Archives for June 22nd, 2013

Elon Musk Confirms ‘Other Variants of the Model S’ for 2013



While everybody thought that Tesla would not be touching the Model S in any way, at least for a few years, the CEO and founder of the company, Elon Musk has other plans… He spoke during a recent meeting to discuss the company’s third quarter financial results, where he also let slip a little bit more information.

He said: “There are a few other variants of the Model S that we'll come out with next year that I think are going to be pretty exciting, in addition to, of course, really getting into the Model X and starting the initial design work of the 3rd generation mass market vehicle.

The part about the Model X was known and predictable, but the “other variants” of the Model S have gotten our imagination going. An entry-level version may be what they have in store, which will feature the smallest battery pack available, but do away with leather, the 17-inch touch screen and other useless luxuries that some people just wouldn’t want.

Things could go as far as them making an estate version of the car, as Fisker have done by taking the Karma and turning it into the Surf. We hope to have more details soon, because the Model S is a unique and very interesting car about which we want to know all there is to.

Story via autoblog.com

By Andrei Nedelea

Tesla Posts $11 Million Q1 Profit



US automaker Tesla Motors has announced its first quarter 2013 financial results, posting a profit for the first time in the company’s 10-year history.

According to a report released yesterday, Tesla delivered 4,900 vehicles in the first quarter of 2013 for record sales of $562 million, up 83 percent when compared to the last quarter, which resulted in a profit of $15 million (GAAP profit of $11 million).

In addition, Tesla’s 4,900 examples delivered in North America in Q1 have surpassed both the Chevrolet Volt and Nissan Leaf, with the two companies reporting 4,244 and 3,539 units sold over the same period of time.

Talking about the future, Tesla said it expects US demand to exceed 15,000 Model S vehicles a year, with global demand probably more than 30,000 a year. With exports starting Q3, the company hopes to sell 10,000 and 5,000 cars a year in Europe and Asia respectively.

By Ciprian Florea

Elon Musk: Daimler, not the government, saved Tesla

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Recently speaking at the Wall Street Journal’s ECO:nomics conference in Santa Barbara, Tesla CEO, Elon Musk, in his typically candid fashion, gave some interesting insight into his company’s Department of Energy Loans and how it was indeed Daimler that saved Tesla, not the government.

As a quick side note, if you haven’t seen Chris Paine’s excellent Who Killed the Electric Car?, or his follow up Revenge of the Electric Car, do so now. Both films are a great look into the modern history of the electric car and help give insight into the birth of the current generation of EVs on, or coming to, the market.

In Revenge of the Electric Car, a plucky Elon Musk is struggling to keep his company afloat. The young Tesla CEO reveals that in the startup’s early days, he had to wire $3 million of his personal fortune so that the company could pay its employees.

Now, in the wake of a $465 million DOE low-interest loan guarantees Tesla received under the government’s Advanced Technology Vehicles Manufacturing program, Musk believes it was Daimer, and not the DOE, that saved Tesla from bankruptcy.

“We were saved by Daimler,” Musk said, before adding that Daimler’s $50 million, 9 percent ownership of Tesla was more than enough for the company to launch a successful public offering without help from the DOE.

Some may see Musk’s statements as unappreciative – biting the hand that has fed, and is feeding, the company now. And while Musk could have easily been less cavalier about the loans from the DOE (he rarely is), he does have a point. Daimler’s investment was crucial to Tesla receiving the DOE loan guarantees in the first place – without them they probably wouldn’t have received the much-needed cash influx. But the loans handed out by the DOE are important to Tesla’s long-term success, and have allowed the California startup to do a lot more.

Of course, $465 million in tax-payer money isn’t something to just ignore. Musk seems to acknowledge this in his own way, adding, “The DOE was a helpful catalyst,” but that it wasn’t crucial to the company’s survival or success, he says.

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Never one to pass up the chance to create some sort of buzz or controversy, the Wall Street Journal reports that the Tesla CEO went on to add that he “generally doesn’t believe government subsidies are good, but in some cases they do help.” Musk’s sentiment seems to stem from criticisms leveled at government subsidies, and believes these incentives artificially pick winners and losers – believing that the best company should win based on market performance.

According to Musk, the best way for society to help reduce problems concerning climate change is to impose a tax on carbon dioxide emissions rather than “indirect” government subsides, like those given for electric cars. Stating, “The ideal would be to tax C02.”

