Archives for June 24th, 2013

Tesla Model S To Offer Handling Package Option?

2012 Tesla Model S Signature

2012 Tesla Model S Signature

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The 2012 Tesla Model S electric sedan is already competent handler, but it could get even better for Model S Performance buyers.

Tesla Motors [NSDQ:TSLA] has announced that it’s developing a new suspension setup aimed at improving the car’s already-talented dynamics.

According to Wired (via Motor Authority), the new setup will be available as an option on Performance versions of the sedan.

Inspiration for the car’s new attributes comes from one of the world’s top performance cars–the McLaren MP4-12C supercar, following a conversation between Tesla CEO Elon Musk, and former Motor Trend editor in chief Angus MacKenzie. Tesla went as far as renting a McLaren for a few days to delve deeper into its talents.

The suspension changes are subtle, with rear wheels a half-inch wider than the standard car, high-performance Michelin PS2 tires, and revised suspension bushings and end links.

Though the suspension package hasn’t yet been confirmed as an option, Tesla is developing the kit with a view to offering it at a later date, if the changes prove successful.

As the changes don’t affect the car’s air suspension, nor require any changes to the running gear, range and straight-line performance should be unaffected–though the price will certainly creep up from the Model S Performance’s $84,900 MSRP.

One thing is for sure–the handling tweaks are sure to appeal to Tesla’s performance-minded buyers.

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By Antony Ingram

Buying A 2012 Tesla Model S: Pros & Cons Of ‘Tesla Way’ To Order

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

HI-RES GALLERY: 2012 Tesla Model S beta vehicle, Fremont, CA, October 2011

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

  • 2012 Tesla Model S, brief test drive, New York City, July 2012

  • 2012 Tesla Model S, brief test drive, New York City, July 2012

  • 2012 Tesla Model S painting process

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

  • 2012 Tesla Model S, brief test drive, New York City, July 2012

  • 2012 Tesla Model S, brief test drive, New York City, July 2012

  • 2012 Tesla Model S, brief test drive, New York City, July 2012

  • 2012 Tesla Model S, brief test drive, New York City, July 2012

  • 2012 Tesla Model S, brief test drive, New York City, July 2012

  • 2012 Tesla Model S, brief test drive, New York City, July 2012

  • 2012 Tesla Model S Charging Connector

  • 2012 Tesla Model S, brief test drive, New York City, July 2012

  • 2012 Tesla Model S, brief test drive, New York City, July 2012


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

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

    • 2012 Tesla Model S, brief test drive, New York City, July 2012

    • 2012 Tesla Model S, brief test drive, New York City, July 2012

    • 2012 Tesla Model S painting process

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

    • 2012 Tesla Model S, brief test drive, New York City, July 2012

    • 2012 Tesla Model S, brief test drive, New York City, July 2012

    • 2012 Tesla Model S, brief test drive, New York City, July 2012

    • 2012 Tesla Model S, brief test drive, New York City, July 2012

    • 2012 Tesla Model S, brief test drive, New York City, July 2012

    • 2012 Tesla Model S, brief test drive, New York City, July 2012

    • 2012 Tesla Model S Charging Connector

    • 2012 Tesla Model S, brief test drive, New York City, July 2012

    • 2012 Tesla Model S, brief test drive, New York City, July 2012

At last, my number’s been called.

As the holder of reservation number P 717 for a 2012 Tesla Model S, I’ve waited more than three years after putting down a $5,000 deposit on the sleek, all-electric sport sedan.

Since then, Tesla has kept my interest percolating with e-mail updates and promotional swag, including a coffee mug, a T-shirt, and a remote-control Roadster model.

But last month came the news I’d been waiting for: my production slot has been scheduled, and it was time to place my order and specify the color, battery size, and options I wanted. Delivery is slated for November or December.

The ordering process I’ve just gone through spotlights the ways in which the Tesla car-buying experience differs from the traditional one.

Tesla Motors [NSDQ:TSLA] has no franchised dealers, but rather a network of  factory-owned retail “stores,”  typically located in high-end shopping districts and malls.  (Their resemblance to Apple stores is no coincidence;  Tesla hired George Blankenship, the guy who led the design and placement of the Apple stores.)

