Market Insight

Tesla unique in many ways — including supply chain

November 17, 2014

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The Tesla is not only a ground breaking electric vehicle, but breaks new ground in infotainment. IHS teardowns show that the high bill of electronics reflects in a unique 17” screen and attention-grabbing navigation and infotainment system.

Tesla’s infotainment system for its model S is not manufactured by tier 1s like Harman, Continental, and Bosch.

PCBs from Tesla are branded with its logo, reflecting the fact that it designs and specs the premium “media control unit” itself, with manufacturing outsourced to an EMS (Electronics Manufacturer Services) company such as Flextronics, Jabil or Foxconn to realize the system hardware.  While EMS players have shown the interest in the automotive electronics market in the past, notably with Ford’s most known connectivity box design “Sync” , assembled by Flextronics, more and more interest is gathering around this manufacturing paradigm with unconfirmed rumors involving Foxconn with BMW and Mercedes.

The outcome is once again that the once-traditional automotive market is more and more open to new business models, often resorting to methods used by the likes of Apple and Co.  Indeed the consumer electronics and mobile phone manufacturing model is one where EMS companies can help with their steady experience and huge footprint. And why not; due to its visibility the car infotainment system is ultimately becoming the most expensive consumer device.


What can you see here is that an EMS with its consumer electronics capability has a much faster design turnaround time and is likely much more agile than a tier 1 in manufacturing the electronics for a rapidly evolving market like infotainment system.

The trend for the hardware in infotainment systems is toward a highly integrated control unit, in effect much closer to a PC design approach. This tendency might even sustain more innovative designs where vehicle manufacturers own the infotainment design, defining detailed specs, as here in the case of Tesla.

Premium OEMs are already striving to harmonize and reduce system hardware and software complexity by closely controlling the design, by directly engaging with semiconductor suppliers. The focus is always same—to reduce cost and time to market by developing a limited number of scalable platforms. 

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