Tesla's electronics are miles ahead of the competition — but Wall Street analysts who tore down a whole car worry they could be 'too centralised'

Hollis Johnson/Business Insider

  • UBS completely disassembled a TeslaModel 3 to compare it to the Chevy Bolt and BMW i3.
  • The car’s electronics are an easy winner thanks to their simplicity – but the bank worries such centralization could cause headaches down the road.
  • That makes two wins for Tesla in the teardown challenge so far, with only one more lap left.
  • Follow Tesla’s stock price in real-time here.

For “lap 2” of its Tesla teardown, UBS looked at every single piece of electronics inside a Model 3 to compare it to the competition and see how the company might turn a profit on its first mass-market vehicle.

Not surprisingly, the investment bank’s teardown engineers were blown away by the simplicity and centrality of Tesla’s electronics.

“There are two leading features of the Model 3’s electronics,” the team of analysts lead by David Mulholland told clients in a report Tuesday.

“Firstly, the Model 3 offers AutoPilot, a Level 2 autonomous systems, as an option or post sale upgrade. This functionality is currently only available on certain luxury models. Two, the Model 3 offers superior connectivity, levering over-the-airs (OTA) to upgrade performance and features over the vehicle life. Most automakers do not have this ability, and those that do typically limit OTAs to infotainment.”

Here’s how the electronics architecture in a Model 3 compares to that of Chevy Bolt, which UBS also took apart for comparison:

Tesla Model 3 vs Chevy Bolt electronicsUBS

However, they worry that such a dependence on one central controller could exacerbate problems

“We discussed Tesla’s highly centralised approach with several experts, and it is possible Tesla’s system may be too centralised,” UBS said.

“There may be too much dependence on the central controller. This makes it difficult to test each system as it flows through the assembly line. An issue with electronics may not be identified until its future down the line making it harder to identify the root cause.

“Several experts thought the future should be both “centralised and distributed. For example, there are three main body controller domains, but it might be better to have more ‘zones’, each associated with part of the assembly process. The savings from reducing microcontrollers could be offset by higher failure costs on the assembly line.”

Tesla’s win in “lap 2” of UBS’ teardown helps it maintain its lead among the Bolt and BMW i3. In the first part, powertrain, the investment bank said its engineers were blown away by Tesla’s “‘next-gen, military-grade” tech, but worry that those expensive components could make it tough for Tesla to turn a profit on its $US35,0000 base model – if it’s able to ever make one.

Stay tuned for lap 3: fit and finish.

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