Archives for July 18th, 2013

Tesla Model S Price Increase Coming, But For New Buyers Only

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

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

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Much of economics is simple: Makers of desirable, popular products can raise their prices–to some degree.

One example: Tesla Motors [NSDQ:TSLA] confirmed in a blog post yesterday that it would raise prices on its 2013 Tesla Model S all-electric sport sedan in the next two or three weeks.

But, Tesla hastened to add, that will apply only to new orders placed after a certain date–not to the prices of more than 13,000 Model S cars on which buyers have already placed deposits.

Reservation holders who have deferred the process of finalizing their configuration will have, the company says, a “fair, predefined time frame” to finalize their car’s configuration and complete their order before they become subject to the higher prices.

The 2012 Tesla Model S is by far the most successful product launched by any of the new venture-funded startup carmakers, a universe that includes not only Tesla but also Fisker Automotive, Coda Automotive, and a few tiny companies with products far from the mainstream.

Part of the price increase may come from making certain standard Model S features or equipment into extra-cost options, Tesla said, though it did not give any examples.

The price increase serves two purposes: It lets Tesla lock down more sales and understand how those cars will be configured before they’re built, and it boosts the incremental profit per vehicle of future sales.

As Tesla gears up its production toward the goal of 400 Model S cars per week, it is likely consuming a prodigious amount of cash.

Not only must it fund its current operations, it must complete development of the Model X crossover, start work on a new, smaller model line, and continue to open more Tesla Stores and service locations.

All of that costs money.

Milan's Tesla Store Opens up

Milan’s Tesla Store Opens up

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Converting deposits to sales, and–even more importantly–realizing the maximum profit from every sold vehicle becomes vitally important if the company is to survive financially. And a price increase helps the company move toward that goal.

It’s worth noting that Tesla has precedent for such an increase; in 2008, with the recession getting worse, CEO Elon Musk told buyers who’d put down deposits on its Roadster sports car that they would have to pay more for the cars they’d ordered but not yet received.

The scene in which Musk makes the announcement at a tense meeting of Tesla depositors is recorded in last year’s documentary, Revenge of the Electric Car.

But Tesla, it seems, has learned from its mistakes: This time, as noted, the price increase applies only to new buyers.

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By John Voelcker

Tesla Motors Teases Model X Electric SUV – Rumor Central

Tesla Motors Teases Model X Electric SUV

Tesla Motors, the electric car startup, plans to launch a new vehicle called the Model X. Based on a dark teaser photo accompanied by the tagline “Utility meets performance”, we believe the Model X will be an all-electric SUV. It will be revealed Thursday, February 9, in California.

We don’t really know anything about the Model X, although lightening the teaser image with the wizardry of Photoshop reveals a curved hooded, sloping roofline, and oval front grille opening. The Model X’s lines are reminiscent of those found on the company’s forthcoming Model S large hatchback. Furthermore, Tesla CEO Elon Musk wrote on his Twitter feed that, “Most cars are pretty blah. This is not.”

As with the company’s Lotus-based Roadster and long-awaited Model, we expect the Model X to use a proprietary all-electric powertrain developed by Tesla. This won’t be the first time Tesla has dabbled with building an SUV: the company previously partnered with Toyota to build an electrified RAV4.

Sources: Tesla, Twitter




By Jake Holmes

Tesla Model S Vs Chevy Volt: Owner Compares Electric Cars

2011 Chevrolet Volt and 2013 Tesla Model S [photo: David Noland]

2011 Chevrolet Volt and 2013 Tesla Model S [photo: David Noland]

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I’ve been leasing a 2011 Chevrolet Volt for almost two years now. And about three months ago, I took delivery of a 2013 Tesla Model S, the 60-kWh version.

So I’ve gotten an extended first-hand look at arguably the two most technically advanced production cars in the U.S.–and the two best-selling plug-ins so far in 2013.

