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Valley Voice A Trabant for Elon Musk

The surprisingly high demand for Tesla's Model 3 will probably lead to years of waiting time for customers. Some Germans still know all too well how waiting for a desired car feels like.

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Every Tuesday, Handelsblatt technology reporter Britta Weddeling writes about the trends and oddities of Silicon Valley from a German perspective.

Tesla’s Model 3 got a lot of attention. Until Saturday, 276.000 people preordered the car. Demand was higher than expected. Tesla CEO Elon Musk already announced that he will revamp production, but the bottleneck could lead to years of waiting for customers. The production of the Model X has also hit delays.

Well, some Germans still know how waiting for a highly desired car feels like. Before the Wall came down in 1989, there was a permanent shortage of vehicles in former East Germany. People spent years waiting for their Trabant or “Trabi”, a two-door vehicle with a two-stroke engine. Maybe Model 3 will be Elon Musk’s Trabi.

In today’s Silicon Valley you can find shortage everywhere, from the number of characters in a tweet to the shortage of affordable housing, to water or unicorns. A shortage of Model 3 seems only logical.
In my neighborhood there is also shortage of energy. Every two three weeks the only thing that gets disrupted in highly innovative San Francisco is my power line.

It gets even worse when you look at the public transport system that connects San Francisco with cities in the East Bay, like Mountain View or Palo Alto where major Valley companies such as Google or Facebook are based. Trains are painfully messy, overused and often delayed. Billion dollar companies in the Valley obviously prefer to send caravans of busses from here to there instead of investing in public transport.

Even people who run public transport hate public transport, like the the guy who operates the San Francisco Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) Twitter account. When a customer complained about the dirt he didn’t even try to conciliate. He just tweeted back: “BART was built to transport far fewer people, and much of our system has reached the end of its useful life. This is our reality.”

Maybe California doesn’t need an invasion of electric cars in the first place, or the Hyperloop, Musk’s dream of a vacuum train from San Francisco to Los Angeles. Maybe the future of mobility that he is talking about so much starts with decent public transport.

Es gibt auch eine deutsche Version dieser Kolumne.

Britta Weddeling is a technology journalist with Handelsblatt, Germany's #1 business daily, based in San Francisco. She is author of a weekly English tech column called "Valley Voice" and contributes every week to a podcast at a major German radio station (Deutschlandradio,"Was mit Medien").

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