Introductory presentation at 2012 Tesla Model S

Introductory presentation at 2012 Tesla Model S

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Tesla’s vehicle service centers will be separate from the stores.

The primary purpose of the stores is to introduce casual passers-by to the Tesla brand, educate them about the cars, and direct them to the company website. The sale and delivery are handled on-line from company headquarters in Palo Alto.

In my case, the stores played no role in my buying decision; I was hooked long before the first Tesla store even opened.

With the arrival of the “It’s Time to Build Your Model S” e-mail, I had 30 days to finalize my order without losing my place in the queue. I went to the online configurator, selected my colors and options, filled out some basic personal info, and pressed the send button.

After a couple of phone conversations with a young, helpful Tesla product specialist to smooth out some online bumps, I signed a Pre-Delivery Motor Vehicle Purchase Agreement.

And that’s where it stands today.

Based on my experience so far, the Tesla system has its pros and cons.  Among the pros:

Less sales pressure.  A lot of people hate dealing with  car salesmen, who have an often-deserved reputation for deception and high-pressure sales tactics.

For these buyers, the online sales approach will be a welcome relief. (Although Nissan has ended its attempt to sell the Leaf this way, handing the car over to dealers to sell conventionally.)

It’s possible to buy a Model S without ever setting foot in a Tesla store. Based on the two stores I’ve visited, if you decide to visit one, the atmosphere will be friendly and low-key–offering info displays, interactive design-your-Tesla screens, and samples of interior fabrics and colors.

There will also be an actual car or two. But the prime role of Tesla store representatives is to educate the customer, not to close the deal. No surprise; they don’t get commissions on the cars they help sell.

No price haggling.  The price you see on the screen is the price you pay. Again, for people who hate the traditional car-buying process, this is a welcome relief.

Six 2012 Tesla Model S cars at

Six 2012 Tesla Model S cars at

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Delivery to your door.  A Tesla rep will deliver the car to a location of your choice. I’m specifying my own driveway, but one early customer reportedly asked that his car be delivered to Disneyland. “Wherever makes you smile,” says Blankenship.

However, based on my experience so far, there are also some downsides to the Tesla system:

Not enough cars to look at.  Two big decisions I had to make were the exterior body color and the interior style and color. Tesla’s online and in-store configurator shows a pretty picture of a car in any available color, and with any of the various interiors. But a picture on a screen is a long way from the real car.



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

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

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The two Tesla stores near me each had only a couple of cars, in colors that were either unavailable or of no interest to me. None of the cars on display had a production interior. (Eventually the stores will have production cars on display–but only a few.)

So I had no choice but to pick my color and interior without ever seeing them in a real car. I’m not particularly happy about that.

No trade-in.  Instead of taking trade-ins, Tesla forged an agreement with an as-yet-unnamed nationwide company that buys cars for cash. If you want to “trade in” your old car for a Model S, Tesla will put you in touch with the cash-for-cars outfit–and you make your own deal with them.

Limited test drives.  With only a handful of cars available at each store, customers may not be able to test-drive the configuration they want. The Model S, for example, offers four different power levels and two suspension choices.

No price haggling.  Some people just hate paying retail. Buyers who enjoy beating a salesman down to a rock-bottom price will have to grit their teeth and pay the sticker price.

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For three years, I’ve been telling people my 2012 Tesla Model S would cost $49,000 (approximating the base price of $57,400 minus the $7,500 Federal tax credit).

But “options creep” and sales tax bumped up the final number on the check I’ll be writing  to more than (gulp) $70,000.  I won’t realize the tax credit until next April 15.

The big option bombshell was my move up to the mid-size 60-kWh battery, at a cost of $10,000.

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

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

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My Model S has to be able to make it from my home in upstate New York to New York City and back, about 120 miles. At first I assumed the base 40-kWh  battery, with a listed range of 160 miles,  would do the trick.

But after watching the electric range of my Chevrolet Volt drop by 40 percent when the temperature fell to the teens, I began to doubt that the Model S would have sufficient winter legs for the NYC trip.

Tesla CEO Elon Musk told me he expects the winter range loss to be “closer to 20 percent than 40 percent.”  That would put me at 128 miles, right on the bubble. But Tesla has no hard data on range loss in cold weather at the moment.

