与老福特的model T一样，特斯拉的核心产品同样不是model 3，而是gigafactory背后的硬件制造体系。
(Guo Haiwei / tr. by Phil Newell)
The successor of “fruit chain”?
For Tesla, the postal area is a “capacity paradise”, which can provide the most comprehensive spare parts and solutions for the start-up car company that was once stuck in the supply chain in the shortest time.
As for the industrial chain, Tesla’s huge and fast-growing orders, Musk Silicon Valley geeks, and the emerging intelligent industry attribute of streetcars make almost everyone immediately think of the man named Steve Jobs. I once brought great wealth to our coastal entrepreneurs more than a decade ago.
It was an opportunity of the times to send a group of grassroots entrepreneurs directly to the Forbes list, and those who were either accomplished or abandoned because it was given a common name:
In the past decade, the fruit chain, like a mysterious label, has become a symbol of 3C manufacturing wealth.
They once owned hundreds of billions of market capitalization enterprises in the A-share market, such as Lixun Precision, Lance Technology, Gore shares and so on. What they have in common is that they are known as Apple and rely on Apple-more than 70% of their revenue once came from orders from Apple Park in California.
According to rough statistics, Apple family buckets provide $100 billion in hardware order value for downstream industrial chains at all levels around the world every year, of which a considerable part of the parts business goes to the supply chain system in East Asia. At its peak, only A-share “fruit chain three stupid”, the total market capitalization scale is nearly trillion. Even today, when 3C manufacturing fades, the word “Apple concept” still surrounds 2 trillion listed companies.
Now Tesla is catching up with Apple in terms of output value.
Wall Street expects Tesla to provide $70 billion in manufacturing value worldwide this year, and if all goes well, it will double further in the next two or three years-eventually surpassing Apple to become the largest provider of hardware value in Silicon Valley.
Behind the doubling of sales, Musk may also mean that Musk will replace Apple as the new spokesman for Silicon Valley’s link to Chinese manufacturing.
In fact, Tesla’s enthusiasm for Chinese manufacturing may also be rare in Silicon Valley.
If you compare the development time of iPhone production and marketing, Tesla, who has been ploughing electric vehicles for more than a decade, is in his “iPhone4 moment.” More people-friendly models are allowing Tesla to climb the slope at an unprecedented rate.
If only in terms of output value, the annual size of the Shanghai port factory of 150 billion yuan is also equivalent to the hardware value of Apple in 2012. Both the current capacity of 450000 vehicles and the doubling of capacity planned for Phase II are enough to make the plant the largest single car plant in the country and even in the future.
At present, the only comparable foreign / private factory is probably Zhengzhou Foxconn. As the most important production base of iPhone in the world, 300000 employees of Zhengzhou Foxconn exported more than 200 billion yuan of 3C products in 2020. However, unlike the port factory, Zhengzhou Foxconn is actually a collection of factories distributed in three districts, and mobile phone manufacturing is just one of its businesses.
The large and fast-growing output scale is not enough to show Musk’s “enthusiasm” for China, and Tesla further holds a positive attitude towards “localization”.
In 2021, its officials made it clear that the future factory in Shanghai will achieve a 100% localization rate.
Although the definition of 100% localization rate actually refers to the localization rate in the sense of location, it does not refer to local companies. But this is still a positive and rare statement for Silicon Valley. For the fruit chain companies that repeatedly struggled in love and hate Apple many years ago, this is an even more elusive gesture.
Invisible “special chain”
So, Tesla may, as many expected, emulate the “fruit chain” to open the next “special chain miracle”?
The answer may be complicated.
From a numerical point of view, the industrial chain company behind Tesla is indeed very large. If we compare the “Apple concept” and “Tesla concept” in the A-share market, we will find that the enterprise value in Tesla’s industrial chain has far exceeded that of Apple’s industrial chain.
However, if we carefully look at the structure of the company, we will find that although the industrial chain and the scale of the company behind Tesla are huge, most of them are Tesla’s “ordinary friends” and have a strong “head effect” in the industry. among them, there are mature leading enterprises with ultra-high market capitalization, such as Ningde era, Longji shares, Fuyao Glass and so on.