Of course, Musk’s statements, although generally provocative and overly boisterous, don’t generally cross into the realm of confusing. While the enigmatic CEO is certainly welcome to his convictions, the fact that Tesla is looking to be on the up and up has as much to do with those very loans he is opposed to, which by the way seem to operate more in theory than in principle.

Still, we can’t say for sure what Musk is thinking. Maybe he is distancing the company ahead of the 2012 Presidential campaign from the DOE, and all the political mudslinging surrounding the ATVM loan program. Or maybe he just enjoys causing a stir. Either way, Tesla is currently in a solid state, and Musk will no doubt be looking forward to continued success — and maybe another opportunity to fan the flames down the road. 

By Amir Iliaifar

MT Poll: Which 2013 Motor Trend Car of the Year Contender Will Win COTY?

MT Poll: Which 2013 Motor Trend Car of the Year Contender Will Win COTY?

It’s Car of the Year time again! Over the past two weeks we’ve been teasing new 2013 Car of the Year contenders every day. With the 2013 Motor Trend Car of the Year announcement coming Monday, November 12 at 6:30 p.m. EST, we thought it’d be fun to ask which contender you think will take home the golden calipers.

But since we get this question at each Of The Year event, we’d like to provide a friendly reminder that Car of the Year is only open to new or significantly updated vehicles that cost $120,000 or less. That means that the 2013 Ford Fusion is eligible for Car of the Year because it’s a full update, while the 2013 Ford Focus ST isn’t, since only one trim level is new, not the whole car. With that cleared up, let’s take a look at the contenders.

2013 Acura ILX front motion view 300x187 imageAcura ILX – We Like: Available swift-shifting manual and Honda Civic Si drivetrain. We Don’t Like: Questionable value in certain trims.

BMW 3 Series – We Like: The developed and mature feel of the car; “amazing” handling. We Don’t Like: A bit softer than previous 3 Series cars

Cadillac ATS – We Like: Excellent steering, firm chassis and impressive dynamics. We Don’t Like: Balky manual transmission.

Cadillac XTS – We Like: Exceptionally smooth ride; rock solid at triple-digit speeds. We Don’t Like: 3.6-liter V-6 could use a bit more refinement.

Chevrolet Malibu – We Like: We generally liked the Malibu’s interior design. We Don’t Like: We found the backseat too cramped for adults.

2013 Chevrolet Spark front side motion view4 300x187 imageChevrolet Spark – We Like: Surprisingly fun to toss around; well-appointed interior. We Don’t Like: Low handling limits.

Coda EV Sedan – We Like: It’s a cheap and cheerful electric car, with a long range. We Don’t Like: Subpar interior, bland design.

Dodge Dart – We Like: Pleasant styling, excellent value. We Don’t Like: “Dead” steering feel.

Ford C-Max—We Like: Ease of electric-only driving, the fact that it’s a fun-to-drive hybrid. We Don’t Like: Tires lack the grip to live up to the chassis.

Ford Fusion – We Like: Excellent steering feedback on 1.6 EcoBoost model; vast array of engine, transmission, and drivetrain options. We Don’t Like: Not as fun to drive as the outgoing Fusion.

2013 Honda Accord coupe front motion view 300x187 imageHonda Accord – We Like: Crisp handling, and buttoned-down interior. We Don’t Like: Surge-y, on-off throttle response at low speed with the CVT.

Hyundai Azera – We Like: Comfortable, roomy cabin with huge trunk. We Don’t Like: Polarizing styling.

Lexus ES – We Like: High-quality interior and roomy backseat. We Don’t Like: Hybrid suffered from a sloppy transition between regenerative and mechanical braking.

Lexus GS – We Like: Whole lineup was fun to drive – even the Hybrid; high-caliber interior design and materials. We Don’t Like: The haptic, mouse-like controller that operates the infotainment system.

2013 Lexus LS front motion view 300x187 imageLexus LS – We Like: Comfortable and quiet ride; V-8 grunt. We Don’t Like: Not as much of a game-changer as the original LS.

Mercedes-Benz SL-Class – We Like: An excellent Grand Tourer; felt unflappable at high speeds. We Don’t Like: More horsepower than handling prowess.

