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Ex-GM vice chair blasts Tesla, saying supporters 'like members of a religious cult'

It's safe to say Bob Lutz, who spent nearly 50 years working at established automakers, does not think much of Tesla and its co-founder Elon Musk.

The former General Motors vice chairman took Tesla to task in a CNBC interview Wednesday. Over the years, Lutz also held executive positions at Ford, Chrysler and BMW.

"Tesla supporters are like members of a religious cult," he said. "Just like Steve Jobs was worshiped at Apple, it's the same way with Elon Musk ... seen as a new visionary god who promises this phantasmagorical future, a utopia of profitability and volume."

But Lutz contended there's a big difference. "Steve Jobs delivered and Elon ... hasn't delivered a thing, except increasingly negative cash flow, and an increasing lack of profitability; more and more capital spending."

Musk's plan to merge electric automaker Tesla and renewable energy company SolarCity is "tying two sinking ships together for synergy," he said. Musk is chairman and CEO of Tesla. He is chairman at SolarCity.

Tesla did not immediately respond to CNBC's request for comment.

Tesla is set to report third-quarter results Wednesday after the closing bell. The electric automaker is projected to post a loss of 54 cents per share on revenue of nearly $1.98 billion.

In the second quarter, Tesla reported a wider-than-expected loss and revenue that fell short of estimates. The company also continued to run through cash, with investments in production improvements and the construction of its Gigafactory in Nevada.

"I just don't see anything about Tesla that gives me any confidence that that business can survive," Lutz said, arguing it could ultimately go bankrupt "unless people keep pouring new money in ad infinitum."

The company's cash position did improve in the second quarter to $3.25 billion as of June 30. That was fueled, in part, by a $1.7 billion offering in May.

Tesla cannot fix its cash burn by selling more vehicles, Lutz said.

"If you're not recovering labor and materials in your sell price, then doing twice as many or three times as many or four times as many doesn't help," he said. "The losses just get bigger and bigger."



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