In other words, Tesla does not occupy a dominant position.
If you look at the “special chain” according to the requirements of the “fruit chain”, it means that there are not many companies that can really be called the “special chain”. Taking the data for fiscal year 2021 as an example, for companies with more than 30% of Tesla’s revenue, there are actually only two A-shares:
Top Group, Xusheng shares.
If the share standard is raised to more than 50%, the above figures will become slightly embarrassing:
You know, whether it is Lixun Precision, Gore shares, Apple’s orders once accounted for more than 70% of the revenue of these fruit chain companies; even for industry giants such as Foxconn parent company Hon Hai Precision, Apple’s order revenue was once close to 50% of the group’s revenue.
Obviously, Tesla concept stock has not evolved into a “special chain” level.
For Ningde, for example, Tesla may be an important 10 per cent potential customer, which will to some extent affect its ownership with LG, who will eventually become the world’s largest battery manufacturer. However, if it is really divided by the type of customers, whether it is the new power of domestic car-building or the transformation of traditional car companies, it is currently a bigger cake type than Tesla-the basic plate of Ningde is still a domestic new energy enterprise.
For a company like Fuyao, Tesla’s skylight order does not seem to be more noble than that of SAIC Wuling, let alone the tens of millions of production and marketing giants of Toyota and Volkswagen.
In contrast, some of China’s domestic secondary suppliers of LG power batteries are more in line with the “special chain” standard. Tesla’s Shanghai plant ate a large proportion of orders from LG’s new energy plants in China, allowing the latter to counterattack the Ningde era for a short time in global installed capacity. But over time, it may become more and more difficult for you to say exactly whether these companies are more “LG chains” or “special chains”.
After all, if we forcibly classify all the above industrial chains as “special chains”, it will be a bit of a mess of seniority. They are not so much “Tesla concept stocks” as “Ma’s selected tram industry chain index”.
Musk’s “Ford worship”
Special chain and fruit chain are two different ecology, just like Musk and Jobs are two very different people. Although Musk often seems to enjoy being compared with Jobs, they do have different personalities, different industries and different business ideas.
And if you really want to compare a “sage” with Musk, it must be Henry Ford.
This similarity now seems to be engraved in genes. They are young, promising and introverted, like to buy media assets, have a high interest in new currencies and new energy, and behave democratic and autocratic in factories that have been immersed for a long time.
They all vacillate between Democrats and Republicans. Or, more radically, they are all more like Republicans in the cloak of Democrats. The business itself can never satisfy their appetite, and the president of the United States is their dream (by the way, Musk just wants to build a new civilization on Mars).
But what they have in common more than these “hobbies” is that they have a similar understanding and pursuit of the supply chain-believing in the power of vertical integration, the ambition to build everything from scratch.
Musk has publicly expressed his appreciation for Ford’s masterpiece Rouge River Factory. In Musk’s view, the most important product of old Ford has never been the model T, but the production system represented by the Rouge River Factory.
The Rouge River in the 1920s was a magical place for local mining, logging, steelmaking, casting, assembly, and then driving on the spot, and now you can probably only see such scenes in RTS games such as the Age of Empire.
The vast factory complex carries 100 miles (160 kilometers) of railways alone, connecting 93 individual buildings in the plant. And probably only in the automobile assembly line industry at the beginning of the era, the birth of the industry can create miracles.
It was later said that Ford redefined factories and redefined capitalism.
The Rouge River factory was an industrial miracle.
A hundred years later, “young people” from South Africa built a new power center based on electric smart cars and named it gigafactory.
Like the old Ford model T, Tesla’s core product is not the model 3, but the hardware manufacturing system behind the gigafactory.
Musk is probably the best person on the planet who is good at “vertical integration” in a unique way.
But this level of vertical integration is no longer just a geographical location collection of low-level assembly functions, but to open up all links in the industrial chain and find the most economical iterative route of technology.