Although not precisely comparable–the Tesla is pure electric, while the Volt has a range-extending gas engine to back up its battery–driving the two cars back-to-back on a daily basis has highlighted the pluses and minuses of each.

So how do they stack up against each other? And which do I prefer?

The Tesla, But…..

The bottom line, of course, is which car I choose to drive when I walk out to my driveway each morning. 

By this measure, the Tesla  almost always wins.  It’s hard to resist the sleek, powerful, head-turning Model S, which Consumer Reports recently raved about–saying it “performs better than any car we’ve ever tested.”

The Volt has been mostly relegated to duty as my 17-year-old daughter’s student-driver car, as well as an occasional long-distance back-up for trips beyond the Tesla’s range. (My wife, a fanatical stick-shift devotee,  stubbornly clings to her 2008 Mini Cooper.)

But that doesn’t mean the Volt isn’t a great car.  At half the price, it’s damn near as good as the Model S in a lot of ways–and superior in a few. 

In fact, driving the Tesla has only confirmed my long-standing appreciation for the Volt.

So how do they compare?  Let’s count the ways.

Performance

No surprise here: The Tesla outperforms the Volt.

The Model S has more than double the electric horsepower of the Volt (302 to 149). Its 0-to-60-mph time of  5.9 seconds blows away the Volt’s 9.0-second number.  Top speed is 120 mph, compared to the Volt’s 100 mph.

When I take friends for rides, the Tesla’s seamless, silent, ear-flattening acceleration always elicits the same reaction: giddy, uncontrolled laughter.

“Like a roller-coaster ride,” one friend commented. The Volt can’t come close to matching the Tesla’s balls-to-the-wall fun factor.

But you know what? In normal real-world driving, the Volt in Sport mode feels nearly as peppy and responsive as the Tesla. More so, in some circumstances.



2011 Chevrolet Volt and 2013 Tesla Model S [photo: David Noland]

2011 Chevrolet Volt and 2013 Tesla Model S [photo: David Noland]

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While the Volt has only half the  power of the Tesla, it puts out only a bit less peak torque (273 lb-ft to the Tesla’s 317 lb-ft). Adjust for the Volt’s lighter weight (3780 lbs vs. 4650 lbs for the Model S), and the Volt actually has a better torque-to-weight ratio.

And because of its more aggressive low-end throttle mapping in Sport mode, the Volt actually feels more responsive pulling away from a traffic light than the Tesla.

(We’re assuming light-to-moderate pedal pressure, typical of everyday driving. When you floor it, of course, the Tesla blows the doors off the Volt.)

Whenever I transition from Tesla to Volt, my first few take-offs in the Volt tend to be a bit jumpy as I adjust to its more responsive accelerator.  And when I go back to the Tesla, it feels a little lethargic pulling away from a stop in normal driving.

So, yes, on paper, the Tesla far outperforms the Volt.  But in normal every-day driving, the Volt feels surprisingly close.

Ride and Handling

Let me be up front about this: I am not a high-performance driver. I don’t go screeching around twisty mountain roads. The only four-wheel drift I’ve ever done was in an icy parking lot at 20 mph.  Heel-and-toe? I read about it once.

So my opinions here apply to my comparatively sedate everyday driving–a bit faster and more aggressive than your average shmo on the road, perhaps, but well short of the aggression of the typical car-magazine test drive.

With that behind us, I have to say I don’t notice a lot of difference between the ride and handling of the two cars.

Both have a heavy, solid, smooth feel.

Both steer with alacrity and precision. (Among the Model S’s three options for  steering feel–Comfort, Normal, and Sport–I typically use Comfort mode.)

Both cruise smoothly over typical bumps with a muted rumble.

And both are exceptional highway cruisers.

My sense is that the Model S’s air suspension makes its ride a tad firmer than the Volt’s.  At times the Tesla seems just a bit harsh; I’d like to see an adjustable suspension with a slightly softer (as well as a sportier) option.

