay. Users can download it for free and pay $4.99 each month, and they can also shell out $9.99 to activate the car mode.

Personal Radio by Aupeo, in car mode

Personal Radio by Aupeo, in car mode

However, that car mode, with its minimalist UI, is also a reference design for car manufacturers. Panasonic Automotive provides audio technology for car-makers from [company]Chevrolet[/company] and [company]Acura[/company] to [company]Toyota[/company] and [company]Volkswagen[/company], and Personal Radio is ripe for re-skinning and integration into such manufacturers’ proprietary on-dashboard platforms – which are to some extent competing with those of Apple and Google.

Aupeo chief Holger Weiss said in an interview that bringing rows of app icons onto the dashboard, as the phone OS vendors are doing, doesn’t solve any problems — though he did suggest that the familiarity of the format would at least help educate users about what’s possible. “On the other side, we’re positioning this as a dedicated audio platform, enabling car-makers to create their own experiences,” he said.

“Car-makers have to make a bet on how far they should rely on third parties for ecosystem and how far to create their own one. We’re giving car-makers a very strong tool to keep control,” Weiss added. It’s not hard to see why the manufacturers want to keep their options open – they’re operating on very long production cycles, the connected car industry is still very young, and no-one really knows how it’s going to shake out yet.

Incidentally, Weiss also said that, although the app will rely on Aupeo’s longstanding internet radio services for streaming, there are “considerations to open the platform to third parties.” That also makes sense – if Personal Radio is going to fulfil its mission of being the only audio app drivers need, it’s probably going to have to take in more sources that drivers might ask for.

Personal Radio by Aupeo

Personal Radio by Aupeo

Music streamer Deezer gets talkative with Stitcher buy

The French Spotify competitor Deezer, which recently launched in the U.S., has bought the on-demand internet radio and podcast service Stitcher. There’s no public price tag on the deal and, according to the Stitcher blog post on Friday, the acquisition wouldn’t affect its existing services. “You will still be able to use Stitcher the way you always have – on mobile phones, tablets, and in cars,” the San Francisco-based team wrote. Speaking of cars, Stitcher’s 35,000+ shows can be found in more than 50 models, it said in the post. Deezer has around 16 million monthly listeners, versus Spotify’s 40 million active users, but Deezer has greater reach, being available in 180 countries to Spotify’s 58.

Apple’s CarPlay hits the road

The service, previously known as “iOS in the car”, will bring Siricentric infotainment functionality to the dashboards of a wide variety of cars.

Unlike the U.S., Europe doesn’t plan to mandate connected cars

The European Commission has announced a set of standards for connected car systems, but privacy enthusiasts will be glad to hear such systems won’t be mandated by law, unlike in the U.S. However, practically speaking, connected cars will become the norm.