Faced with this uncertainty, I felt I had no choice but to go with the bigger battery. Yeah, it’s a lot of money for a little peace of mind. But presumably I’ll get some of that extra cost back in added value when I eventually sell or trade it.

Air suspension is a $1500 “option” that’s mandatory on all cars delivered before 2013. Not willing to delay delivery to trade down, I had to check the box.

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

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

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Only two body colors–white and black–are available at the base price.

Not fond of either color, I opted to spring for an extra $750 for metallic dark green paint. I’m hoping it’s something like the  British Racing Green I remember on my Dad’s MG many years ago.

Having already spent $12,250 on options, I figured $1,500 more for a leather interior would hardly matter.  (I know, I know…..)

At least I had the willpower to forgo the 21-inch wheels, moon roof, high-tech package, and super sound system.

The total came to $71,150.  Add in a delivery fee ($990), inspection, prep, and coordination ($180), sales tax ($5,876), and registration fees ($157.50), then subtract the $5,000 deposit I putdown three years ago, and the final number on the check will be $73,357.

Holy crap.

Will the car be worth it?  Stay tuned.

David Noland is a Tesla Model S reservation holder and freelance writer who lives north of New York City. This is his fourth article for High Gear Media.

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By David Noland

Vice-Presidential Debate: Tesla Escapes, Fisker Only Nodded To

Representative Paul Ryan

Representative Paul Ryan

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There’s probably relief in Palo Alto this morning, as Tesla Motors executives quietly give thanks that their company was not named in last night’s vice-presidential debate.

The startup electric-car company in Silicon Valley was explicitly cited in last week’s presidential debate by candidate Mitt Romney, who deemed Tesla a ‘loser’.

Romney’s criticism of Tesla Motors [NSDQ:TSLA] last week–along with Fisker Automotive, cell maker Ener1, and solar panel maker Solyndra–came as he attacked the Obama Administration’s investments in green energy.

Last night, vice-presidential candidate Paul Ryan only alluded in passing to the those Administration programs–and he only indicted one company, indirectly at that.

Ryan said, according to the complete debate transcript:

Was it a good idea to spend taxpayer dollars on electric cars in Finland or on windmills in China?

The phrase “electric cars in Finland” refers to Fisker Automotive’s use of subcontactor Valmet, located in Finland, to assemble its Karma range-extended electric luxury sedan.

After Ryan’s question, incumbent vice-president Biden interjected, but Ryan continued:

Was it a good idea to borrow all this money from countries like China … and spend it on all these various different interest groups?

Biden responded:

Let me tell you it was a good idea. It was a good idea — Moody’s and others said that this was exactly what we needed that stopped us from going off the cliff. It set the conditions to be able to grow again.

We have — in fact, 4 percent of those green jobs didn’t go under — or went — went — went under — didn’t work. It’s a better batting average than investment bankers have. They have about a 40 percent — (inaudible) — loss.

But when Ryan continued by questioning an Administration projection of 5 million green jobs, moderator Martha Raddatz firmly moved the topic to Medicare and entitlements.

And that was the end of it.

Fisker has said that of the Department of Energy loans it received before further disbursements were suspended, none of the money went toward the Finland facility.

The company has purchased a defunct GM plant in Wilmington, Delaware, which it intended to use to manufacture its next car, the Atlantic mid-size sedan.

Whether that will happen, and when, remains unclear.

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By John Voelcker

How To Drive On Ice, Tesla Model S-Style

Mention snow and ice in relation to electric vehicles, and many people will first think of the impact of cold weather on driving range.

It’s true that driving range will decrease in cold weather in most electric vehicles, but the way the car drives is important too.

For the Tesla Model S driver in the video above, the best way to discover how his vehicle handled was taking it to the ILR Winter Driving School in Minden, Ontario.

Icy surfaces and coned courses let owner Colin Bowern explore his Tesla’s limit in total safety–not something that can always be guaranteed out on the roads.

Electric cars in winter: Ultimate guide

The Model S certainly looks graceful out on the ice, even during the occasional spin–but as the interview in the video from wheels.ca shows, there’s plenty to learn about driving this particular electric vehicle in snow.