In terms of ride and handling, both cars are superb in normal driving. I’d call it a toss-up.

Comfort

As a  bigger car, the Tesla has more interior space for driver and passengers.

By my tape measure, Tesla front-seat riders have about two inches more shoulder room. The advantage tapers to an inch in back.



2011 Chevrolet Volt and 2013 Tesla Model S [photo: David Noland]

2011 Chevrolet Volt and 2013 Tesla Model S [photo: David Noland]

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The Volt’s big drawback in comfort is its limited rear-seat knee room.  I’m 6’2″, so when I push the driver’s seat all the way back, the poor soul sitting behind me is likely to have his knees crushed. In the Tesla, there’s sufficient–though hardly copious–space for adult kneecaps in the rear, no matter how tall the driver.

Rear-seat headroom, however, is another matter. My head makes hard contact with the Model S headliner in the back, requiring a slight slouch. In the Volt, on the other hand, I can sit fully upright in the back with only a few wisps of hair brushing the ceiling. Score one for the Volt.

But with this single exception–a tall guy in the back seat–all my passengers much prefer the Tesla.

For the driver, I’ve found, the question is not so clear-cut.

Once in the driver’s seat, I find both cars quite comfortable. The seats are comparable. The Tesla feels more spacious, but it’s mostly a visual effect. Some may even prefer the more intimate cockpit of the Volt. Call it a toss-up.

But getting in and out of the two cars?  Definitely not a toss-up. For a tall, creaky guy like me, climbing into the Tesla–with its low roofline, swooping windshield, and narrow door opening–is a pain in the butt (or in my case, the neck and back).

Whenever I transition to the Volt, with its wider door opening, I breathe a huge sigh of relief as I slip much more easily into the driver’s seat.

Overall verdict on comfort: Tesla by a nose, with an asterisk for tall drivers and tall rear-seat passengers.

2011 Chevrolet Volt and 2013 Tesla Model S [photo: David Noland]

2011 Chevrolet Volt and 2013 Tesla Model S [photo: David Noland]

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2011 Chevrolet Volt and 2013 Tesla Model S [photo: David Noland]

2011 Chevrolet Volt and 2013 Tesla Model S [photo: David Noland]

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Utility

The compact Volt, with its battery pack running down the middle of the car, is strictly a four-seater. The Tesla is touted as a 5+2, with the option of two rear-facing child seats in the cargo compartment under the hatchback.

Without the kid seats, the rear cargo area is huge. With back seats folded down, it becomes humongous. And then there’s the front trunk–which Tesla insists on calling a “frunk”–an auxiliary cargo space where the Volt stashes….an engine.

For me, the question of utility is mostly academic. In two years, I’ve had to leave behind a fifth passenger in the Volt maybe twice. I’ve not yet had occasion to use anywhere near the Tesla’s available cargo space. (In fact, I’ve yet to use the front trunk at all.)

And through an accident of geometry, it turns out that my extra-large size mountain bike slips into the Volt more easily than into the Tesla, due to its marginally wider hatchback opening.

The way I keep score, the Tesla’s advantage hauling a rare fifth passenger is balanced by the Volt’s bike-carrying advantage. I’d call it even. But the Tesla becomes the obvious choice if you’re always hauling lots of stuff, or regularly transporting that fifth passenger.

Range

In terms of ultimate utility, the elephant in the garage is the Tesla’s limited range and slow “refueling” time. Until the Tesla Supercharger quick-charging-station system is fully in place, the Model S simply doesn’t work for me on trips more than 180 miles.

To the chagrin of hard-core electric-car proponents, I’ve always believed that there has to be a gas engine in the family somewhere. After three months of owning a Volt and a Tesla, I’ve not changed my view.

Yeah, I know: Plug-in devotees have taken Teslas on long cross-country trips. Hooray for them.

Frankly, I’m not willing to plan my whole trip around finding charging stations.

