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Why Tesla is not a tech company

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hondaHonda can reveal cars with drama, too.REUTERS/ Toru Hanai
  • Tesla is routinely called a tech company, especially by supporters in Silicon Valley.
  • But as Tesla builds and sells more vehicles — in 2018, it has delivered almost 250,000 — it is becoming more of a car company every day.
  • Tesla’s other lines of business — solar and batteries — suggest an affinity with a wildly successful carmaker that also manufacturers other stuff: Honda.

You hear it all the time: Tesla isn’t a car company, it’s a technology company.

This is because Tesla is based in Silicon Valley, has made pricey all-electric cars popular among the tech elite, and has restyled the automobile as a dynamic software platform.

Check, check, check — but this does not a tech company make. In fact, Tesla is becoming more of a car company every day, as it, you know, builds and sells more cars. Plus, almost all of Tesla’s revenue comes from its vehicle business. Hard to avoid that.

I could go on, but even people who concede that Tesla is a car company tend to compare it with BMW or Porsche, automakers that play in the luxury-performance segment of the market and that can generate double-digit profit margins.

There is, however, a car company that Tesla already somewhat resembles: Honda.

Read more: Tesla has booked two straight quarters of profits — here are the 5 biggest takeaways from that achievement

Tesla the integrated energy conglomerate

elon musk solar roofMusk showcasing a solar roof panel.Tesla

Truth be told, Tesla should probably consciously strive to become even more like Honda. Here’s why. Tesla stopped being Tesla Motors a few years back and became Tesla the integrated energy conglomerate. Electric vehicles are one line of business. Solar-power solutions is another, following the acquisition of SolarCity in 2016. Then there’s energy storage, based on Tesla battery tech, which is an additional enterprise.

Now let’s look at Honda. Its car business is the namesake brand, which arrived in the US in 1959, and the Acura luxury marque, launched in 1986. But Honda has been manufacturing motorcycles and scooters since the 1940s, and any suburbanite knows the company produces lawn mowers and snowblowers. Its generators are legendary. It also makes engines, including high-performance racing motors. And for a brief period of time, it was in the solar business. More recently, it entered the private jet game.

Honda is known in the auto industry as the most engineering-driven carmaker next to BMW (which has a motorcycle division). “I think best when I have a wrench in my hand,” founder Soichiro Honda once said. Following in his footsteps means know how stuff works.

As much as Silicon Valley has adopted Tesla as a sort of software-adjacent company, CEO Elon Musk’s firm is really a design-and-engineering operation. Code is cool, and Musk is adept at talking that talk. But Tesla most significant achievement is in creating a viable market for electric vehicles, a century after they lost out to internal-combustion-engined cars. 

Like Honda in so many ways — except motorcycles

2018 NY Motorcycle ShowA throwback Honda motorcycle.Matthew DeBord/BI

Musk himself is perhaps the most technically knowledgeable chief-executive, at least when it comes to EVs, in the industry (he’s certainly the most knowledgeable when it comes to rocket science). He has infamously labored on his own assembly lines and slept at his own factories. He is, in short, the Soichiro Honda of electric cars. And batteries. And solar panels. 

About the only way that Musk deviates from the Honda engineer-as-leader playbook is in his steadfast refusal for Tesla to make an electric motorcycle. But even that stems from personal experience. Musk rode dirt bikes as a kid and later cheated death a near-accident on a larger motorcycle. It’s a stand that could actually be hurting Tesla, as a two-wheeler from the company would probably double the tiny electric-motorcycle market overnight.

At a more serious level, Honda has enjoyed decades of success by putting an engineering-heavy culture into practice. Honda executes and executes brilliantly. 

That’s something Tesla hasn’t always done. And could learn to do. From the master.

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More groups join in support of women in STEM program at Carleton

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OTTAWA — Major companies and government partners are lending their support to Carleton University’s newly established Women in Engineering and Information Technology Program.

The list of supporters includes Mississauga-based construction company EllisDon.

The latest to announce their support for the program also include BlackBerry QNX, CIRA (Canadian Internet Registration Authority), Ericsson, Nokia, Solace, Trend Micro, the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission, CGI, Gastops, Leonardo DRS, Lockheed Martin Canada, Amdocs and Ross.

The program is officially set to launch this September.

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Serious Labs seems to have found a way from tragedy to triumph? The Edmonton-based firm designs and manufactures virtual reality simulators to standardize training programs for operators of heavy equipment such as aerial lifts, cranes, forklifts, and commercial trucks. These simulators enable operators to acquire and practice operational skills for the job safety and efficiency in a risk-free virtual environment so they can work more safely and efficiently.

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The Government of Alberta has awarded $1 million, and Emissions Reduction Alberta (ERA) is contributing an additional $2 million for the simulator development. Commercial deployment is estimated to begin in 2024, with the simulator to be made available across Canada and the United States, and with the Alberta Motor Transport Association (AMTA) helping to provide simulator tests to certify that driver trainees have attained the appropriate standard. West Tech Report recently took the opportunity to chat with Serious Labs CEO, Jim Colvin, about the environmental and labour benefits of VR Driver Training, as well as the unique way that Colvin went from angel investor to CEO of the company.

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Next-Gen Tech Company Pops on New Cover Detection Test

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While the world comes out of the initial stages of the pandemic, COVID-19 will be continue to be a threat for some time to come. Companies, such as Zen Graphene, are working on ways to detect the virus and its variants and are on the forefronts of technology.

Nanotechnology firm ZEN Graphene Solutions Ltd. (TSX-Venture:ZEN) (OTCPK:ZENYF), is working to develop technology to help detect the COVID-19 virus and its variants. The firm signed an exclusive agreement with McMaster University to be the global commercializing partner for a newly developed aptamer-based, SARS-CoV-2 rapid detection technology.

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