Archives for June 25th, 2013
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Electric automaker Tesla Motors pleased investors Wednesday, announcing that their heavily-anticipated Model S sedan will begin delivery this June. It had previously been schedule for July deliveries. Tesla will begin delivering the first Model S sedans as soon as the car passes government crash testing in the coming weeks.
The news boosted Tesla stock by as much as 13% at one point Thursday.
More than 10,000 customers have placed reservations for the Model S, and Tesla expects to deliver about 5,000 of the cars in 2012. Each reservation costs $5,000 (the Model S Signature Performance reservation costs $40,000). Tesla says all reservations are refundable, and you can click here to configure one of your own.
Tesla embarks on its most important launch ever during a shaky time for electric automakers.
Fellow American electric automaker Fisker began delivering their electric-hybrid Karma last year, and plan to build a new SUV model, the Atlantic, soon. Despite a sales rush for the Karma, however, Fisker has hit a bumpy patch financially. They recently fired twelve workersfrom their Delaware plant, where they had released 26 employees earlier. Now, they’ve had a $529 million federal grant suspended and adjusted 2012 sales projections from 15,000 to 10,000.
Tesla knows Fisker’s pain. Their first model, the Lotus-based Roadster, was a performance success but nearly sank the young company financially. After a personal loan from CEO Elon Musk, it still took hundreds of millions in Department of Energy grants and heavy investment from Daimler just to bring the Model S to production.
The Model S figures to be another on-road superstar. The base Model S, powered by 40 kWh batteries, is expected to reach 0-60 mph in 5.6 seconds with a charged range of 300 miles. A 60 kWh battery setup is also available, and the 85 kWh drivetrain could be as fast as 4.4 seconds from 0-60 mph.
But Model S delivery hardly means Tesla is in the financial clear. The company reported a $89.9 million net loss in Q1 2012, compared to a $48.9 million loss in the same period 2011. Revenue fell to $30.2 million, down from $49 million in 2011. The figures are largely based on the fact that sales of the Roadster recently finished.
Tesla expects that about 90% of the year’s revenue will come from Model S sales, and the decision to move deliveries up to June prompted them to adjust their 2012 revenue outlook. Tesla boosted their prediction from $550 million to $560-600 million.
Unlike the Roadster, the Model S is Tesla-made from the ground up, and will serve as a barometer for the health of Tesla in the future.
We know we’ve already announced it, but it bears repeating: the Tesla Model S is the 2013 Automobile Magazine Automobile of the Year. The car’s blend of electric-car smoothness and efficiency, gas-powered car range and power/torque, and sleek interior and exterior design won our hearts (and our votes) early last month during three days of testing in western Michigan, besting some 27 other competitors along the way…both on the road and at the track.
You can read more about the Tesla Model S — and the award – by clicking here, but we’ve also got a condensed, visual version, and it’s our Feature Flick this morning. Watch as road test editor Chris Nelson threads the Tesla Model S through Chicago traffic and explains each and every reason why we at Automobile love this car so much.
In addition to naming the Tesla Model S our Automobile of the Year, we gave out four more awards for Man, Technology, Design, and Racing Car of the Year. The Nissan DeltaWing enthralled us so much this year that we resurrected our old RCoY award just to give it to the futuristic, lightweight racer. The Porsche Boxster finally let its exterior curves and creases match its sporting character, finally making it the true 550 Spyder successor it was always supposed to be…and our Design of the Year winner. The 2013 Technology of the Year might be a generic one–cameras–but recent developments in technology have allowed the humble lens-and-sensor duo to save lives and prevent property damage while also being more reliable than equivalent radar/ultrasonic sensor setups. The 2013 Man of the Year–Chrysler/Fiat’s Sergio Marchionne–was a no-brainer. After spending years in turmoil with inconsistent products, Chrysler is finally back thanks to Marchionne’s dramatic (and occasionally controversial) turnaround.
And our award winners have good company: we’ve named about 90 men, technologies, designs, and automobiles over the past 22 years (the awards as we know them were created in 1990).
Read about our former Automobile of the Year winners by clicking here.
Read about our former Design of the Year winners by clicking here.
Read about our former Man of the Year winners by clicking here.