Case in point: a recent overnight visit to a friend 200 miles away. Theoretically, this is within the car’s EPA range of 208 miles. Am I willing to cut it this close? No chance.

But suppose I had managed to get there, cruising at 55 mph with A/C off. And suppose I’d found a charging station somewhere nearby. That still means the friend has to come pick me up at the station, then drop me off the next morning.

Why not just plug in at my friend’s house?  No way: To charge the Tesla’s 60-kWh battery fully from a standard 110-Volt outlet takes two full days.

So my trip was a no-brainer: Take the Volt.

In three months of Tesla ownership, I’ve now made four trips where I had to take the Volt.



2011 Chevrolet Volt and 2013 Tesla Model S [photo: David Noland]

2011 Chevrolet Volt and 2013 Tesla Model S [photo: David Noland]

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Until the day that Superchargers are installed at 150-mile intervals along the New York State Thruway and New Jersey Turnpike, “Take the Volt” will be a familiar refrain in my household.

Range Loss in Winter

The Chevy Volt suffers a fairly dramatic loss of electric range in winter. In my experience, it drops from 40-plus miles in summer to as low as 25 miles when the temperature falls to the teens. That’s about a 40-percent loss.

If you do the math, the Volt uses about 250 Watt-hours per mile in summer, and 400 in winter. Annual average: 320 Wh/mi.

Since I’ve never run the Tesla’s battery down to zero–and hope never to do so–I can’t pinpoint actual range. But the car does report its efficiency. In February, I averaged about 360 Watt-hours per mile, compared to about 320 Wh so far in May, a difference of just 11 percent.

I expect  efficiency to keep improving as the weather warms up. Whether the ultimate difference is 12 percent or 15 percent, it’s still a huge improvement over the Volt. Tesla engineers are clearly the unchallenged masters of battery management.

Overall, the way I drive it, it looks like the Tesla’s annual efficiency will average about 320 Wh/mi–virtually the same as the Volt. 

My results match the EPA numbers fairly closely:  35 kW/100 mile for the Tesla, 36 for the Volt. (Multiply by 10 to get Wh/mile.)

Considering that the Tesla is almost half a ton heavier and has better performance, that’s a big win for the Model S.

Random Things I Like Better About the Volt

*Tire-pressure monitoring system.

The Volt has an on-demand readout of current pressure in each tire.

The Tesla, by contrast, has only a crude  “Tire pressure too low” or Tire pressure too high” warning that comes on when necessary.

I’ve also been getting  ”Check tire-pressure monitoring system” alerts. (My Tesla service guy assures me these are spurious.)

*Center Console

The Volt has a standard console with both open and closed storage spaces. The Tesla has only an armrest, with two cup holders that appear when the armrest is slid back.

The Tesla’s open floor between front passengers’ knees gives a feeling of spaciousness, but there’s no place to put stuff.

Sunglasses, wallet, insurance card, driving glasses, 5-Hour Energy shots, and the like simply get thrown on the floor. There are low rails that prevent stuff from sliding around, but it looks messy.

So I recently purchased a Center Console Insert (CCI) from an independent company called Teslaccessories. It snaps into place between the floor rails and provides a better-placed cupholder and a small closed storage area. It’s a big improvement.

Tesla is readying its own factory drop-in center console, which its website says is “coming soon.”  

Not soon enough, if you ask me.



2011 Chevrolet Volt and 2013 Tesla Model S [photo: David Noland]

2011 Chevrolet Volt and 2013 Tesla Model S [photo: David Noland]

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*Regenerative braking system

Both cars have two regen settings: a “Normal” that feels like a standard gas car when you back of the accelerator, and a more aggressive setting that slows the car rapidly and pumps more energy back into the battery.

In the Volt, the settings are selected by the gear lever: D for the standard setting, L for the aggressive one.  It’s easy and intuitive to flick back and forth between the two settings, depending on traffic and hills. It’s actually a lot of fun, like downshifting in a stick-shift gas car.