Nissan Altima – We Like: Beautiful interior and comfortable seats. We Don’t Like: Could benefit from retuned steering.

Nissan Sentra – We Like: Baby Altima styling, and genuinely roomy interior. We Don’t Like: CVT and engine moan.

Porsche 911 – We Like: An incredibly usable supercar. We Don’t Like: Too obvious that Porsche spent more time developing the PDK than the manual.

2013 Porsche Boxster front motion view21 300x187 imagePorsche Boxster – We Like: Exceptional build quality, beautiful balance. We Don’t Like: Poor value.

Scion FR-S – We Like: Incredibly fun to drive and an excellent value. We Don’t Like: Cheap-feeling interior.

Subaru BRZ – We Like: Terrific chassis; superb balance, and steering. We Don’t Like: We want more power.

Tesla Model S – We Like: Long range combined with excellent performance. We Don’t Like: Styling a bit safe.

Toyota Avalon – We Like: Great ride and handling; nicely appointed interior. We Don’t Like: A face only a mother could love.

2013 Toyota Prius C front side view1 300x187 imageToyota Prius C – We Like: Cheap and cheerful appeal. We Don’t Like: This car is no fun.

Which contender do you think will take home the Golden Calipers as our 2013 Motor Trend Car of the Year? Sound off in the poll and in the comments below.

To compete for the 2013 Motor Trend Car of the Year title, contenders must be all new or significantly revised 2013-model-year cars or 2012-model-year cars that went on sale too late for 2012 COTY consideration. All eligible vehicles are invited to compete. Check back to MotorTrend.com on November 12 at 3:30 p.m. PST / 6:30 p.m. EST to discover what will become the 2013 Motor Trend Car of the Year!

By Christian Seabaugh

Toyota Finally Moving Forward with Mississippi Plant; Corolla on Build List

Toyota Finally Moving Forward with Mississippi Plant; Corolla on Build List

For the past two years, the 170 employee skeleton crew at Toyota Motor Manufacturing Mississippi (TMMM) , located in quiet Blue Springs in the northern part of the Magnolia State, have kept themselves busy despite their plant never reaching operational status.  That’s all about to change in 2011.

TMMM was originally announced back in February 2007 as the then-latest site for the Highlander. Then came the economic meltdown. The auto industry was hit especially hard during the recent gas and financial crises, which led to the stoppage of TMMM’s plant construction in December 2008. At the time, the Prius had been penciled into the work lines that would have gone live this year. Now, instead of the Highlander or the Prius, the Corolla will be the first vehicle off the line.

Toyota announced it would complete the plant back in June and hire staff to fill the halls of TMMM beginning in August, and the first 10 employees will join the existing 170 next week for training. When all is said and done, the Japanese automaker expects to put 2000 individuals to work.

Those human beings won’t all be coming from Blue Springs, as there are less than 150 people registered to the town. Locals from the surrounding Tupelo area, who have had to cope with an 11-percent unemployment rate, are expected to fill most of the positions. As has been the case with much of the south, the area’s main industry —  furniture production — moved away. Northeastern Mississippi has lost over 15,000 jobs since 1990, according to municipal government estimates. With a little push from state and local officials, Toyota opted to set up shop in the area; it also operates sites in Alabama, and Kentucky and Texas.

By its nature, the planning, construction, and execution of a world-class auto plant requires millions of dollars, and Toyota had already reportedly spent some $300 million on the facility before construction halted. Production equipment is said to be on the way in part from the recently shuttered NUMMI plant (now owned by Tesla) in California, where the automaker built the Corolla, the Big T’s second-best-selling model by far. The compact sedan is presently built in Japan and Ontario, Canada.

When production starts up in the fall of next year, Toyota anticipates it will build roughly 140,000 Corollas per year, well short of estimated plant capacity.  Industry analysts predict it’ll be difficult for the automaker to make money from the facility unless 200,000  or so vehicles are rolling off the line. Toyota appears to be taking the long view with TMMM’s production plans however, as the brand continues to rehabilitate its damaged image.