It isn’t covered in great detail, but rear-wheel drive is a factor. Traditionally, front-engined, rear-drive cars aren’t as well suited to snow due to a lack of traction over the rear axle. This shouldn’t be too much issue for the S, which is a relatively heavy vehicle anyway with plenty of weight to push down on the trear tires–but a little too much gas and the car can quickly spin, as seen in the video.

The car’s regenerative braking is discussed though. Typically, any braking movement on snow and ice should be as gentle as possible, to avoid upsetting a car’s balance.

Some electric vehicles have significant regenerative braking power. If used without care, the sudden braking effect can be akin to stomping on the brake pedal. On the rear-drive Tesla, it made the car go “squirrelly” when backing off, encouraging the rear of the car to rotate.

Electric cars in winter: Six steps to maximize driving range

The good news is, it’s an issue that can be solved fairly easy–owner Bowern simply turns down the regenerative effect via the car’s touchscreen controls.

He also mentions that a dedicated winter traction control mode will be available soon from Tesla, tailoring the electric motor’s torque for better traction on snow and ice.

And, as with any vehicle, fitment of winter tires during the colder seasons will give owners of any electric vehicle a better chance of staying on the road.

But perhaps the best quote is that Bowern said driving his Model S makes him a better driver–since he naturally leaves more space between vehicles, drives more smoothly and avoids braking too hard–all techniques that help conserve energy, as well as improving winter driving.

Best way to drive an electric car on ice? Fix the nut behind the wheel…

[Hat tip: Brian Henderson]

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By Antony Ingram

Elon Musk To Lead Tesla for ‘Several More Years'



Being so busy both with Tesla Motors and SpaceX, Elon Musk may, at some point, be forced to choose one over the other, in order to dedicate himself fully to one of the causes. According to Plug-In Cars, though, he will definitely be sticking around at Tesla for ‘several more years’.

However, we say that Musk, one of the last modern day equivalents (well not really, but close enough) of the likes of Colin Chapman or others like him, is a major part of what makes Tesla appealing. The people who are ‘going electric’ are also those who understand how the world works and want to do their part in its preservation.

So, they will shy away from buying products made by corporations, with visionaries like Musk being a much more appealing prospect for such people. If Elon Musk were to leave Tesla, it would end up becoming a run-of-the-mill carmaker, partly owned by many parties and instead of visions and ideas for the future, there would only be boards and board meetings.

We say Elon Musk should grow old at Tesla’s helm, as it is the only way to keep the company’s core values at the top of their priorities. Also, with the $30,000 (€24,500) all-electric 3-Series rival, the company will take off, financially that is, bringing in more money and allowing them to pay off their loans and investing in having a whole range of increasingly affordable EV alternatives.

By Andrei Nedelea

Tesla Motors CEO reveals vehicle data from NY Times test

Tesla

After taking to Twitter in response to a negative review of the Model S and Supercharger charging stations in the New York Times, Tesla CEO Elon Musk has released information, which he says came from the car’s onboard data logger, that contradicts some of the statements made by Times reporter John Broder.

To recap, Broder picked up a fully charged Model S in Washington, D.C. and ended up on a tow truck somewhere in Connecticut. Despite stopping at both East Coast Supercharger stations (in Newark, Delaware and Milford, Connecticut), Broder had trouble maintaining the car’s charge, resorting to cruising at 54 mph on a 65 mph highway, and turning down the heat.

Broder’s article, and some subsequent commentary, blames the 30-degree weather for ruining the Model S’ range. However, Musk says the problem was a case of operator error. Tesla has logged all data from its press drives since the company got into a scuffle with Top Gear over a test of the Roadster, and Musk is using it to substantiate his earlier claims that the Times article was faked.

On the final leg of the trip, Musk says Broder disconnected the Model S’ charger while the range said 32 miles, even though he had 61 miles to go. He also says Broder wasted energy by driving in circles in the parking lot next to the Connecticut Supercharger station.

One of the major points of contention has been whether Broder fully charged the Model S in Delaware. Here, both parties appear to be in agreement. Broder says the display read “Fully Charged,” with the battery reading 90 percent and 242 miles of range. Tesla’s graphs show the same thing.