The Tesla, on the other hand, requires the driver to change regen settings through the touch screen. Typically, it takes up to three taps to find the right screen and make the change. That rules out on-the-fly adjustments.

The Volt regen system has a further advantage over the Tesla: It’s not affected by cold weather.  In the Model S, the aggressive regen is limited below about 50 degrees and turned off altogether below about 30 degrees until the battery warms up. This can take as long as 20 or 30 miles of driving.

*Battery state-of-charge indicator

The Volt’s 10-bar State of Charge (SoC) gauge is a bit crude, but it’s better than the Tesla’s vague sliding bar, which has no delineation whatsoever.

Virtually all electric cars have SoC indicators of some sort–even the cheapest one available, the 2013 Smart ForTwo Electric Drive, has a nice little dial that that reads down to 1 percentage point. It’s bizarre that the super-expensive, cutting-edge Model S lags so far behind in this respect.

Random Things I Like Better About the Tesla

*Dashboard touch screen.

No doubt about it, the 17-inch touch screen in the Tesla Model S is way better than  the Volt’s tiny screen and confusing welter of buttons.

The Tesla screen’s many virtues are well known, so I won’t go over them here. Suffice it to say that anything else seems utterly primitive by comparison.

*Getting software updates

In almost two years, I’ve gotten one upgrade on the Volt–which required taking it in to the dealer. (I waited for a regular service appointment to get the upgrade.)

In three months with the Tesla, I’ve gotten two software upgrades, both remotely over the car’s 3-G wireless connection.

Remote is better. Duh.

Bottom Line

If I could keep just one car, which would it be?

I guess if you put a gun to my head, I would reluctantly give up the Volt.

The style, performance, and overall pizzazz of the Model S are simply too compelling to give up.

The Tesla’s charms would far outweigh the annoyance of having to rent a noisy gas-guzzling combustion-engined car for long trips.

Decision point: Sept 2014

Fortunately, no one is putting a gun to my head. I’ll definitely be keeping both cars until September 2014, when the Volt lease expires.

By that time, hopefully, there will be a full network of Superchargers around the Northeast (and the rest of the country).

When that happens, the Model S will finally be in a position to make its case as the best car in the world.

David Noland is a Tesla Model S owner and freelance writer who lives north of New York City.

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By David Noland

Fisker vs. Tesla: Two cutting-edge cars, two embattled companies

fisker tesla header

With their green powertrains and luxury aspirations, the Fisker Karma plug-in hybrid and Tesla Model S EV are natural rivals.

But will either brand survive?

With the sudden departure Wednesday by Fisker Automotive founder and figurehead Henrik Fisker from his struggling and stalled car company, not to mention Tesla’s own recent high-profile PR flaps (which we’ll get to in a minute), it’s time to take stock of the history of both car companies and more importantly, look at what may lie ahead for two of the standout start-ups in the high-end EV car market.

The visions

Like most upstart car companies, Fisker and Tesla are the brainchildren of dedicated individuals. These two men have added their names to a long list that includes John Z. DeLorean, Preston Tucker, and Malcolm Bricklin. 

…Both cars look gorgeous, but the Karma deserves the nod for its originality in both exterior and interior design.

Fisker is the namesake of Henrik Fisker, a well-known car designer whose most famous works include the BMW Z8 and Aston Martin DB9. Before entering the luxury green car game, Fisker started Fisker Coachbuild, which made custom-bodied versions of the BMW 6 Series and Mercedes-Benz SL.

After making a fortune off online banking giant PayPal (now part of eBay), Elon Musk turned his attention to electric cars, founding Tesla Motors in 2003. He’s also the founder of SpaceX, whose Dragon capsule was the first private spacecraft to dock at the International Space Station.

From these disparate origins came two cars, the Fisker Karma and Tesla Model S, that are remarkably similar in purpose. Both were designed to be stylish, fast, and practical luxury cars that just happen to be better for the environment. However, they don’t just have to compete with each other; they also have to take on an industry that does not welcome newcomers.