For example, at the beginning of Tesla’s story: at that time, all the auto giants in the world took it for granted that power battery technology was regarded as an insurmountable bottleneck for new energy vehicles in the short term. The start-up electric car maker cascaded Panasonic’s 3C-class lithium battery in series, eventually achieving an acceleration experience of 3.7 seconds at 100 km, thus attracting a large number of geek fans.
And in the story of SpaceX: you will know how keen Musk is to install all kinds of civilian parts on super spaceships flying into space. SpaceX even replaced those expensive aviation retrofit chips that were originally used to fight cosmic rays and high temperatures with three ordinary civilian chips. Because in terms of probability, he believes that by constantly aligning several chips automatically, the problem of radiation interference can be greatly eliminated.
In fact, the common characteristics of this unified and integrated approach are:
Musk doesn’t like things that add too much to his hardware costs because of the high technology premium.
A more typical case is that Tesla, the main player, was almost the first company to cancel detectors such as laser millimeter waves and instead insist on thorough visual navigation.
In Musk’s view, roads are designed for the human eye, so vision should be the best solution in road navigation. But at the bottom, the essence of visual route is an algorithm system that can be mastered by Tesla, which may one day be reused in a variety of robot scenes. At the same time, the hardware purchase cost of this route is only domestic cameras that will sooner or later be as cheap as silicon chips.
Like Henry Ford a hundred years ago, Musk wanted to return all his products to Bom costs. Only in this era of super division of labor, Musk is willing to outsource these products, “extra” to bear a few more points of gross profit margin.
Using Silicon Valley’s technical team and grafting the world’s super factories, Musk is actually building a super Rouge River factory across space. Connecting these factories is no longer just clunky railways, but also data bandwidth all over the world.
And more often, Tesla is obviously more advanced than the old Ford.
For example, Tesla is the first passenger car brand in the world to successfully kill dealers. Although the latter has been proved to be the cheapest way of circulation for most car brands for more than a hundred years, Musk obviously thinks that new energy vehicles can do better.
In a recent interview, Musk also made it clear that Tesla is actually a collection of six companies:
Obviously, the old Ford created the integrated empire of the industrial age through the assembly line model, and now Musk, under the revolution of new energy and intelligent transportation, is going back to the long March of the old Ford in a new era-perhaps some kind of fate of every new industrial giant.
Empire or kingdom?
If we fully understand Musk’s extreme considerations in terms of cost and efficiency, it makes sense that Apple and Tesla have fundamentally different attitudes towards external hardware innovation.
When many people think of Jobs, they often think of the product manager with “reality distortion force field” and “paranoia”. And this person, who makes countless people miserable and crazy, happens to create an unprecedented intelligent product in human life-iPhone with only one button.
“paranoia” and “unprecedented”, these two factors meant that in the global 3C manufacturing industry at that time, it was very difficult for anyone to meet Jobs’ demand for product design. In other words, the birth of iPhone requires a large number of “unrealized” processes, which means that the downstream industry chain needs to do a lot of customized demand development around the needs of Jobs.
In a large number of subsequent interviews around the media, whether it was Foxconn founder Terry Gou or Corning CEO Wendel Weeks, the core suppliers who thrived with Apple, they clearly remembered what Jobs said to them when they were dumbfounded in the face of the “super test questions.”
I know you can do it. Go back and have a try. How can you know if you don’t try?
Jobs’ attractive orders superimposed his “reality distortion force field” Buff, enough for these billionaire industry bosses to go back like wage earners and take the team to work overtime for the test. And even when this doesn’t motivate core suppliers to do more, Apple sometimes even sets up an industrial fund for it, sometimes as high as $1 billion, or simply buy a new production line equipment for Apple for the industrial chain company.
This partly explains why Jobs’ successor is not even a product manager, but the head of the supply chain:
When the core competence of a company is the product manager, then the product is the core; but when the core of a company is the paranoid product manager, the core competence of the company will be infinitely close to the execution ability of the product landing. In particular, the overly demanding “customization” itself has a tendency against the inertia of the market, so someone must pay more energy and extra cost for it.