Despite the delays in getting the plant online, Blue Springs and Mississippi remain upbeat. An early Mississippi State University study predicts the 2000 direct plant jobs will generate some 4556 indirect positions in the area, from suppliers setting up shop to the mom-and-pop restaurateurs picking up a cook or two. State and local governments have appropriated close to $294 million to build highway ramps, 11 miles of natural gas lines, and a 10,000-foot railroad spur for the site. Not surprisingly, Toyota will enjoy a corporate tax holiday for 20 years as part of the commitment to the company’s future business.

We’re now in the grip of winter, and fall 2011 is another three seasons away. You can bet the Mississippi job hopeful are counting down the months now.

Sources: Wall Street Journal, Toyota

By Benson Kong

Want To Trade Your Tesla Roadster In For A 2012 Model S? Now You Can

2012 Tesla Model S beta vehicle, Fremont, CA, October 2011

2012 Tesla Model S beta vehicle, Fremont, CA, October 2011

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If you’ve ever purchased a car, the chances are you’ll be familiar with the concept of trade-ins: giving the dealer your old car– and the equity contained within it–as a down-payment on a newer model.

Now electric automaker Tesla Motors is offering a similar trade-in deal for owners of its first electric car: the Tesla Roadster. 

Sell Tesla Motors [NASDAQ:TSLA} your old two-seat roadster, and it will give you a substantial discount on a brand new 2012 Tesla Model S. 

Traditionally, although trade-in deals offer car buyers a convenient way to get rid of their old car, trade-in values are much less than private sale prices. 

After trade in, unless your old car is still relatively new or in demand, the dealer then sells your car on for profit at a used car auction. 

From there, it makes its way to a used car lot. 

At face value, Tesla’s trade-in deal seems to operate like any other, but there’s a few twists which make it very different. 

First, there’s no dealer. Tesla customers ordering a 2012 Model S can opt to sell their car back to Tesla. 

Thanks to extensive service records and remote diagnostics, Tesla can accurately value a traded-in Roadster before it even arrives. 

And rather than go onto a used car lot, Tesla is planning to sell traded-in Roadsters at its stores, ensuring used Tesla customers get the same level of service it offers it new car customers. 

Second, thanks to a limited production run of around 2,600 cars, Tesla Roadsters have kept their value. 

2011 Tesla Roadster Sport 2.5

2011 Tesla Roadster Sport 2.5

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According to The San Francisco Chronicle, Tesla expects a 4-year-old Tesla Roadster with 31,000 miles to sell for around $73,300. 

Even assuming a lower trade-in value, Tesla Roadster owners with cars in good condition could end up buying a brand-new top-spec Model S–which costs upwards of $100,000, depending on options– for less than $30,000.

In order to do that, they will have to trade their old Roadster in, of course. 

With the base level Model S costing $57,400 before incentives, and a good-condition 2010 Roadster selling for much more, some owners may find that Tesla has to cut them a check for the difference. 

Third, because Tesla still offers upgrade packages for Roadster owners, allowing them to upgrade a 1.5 or 2.0 Roadster to the same specification as the last Roadster to roll off the production line, almost any age Tesla can be given a new lease of life. 

This means that instead of waiting for the right spec Tesla Roadster to come along, those looking to buy a used Tesla can simply ask the automaker to upgrade their car to the right specifications. 

Finally, by starting a trade-in program for its iconic Roadster, Tesla gets an extra model of car to sell alongside the 2012 Model S. 

And of course, for those who couldn’t afford the Tesla Roadster first time around, there’s just a slim chance that maybe, just maybe, they can grab a used one at a more sensible price.

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By Nikki Gordon-Bloomfield

Pan-American Charge: Students Plan 15,000-Mile Journey in Electric Sports Car

Pan-American Charge: Students Plan 15,000-Mile Journey in Electric Sports Car

Sorry, Tesla, but your recent roadtrip from Los Angeles to Detroit seems miniscule when compared to the expedition planned by the Racing Green Endurance team. The group of British students is planning to take an electric-powered Radical SR8 down 15,000 miles of the Pan-American Highway.

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“The perception still exists that EVs are somehow inferior to their fossil fueled counterparts,” spokesman Andy Hadland told Wired. “There is always a caveat. ‘I’d buy one, but they only go a few miles, they aren’t really zero carbon, they take too long to charge.’ These are all perceptions that we want to change.”

The team — which converted the SR8 into an electric vehicle with a little help from Radical — is out to prove that EVs are, in fact, capable of traveling long distances. A trans-Europe blitz would be interesting, but RGE wants to really catch the attention of people around the world.