The cars

Fisker and Tesla are car companies after all, not ego exercises. So how do the Karma and Model S stack up?




The Karma is powered by a 2.0-liter gasoline inline-four, with turbocharging and direct injection, two electric motors, and a 20.1-kWh lithium-ion battery pack. The Model S’ just has an electric motor and a battery pack, but the size of that pack depends on which model the buyer chooses. Tesla sells the car with 40, 60, and 85-kWh packs, which determine the car’s price and performance.

Fisker says the Karma will reach 60 mph in 6.3 seconds and hit a top speed of 125 mph. Tesla quotes a 4.4 second 0 to 60 mph time and 130 mph top speed for the top 85-kWh Model S Performance; a base 40-kWh car takes 6.5 seconds and tops out at 110 mph.

The EPA rates the Karma at 54 MPGE combined and, not surprisingly, it’s beaten by the all-electric Model S’ 89 MPGe. The Model S also beats the Karma on range, if buyers are willing to pay: the 85-kWh Model S has an EPA-rated 265-mile range, surpassing the Karma’s electric (33-mile) and total (240-mile) ranges.

The cheaper 40 and 60-kWh Model S variants have shorter 160 and 230-mile ranges, respectively. That base Model S starts at $59,900, but the max-range, max-speed 85-kWh Performance model starts at $94,900. All Teslas are eligible for a $7,500 federa tax credit.

fisker karma solar panel 4




The one flavor of Karma starts at $96,850, but loaded models cost $109,850. It’s also eligible for the $7,500 federal tax credit.

On the subjective side, both cars look gorgeous, but the Karma deserves the nod for its originality in both exterior and interior design. However, the Model S’ 17-inch touchscreen makes techies drool, and a completely flat floor and front trunk make the Tesla more practical.

The problems

Fisker and Tesla have each built a compelling (if expensive) product, and if that was all that mattered, the two companies would be on equal footing. Designing a dream car is one thing, building and marketing it is another.

Fisker brought the Karma to market first, but any advantage it could have gleaned from that was quickly eliminated by quality-control issues. In December 2011, Fisker recalled 239 cars to fix a potential coolant leak problem, only to have battery supplier A123 Systems fix the batteries again after Consumer Reports’ test car refused to start.

fisker karma motion

Things got worse from there. In May 2012, a Karma burned to the ground in Sugarland, Texas, taking a garage with it. Another, smaller fire in California forced a recall of 1,900 Karmas.

Fisker isn’t making any cars right now, because A123 Systems is bankrupt. The carmaker was negotiating its contract with A123’s new owners. Then comes news on Wednesday that founder Henrik Fisker has stepped down from the company. The future of the enterprise has never looked bleaker.

Tesla has had its share of issues, too. CEO Elon Musk started a very public argument with the New York Times after one of the paper’s reporters attempted to drive from Washington, D.C. to Boston using Tesla’s Supercharger fast-charging stations, only to end up on the back of a tow truck. While there are many opinions on who was right, the feud made Musk look silly and cast some doubt over the Model S’ ability to tackle long distance cruises.

tesla model s ev silver sunset

Also, while no Teslas have caught fire yet, there have been a few quality issues. Jalopnik perused the Tesla Motors Club forums, and found hundreds of posts about unresponsive touch screens, spontaneously opening doors, and other maladies. Tesla says most of these issues can be fixed remotely with software updates.

To be clear, both companies have delivered roughly the same amount of cars to customers, although the Karma has been on sale longer. Just under 2,000 Karmas have been delivered since mid 2011, while Tesla delivered 2,650 units in 2012, most arriving in customer hands between August and December.

The timing

Tesla’s quality problems are minor compared to Fisker’s, though. The unreliability of A123 Systems has hurt the latter company, while Tesla builds nearly every component of the Model S itself. But Tesla’s experience might be its true advantage.