In addition to Jobs, Cook is probably the only one who can implement Apple’s “high-sugar” and “high-pressure” supply chain empire.
So you can even come to a slightly ruder conclusion: the nature of the fruit chain is actually the product of “Apple customization”. And that’s why, even though Android phone manufacturers are very mature today, a considerable number of consumers will be amazed by Apple’s highly completed products.
Tesla also likes customization and claims to be a supply chain-driven super company.
Of course, the meaning of this customization is very different.
Tesla’s customization often likes to do it himself, and its ultimate goal is to make the upstream and downstream industrial chains cheaper and closer to Bom costs through their own customization. Therefore, even if there are really some “Tesla customization” industry, in fact, it is also around Tesla’s extended demand for “own customization”.
If we only talk about automobile manufacturing, the most well-known case is the famous “Giga Press” integrated die-casting technology.
Integrated die casting is not a new technology, but it is rarely used in automobiles before.
The main reason is that traditional automobile factories work in the way of stamping and welding for a long time, so there are doubts about the quality rate and strength of “integrated die casting”. In addition, if Giga Press eliminates part of the parts system, the 4S store will have less parts revenue and car maintenance will be more difficult. After all, the shell is one, and a little “heroic” collision may make the loss close to scrap.
It saves materials and processes, so the body is lighter-so you can reduce battery costs a little bit in disguise. Moreover, Musk doesn’t like the 4S store where he gets paid for more work, so he just makes a decision and uses it. As for the high premium of third-party insurance, Tesla can also use data to build a moat of his own insurance business.
Looking back at the previous article, the only two A-share “special chain” enterprises, Topp and Xusheng, are in fact industrial chain enterprises of integrated die-casting technology.
Tesla does, of course, but most of the time, more areas of innovation come from teams in Tesla, California and Texas. Whether it’s battery design or autopilot and math construction, Tesla must have done it himself, not outsourced to Panasonic, Ningde or Nvidia.
Companies like Nvidia, in particular, are more likely to be competitors and partners in the field of artificial intelligence in the future. Even one day, as Tesla builds its own production lines in areas such as batteries, companies like Ningde Times may also be potential rivals.
This may have something to do with Musk’s vision that Tesla can become an automobile group with an annual output of 10 million, and Musk also believes that lower prices will inevitably lead to a broader product scene. This demand for his own size has led him to transform into a company with extreme business costs.
The price is so strong that model3 and modelY once became “futures” in the market. Even if there are old car owners standing in front of his flagship store protesting against the price reduction, Tesla can still go against the trend and drop by thousands.
So it’s hard for you to imagine that Jobs will one day, like Musk, sleep day and night in a factory for a certain production process. He will choose suppliers he admires and spur them with money and dreams. If he fails, he will find a more competent person or supplier to do what it wants.
Similarly, it’s hard to imagine that Musk would be like Jobs, who didn’t have his own calculator app for a long time in his iPad series because of his paranoid pursuit. On the contrary, Musk will definitely choose the one that can be iterated to use first.
So in a way, Apple is like an empire.
He subcontracted everything, and then managed suppliers almost in the same way as vassal states-suppressing when it was time to crack down, empowering when it was time to empower, collecting taxes ruthlessly and spending money without mercy.
In the end, Apple was able to extract the most valuable productivity potential from the world’s vast supply chain.
Tesla is more like a kingdom.
From beginning to end, he established a directly managed supply chain system from factory to consumer. He personally mastered the land that is easy to defend, difficult to attack and high-yielding, and then chose the best quality and cheap products from the world open market as a supplement to productivity.
Just like the “special chain” is not necessarily worse than the “fruit chain”. In a way, Tesla may be more benign.
After all, China’s industry, which has a billion-dollar GDP, is no longer the Cinderella it used to be. So there is no need for the story of relying on some fatherly supercompany to form a tropical rainforest.
This may be the more representative side of “Silicon Valley-China” in the new context of software and hardware after Tesla’s concept.