Read about our former Technology of the Year winners by clicking here.
By Ben Timmins
How do you improve on the Tesla Model S’ signature good looks? Maybe by lopping two doors off.
That’s what self-styled “automotive manipulator” Theophilus Chin did, in Photoshop, that is. Chin apparently wasn’t satisfied with the Model S wagon he unveiled back in January.
The result is an all-electric two-door that still seats four and looks pretty good.
That’s not surprising, because the real Model S already has the makings of a coupe. It’s low roofline and classic long-hood, short-rear-deck proportions are part of the current styling trend of “four-door coupes,” or sedans with coupe-like profiles.
Taking two doors off further enhances those features. The long hood and muscular haunches give the virtual Model S coupe a hint of Aston Martin Vantage or Maserati GranTurismo.
Thanks to its flat battery pack and Porsche 911-like front trunk, the four-door Model S is actually quite roomy despite its low roofline. A coupe would be similarly spacious relative to other cars in its class.
In fact, the only drawback might be that this hypothetical Tesla conceals its electric powertrain too well.
Like the Model S sedan, the coupe is a slavish copy of popular automotive styling cues, but there’s nothing especially creative about it. It looks fantastic, but there’s nothing to mark it as the revolutionary car that it is.
Still, we’d consider buying a Model S coupe over a sedan if we could, and we probably wouldn’t be alone.
The Model S is roughly the same size as a BMW 5 Series, and starts in the middle of the 5’s price range. BMW offers a 5 Series coupe, the 6 Series, so why shouldn’t Tesla?
For now, the Model S coupe exists only in pixels, but if Tesla ever wants to expand its lineup, the coupe would be a logical choice.
What do you think of the Model S coupe’s styling? Tell us in the comments.
Tesla’s retail store concept
Score one for startup carmakers trying to do things differently.
Last Friday, a judge denied a request by the Massachusetts State Automobile Dealers Association for an injunction that would have shut down the Tesla Store in Natick, which opened on September 28.
If the dealers’ request had been granted, Tesla Motors [NSDQ:TSLA] would have been allowed to use its premises only for “an unstaffed display of a locked automobile.”
Like all Tesla Stores, the Natick outlet has staff who educate consumers about electric cars and its new Model S all-electric sport sedan.
The stores are modeled after the much-lauded and very successful Apple Stores. The staff are not salespeople, Tesla says, and are not paid on commission.
All sales are conducted online between the buyer and the company itself.
The Massachusetts dealers sued Tesla on October 16, after expressing their opposition to the Natick store in June, well before it opened.
Local selectmen had approved the store’s license, but the dealers first claimed that Tesla had no plans for service facilities on site, which is required for dealerships.
The Massachusetts dealers are far from giving up, however.
Robert O’Koniewski, the state group’s executive vice president, told Automotive News that “dropping the lawsuit is not an option at this point.”
While the group hasn’t yet decided how to proceed, he added, it still feels that Tesla is illegally operating a factory store outside the state’s franchise and license laws.
Tesla CEO Elon Musk weighed in with a conciliatory statement last month.
Musk argued that company stores were necessary because existing dealers earn the bulk of their profits from gasoline cars–and hence would not be able to educate consumers on the benefits of electric cars.
In respect to a pair of lawsuits filed by dealers against Tesla Motors, he said the company feels they are “starkly contrary to the spirit and the letter of the law.”
Musk pledged that the company follows existing state laws to the letter. “We do not seek to change those rules,” he wrote, “and we have taken great care not to act in a manner contrary to those rules.”
Tesla Store – Portland OR
Dealer groups have been able to enact laws in 48 states that prohibit carmakers from operating their own sales outlets that would compete with existing franchised dealers.
As a startup, Tesla has no franchised dealers, so it is not competing with anyone.
Threatened dealer groups, however, have fought the Tesla Store model on many fronts.
In Colorado, for example, the local dealer group changed the state law on dealerships in 2010.
The previous law had protected existing franchises from factory competition; the revised wording flatly banned any automaker from operating any dealership or sales outlet.
The National Automobile Dealers Association said last month in a statement that it “is confident [Tesla] will re-examine its business model” as its sales grow, to “recognize the value of the independent, franchised dealer system.”