However, Musk says Broder stopped charging prematurely in Milford, Connecticut and at a public station in Norwich. He also says Broder drove past at least one other public charging station, although since the point of the story was to test Tesla’s Supercharger network, this may have been intentional.

In the article, Broder says at one point in the journey he set the cruise control to 54 mph and turned the heater down to preserve the car’s batteries. However, Musk says the cruise control was never set to 54 mph, and that Broder “in fact drove at speeds from 65 mph to 81 mph for a majority of the trip and at an average cabin temperature setting of 72 F.” According to the data, when Broder said he turned the temperature down, he actually turned it up to 74 degrees.

This evidence appears quite damning, but Musk didn’t stop there. He’s accusing Broder of deliberately screwing up the test because of a preexisting bias against the electric car.

“We assumed that the reporter would be fair and impartial, as has been our experience with The New York Times, an organization that prides itself on journalistic integrity,” Musk wrote. “As a result, we did not think to read his past articles and were unaware of his outright disdain for electric cars. We were played for a fool and as a result, let down the cause of electric vehicles. For that, I am deeply sorry.”

Musk’s evidence of a media conspiracy is a 2012 article Broder wrote on the state of the electric car. In the article, Broder called the electric car a “victim of hyped expectations, technological flops, high costs and a hostile political climate,” although he also gave space to Who Killed the Electric Car? Director Chris Paine.

“When the facts didn’t suit his opinion, he simply changed the facts,” Musk said of Broder.

Musk is asking the New York Times to investigate the story. As far as we know, neither Broder nor the Times has responded.

By Stephen Edelstein

Tesla Gets Green Light To Open Store In Natick, Massachusetts

Tesla Store  -  Portland OR

Tesla Store – Portland OR

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After more than an hour of discussion last night, the town selectmen of Natick, Massachusetts, voted 4-1 to grant a license to sell cars to Tesla Motors Massachusetts.

The local company, which the Selectmen concluded was legally separate from Tesla Motors [NSDQ:TSLA], will operate out of a property on West Central Street in the town.

Tesla has operated a showroom or “gallery” at the Natick Mall since September, but is not allowed to sell its electric cars there.

The Massachusetts Auto Dealers Association had sued the company over its store, saying that, among other things, Tesla’s service center in Watertown is too far from the Natick facilities.

That suit remains pending, although a judge denied an injunction to prevent Tesla from opening its facilities, saying the dealers did not have standing to sue.

Tesla’s plans have also been opposed by the owner of Bernardi Honda in Natick.

Car dealers in most states have successfully lobbied for laws preventing automakers from opening company-owned dealerships, which could compete unfairly with independently owned dealers.

Tesla Motors, however, has no franchised dealers–but in many states and nationally, auto-dealer groups are now organizing to prohibit Tesla from selling its cars in any fashion except through independently owned dealers.

Tesla CEO Elon Musk has said the company feels that established dealers who make the bulk of their money from selling gasoline cars would not be properly incentivized to sell its electric cars–which render those gasoline vehicles obsolete.

But auto dealers clearly feel viscerally threatened by the notion that Tesla buyers are not required to use conventional auto dealers. In October, the National Auto Dealers Association said it was seeking a meeting with Tesla to explore “serious concerns about Tesla’s intentions.”

2012 Tesla Model S

2012 Tesla Model S

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Its chairman William Underriner said NADA “has ‘a whole mess of lawyers in Washington’ who work on state franchise laws,” which presumably the dealer group could deploy in every location Tesla seeks to open a store or service facility.

That’s exactly what happened in Colorado in early 2010, when the state dealer group got the law changed. It used to protect franchised dealers from competition by their auto brands; now it flatly bans any automaker from opening any facility, period. Tesla has just a single store in the state, which opened before the law changed.

Meanwhile, though, those electric-car advocates and interested Tesla fans in and around Natick will now be able to go into a local store, learn about the Tesla Model S, and perhaps even order one.

The 2012 Tesla Model S was named the Green Car Reports 2013 Best Car To Buy yesterday.

[hat tip: Boston Tesla owner Robert Stoddard]

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By John Voelcker