Archives for August 31st, 2013
Tesla Motors and Group Lotus have recently announced an extension of their partnership designed to help the EV automaker avoid a potential shortage of its only model, the Roadster.
Tesla was facing at least a one-year hiatus in Roadster production,mostly because oftooling changes at one of its suppliers. In order to help bridge the gap, Tesla approached Lotus about extending the initial production run. As a result, the Lotus factory in Hethel, England, will continue to assemble the Roadster through December of 2011, ultimately producing another 700 cars for a total of 2,400 units. The move will help Tesla fulfill Roadster orders between 2011 and 2012.
As has always been the case, Lotus will continue to produce “gliders” for Tesla. Roadsters are shipped from Hethel to Tesla’s facility in Menlo Park, California, where the batteries, motor, and other powertrain components are installed as part of final assembly.
Although the company will eventually take a break in Roadster production to focus on launching its Model S electric sedan, the Roadster won’t fade into the background. Tesla plans on launching a revised Roadster most likely based on the next-generation Elise, but only after the Model S makes its way into production, which Tesla is targeting for sometime 2012. Of course, they’re going to need to find a factory, first…
As an all-electric luxury sedan, the Tesla Model S is a new type of car. Fittingly, it will be sold in a new type of dealership. In fact, Teslas will not be sold in traditional dealerships at all; they will be sold at mall stores.
“We want to engage with people when they’re not thinking about buying a car,” George Blankenship, Tesla’s sales czar, told CNN. Blankenship, who helped design Apple’s retail stores, thinks potential customers will be easier to convince at the mall, since they aren’t prepared to talk to a salesman. A Model S, which stickers for roughly $60,000 to $100,000 would be quite the impulse buy.
Tesla may be trying to lure disoriented mall shoppers, but its sales pitch will be decidedly low pressure. Shoppers will be allowed to browse, take pictures, and let their kids sit in the cars. That will be a nice change of pace.
The salespeople will not be the stereotypical goniffs, either. “The people in our stores are more likely to be from Nordstrom’s than from a car dealer,” Blankenship told CNN. Since they don’t work on commission, the people manning Tesla’s stores will be less aggressive. Like Saturn, Tesla has a no-haggle sales policy.
Tesla’s mall strategy seems to be more about publicity than moving metal. Blankenship says a typical dealer gets 20 visitors a day, while a typical mall store gets 3,500. However, it is unclear how many of those people would actually plunk down $57,400 to $105,000 for a car.
Since the cars are built to order, the stores will not have inventory. Tesla wants to sell 5,000 Model S sedans by the end of the year, and already has a waiting list 10,000 names long, so the stores will not be under much pressure to meet sales targets.
The stores will also be much smaller than traditional dealerships. Imagine a typical mall store with a couple of cars replacing the clothing displays, and you’ve got the idea. Test drives will take place in parking lots, and customers will be directed to a separate service center once they buy their Teslas.
Sales potential aside, there is also a legal issue with the Tesla-owned mall stores. The first store recently opened in White Plains, New York, a state where it is illegal for car companies to own dealerships. Regardless, Blankenship said the stores, “generally speaking,” comply with all applicable laws.
Tesla may be the first company to set up all of its stores at malls, but the idea of taking cars out of the conventional dealer environment isn’t entirely new. In Paris, Renault, Peugeot, and Citroen have stores that sell nothing but t-shirts and toy cars, but help publicize each company’s full-size models. Certain Ferrari dealers are also amicable toward visitors who are not buying, but just want to see the cars.
What makes Tesla’s approach so novel is that mall stores will comprise its entire dealer network. Will it work? Cars are a lot more expensive than iPods; only one-percenters have the cash to buy a Tesla without really thinking about it. As long as Tesla keeps its sales goals low, that may not be a problem. If it wants to compete with more established car companies, Tesla may have to leave the mall.