“If you’re going to try and associate EVs with endurance and long distance, you’ve got to take it to extremes,” Hadland said.

Extreme may be the right word. The 15,000-mile journey will begin in Prudhoe, Alaska, and travel down the U.S.’ west coast into Central and South America. It isn’t going to be easy. Although the electric drivetrain, which consists of two custom-wound, 193-horsepower motors and lithium-iron-phosphate batteries, is 90-percent efficient, the SR8 EV has a maximum travel range of about 243 miles.

We imagine finding a place to charge the car — let alone adapting to local power standards — will be challenging at times, but nowhere as difficult as tackling the road itself. Much of the Pan-American Highway is best traversed with a four-wheel-drive vehicle, and sections of the road are perilous to cross depending on the season. The rear-wheel-drive SR8 was originally designed to be a track toy, and crossing such terrain may prove difficult for the carbon-fiber roadster, even with the increased ride height.

The team has spent months planning for the trip, and although it has plenty of support from officials from cities located along the route, it may have its work cut out for it — especially when it comes time to recharge. RGE plans on embarking from Prudhoe on July 8. Stay with us as we follow the team’s progress.

Source: Wired

By Steve Diehlman

One Week Later, Tesla Stock Price Falls Below IPO

One Week Later, Tesla Stock Price Falls Below IPO

Despite a number of challenges still to be overcome, electric car-maker Tesla celebrated a triumphant Initial Public Offering that raised $260 million for the fledgling company. Just a week later, though, things have taken a turn for the worse.

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Originally, Tesla had planned to sell 11.1 million shares at $14 to $16 each, but revised its strategy at the last minute and bumped its sale to 13.3 million shares at $17 each, which would earn the company $226 million rather than the $178 million it had originally anticipated. On the first day of trading, the company would actually sell 15.3 million shares and the price of the hot new stock briefly eclipsed $30 before closing at $23.83, still well above their initial offering price and netting the company $260 million in much-needed cash.

Since then, though, the stock has only gone down in value. By the closing bell Tuesday, Tesla shares had dropped below their $17 offering price to $16.11, their fourth day of losses in a row. As of this writing, the share price has slipped an additional five percent to $15.24. In total, the shares have lost over 41 percent of their value since their June 30 closing, completely eliminating their brief 41 percent rally on opening day. The Nasdaq Composite index the stock is listed on, meanwhile, is up two percent today.

“They brought this thing into a market that was not rewarding hype,” Michael Holland, chairman of Holland & Co. told Businessweek. “The stock did get its pop, and now it’s plagued by the reality of the marketplace. The reality of the marketplace is that people aren’t paying for dreams and visions.”

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“The company is a great concept with relatively weak fundamentals,” said Josef Schuster, founder of IPOX Capital Management LLC and manager of the Direxion Long/Short Global IPO Fund.

The falling price of Tesla’s stock could spell trouble for the company, which is planning on using the proceeds from its IPO to fund development of its upcoming Model S sedan as well as a factory to build the car. Nearly caught up with orders for its $109,000 Roadster sports car, the company has been counting on the IPO, a $465 million loan from the U.S. Department of Energy and selling carbon credits and battery packs to other automakers to shore up its finances. The company has never posted an annual profit and posted only one quarterly profit since its founding in 2003. The company’s net loss grew to $29.5 million in the first quarter of 2010, nearly double its 2009 first quarter loss. Tesla is expected to continue to lose money until at least 2012 when the Model S debuts.

The falling stock price is also a serious concern for Tesla’s eccentric CEO, Elon Musk. Shortly before the IPO, it was reported that Musk was essentially broke and living on loans from friends, having sunk his entire fortune into Tesla and his two other start-up companies, Space X and SolarCity. Musk was personally counting on the IPO to replenish his exhausted personal coffers and a falling stock price certainly won’t help. On paper, the values of his shares soared as high as nearly $800 million, but much of it has been erased and his 26.89 million shares were valued at roughly $433 million as of closing yesterday, $24 million less than at the close of the IPO. Still, it’s double what Musk made selling his first company, PayPal, but this time he can’t claim it all. The terms of the DoE loan require that Musk retain at least 65 percent of his shares in the company or the loan will default.

Source: Businessweek

By Scott Evans