The Model S is Tesla’s second car. For it’s first car, the Roadster, Tesla did as much outsourcing as Fisker. The Roadster was based on another car, the Lotus Elise; all Tesla did was convert it to run on electricity.

tesla roadster

The Roadster didn’t have a stellar quality record either. It was subject to a phenomenon called “bricking,” where letting the battery fully drain effectively seized the electric motor to the axle, making the car nearly impossible to move. Tesla chalked the problem up to operator error, saying it was the EV equivalent of driving a gasoline car without changing the oil. However, it didn’t clearly warn owners about the problem beforehand.

…The most encouraging part of the story might be that both companies have firm plans for the future.

So neither company’s first attempt was perfect, and neither car was meant to sell in large numbers. Tesla Communications Manager Shanna Hendricks told us that the Roadster was Tesla’s attempt to attract attention to the electric car as a concept, creating a ready base of enthusiasm for the brand while the Model S was developed.

Fisker Senior Director, Global Corporate Communications and PR Roger Ormisher said roughly the same thing about the Karma, describing it as an “icon product” that was never meant to be a big seller.

It’s also difficult to fault Fisker for the suppliers it chose. Valmet Automotive, which assembles the Karma in Finland, built the Porsche Boxster and Cayman until recently and has the contract to assemble the new Mercedes-Benz A-Class.

Prior to its implosion, A123 Systems was a well-regarded battery manufacturer with contracts to build electric car batteries for BMW and General Motors.

The future

Fisker and Tesla are two companies with impressive products and somewhat shoddy track records, which makes them sound a bit like DeLorean, Tucker, and Bricklin. With that in mind, the most encouraging part of the story might be that both companies have firm plans for the future.

The Fisker Atlantic will be cheaper and will compete more directly with the Model S and established luxury cars like the BMW 5 Series. It will feature the same “electric vehicle-extended range (EV-ER)” plug-in powertrain as the Karma, but with a BMW 2.0-liter inline-four as the range extender. It should be closer to the 5 Series in price as well.

The Atlantic is still 18 to 24 months out, and in the meantime Fisker is seeking a strategic alliance with a larger company that could provide it with cash or other resources needed to complete the car.

fisker model x




Fisker had secured a $529 million U.S. Department of Energy loan guarantee contingent on building the Atlantic at an ex-GM plant in Delaware, but the DOE stopped issuing checks after Fisker failed to meet certain milestones.

Tesla plans to launch the Model X, and SUV with vertically-hinged “Falcon doors.” They’re supposed to give the Model X, which is based on the Model S’ chassis, the utility of a minivan without uncool sliding doors.

However, Tesla recently pushed the Model X’s debut back to 2014. It has nothing to do with a lack of funds: Tesla says it will repay its $465 million DOE loan five years ahead of schedule. The company says its wants to further promote the Model S before launching its SUV.

The end?

Fisker began 2013 with deeper financial and PR scars than Tesla, but that doesn’t mean Elon Musk should be doing a victory lap.

Despite Fisker’s missteps (and Henrik bailing out), it would be unwise to discount the appeal of the Karma’s plug-in hybrid tech. Just look at the Chevrolet Volt, which clobbered the all-electric Nissan Leaf in sales last year.

Then there’s the real competition: BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Audi, and other established luxury brands. EVs and hybrids have their share of early adopters, but convincing mainstream customers to gamble on an untested brand peddling (relatively) untested tech will be tough.

The story of Fisker and Tesla, then, isn’t just about who has the better car. It’s that building a car company isn’t easy, something John DeLorean, Preston Tucker, and Malcolm Bricklin knew all too well.

  • Related article: Is there an EV answer in Britain?

We want to hear from you: Would you buy a car from either of these companies? Why or why not? What’s your opinion on their future and the future of electric/hybrid vehicles as a whole? Leave a comment below.

By Stephen Edelstein