Early sales of electric vehicles like the Nissan Leaf and Mitsubishi i-MiEV may have proved underwhelming, but don’t count out the zero-emissions vehicles yet. At the Washington Auto Show, the Department of Energy announced the Workplace Charging Challenge signed by 13 companies including GM, Ford, Chrysler, Tesla, and Google. These companies have pledged to introduce a plan for workplace charging in at least one major company location. The DOE says the ultimate goal over the next five years is to increase tenfold the number of U.S. employers offering charging.
Also ambitious is the related EV-Everywhere Challenge. By the year 2022, the DOE hopes to see companies in the U.S. be the first to manufacture a five-passenger American electric vehicle that’s affordable and has a payback time of less than five years, yet still have a decent range so that families can use it without compromise. Helping to complete that picture will be additional fast-charging options scattered in various urban spaces.
“Having a robust charging infrastructure helps build range confidence, which boosts interest in and use of electric vehicles,” said Brendan Jones, Nissan’s director of electric vehicle marketing and sales strategy.
We’ve already reported on Tesla’s so-called Superchargers, and Nissan this week has announced its plans to add at least 500 quick-charging stations in the U.S. over the next 18 months, starting with 40 eVgo Freedom Station sites in Washington D.C. The sites can provide a Nissan Leaf an 80-percent charge in less than 30 minutes. Service plans offered by eVgo allow users to pay a monthly fee for unlimited charging.
Considering the 2013 Motor Trend Car of the Year is the all-electric Tesla Model S, and the “extended-range electric” Chevrolet Volt earned the golden calipers in 2011, increasing charging infrastructure sounds like a good idea to us. Before a national hydrogen refueling infrastructure gets any traction, perhaps the Workplace Charging Challenge and EV-Everywhere Challenge will help boost sales of electric vehicles.
Source: DOT, GM, Ford, Nissan
By Zach Gale
Last week we reported that Tesla Motors, maker of the of the 2-seater all-electric Tesla Roadster, is serving Top Gear with a libel suit claiming that an episode featuring the sports car contained false and exaggerated criticisms, some of which included failed brakes and an overheated and immobilized motor. A complete explanation of the claim is posted on Tesla’s website.
Recently, Top Gear’s executive producer Andy Wilman responded to the suit in a blog post on the show’s website, providing a detailed counterpoint to each claim.
He starts with the Roadster’s range, claiming the show never refuted the company’s advertised range of 211 miles, but instead boasted a short 55-mile range based on hard track use. He points out that Tesla engineers back in California confirmed their calculations. And when the engine overheated from their testing, Wilman says the show stated the car had “reduced power” while Tesla maintains that they said it was “completely immobilized.” Lastly, Tesla claims that Top Gear lied when they stated the brakes were broken. Though a failed vacuum pump fuse required the driver to push the brake pedal harder than normal, the brakes were still operable. Wilman argues that broken is broken, especially if something requires a visit to the shop for repair.
Wilman says the BBC normally stays quiet while preparing their defense for court, but took the unprecedented step of fighting back since Tesla is “being quite noisy with their views” of the show’s conduct.
Shortly after Wilman issued his take on the matter, Tesla issued its own response.
“Mr. Wilman seems to want Top Gear to be judged neither by what it says, nor by what it does,” corporate representatives wrote on Tesla’s official website. “Top Gear needs to provide its viewers, and Tesla, straightforward answers to these questions.”
Tesla insists it “wants people to know the truth, and correct the public’s misperceptions” of its electric two-seater. Since the episode first aired on December 14, 2008, it has been re-broadcasted on both the BBC, syndication, and several dozen websites. Tesla wants the episode to disappear for good, and is banking on the courts to agree.
At this point, it seems the only point both sides can agree on is this may prove to be a lengthy legal argument…
Source: Tesla, Top Gear
With the imminent launch of the Model S, Tesla have decided to expand their showroom network, with the addition of a 22nd one, in White Plains, New York.
It will definitely not sell as well as on the sunny West Coast, but it’s a good addition for those who would have ordered their cars from the other side of the country – this makes things much easier for them.
This is not the only addition to their line-up of showrooms, with four others planned to be opened this summer, in Santa Monica – California, Scottsdale – Arizona, Portland – Oregon and Miami Beach – Florida.
With the Model S being such a genuinely interesting proposition and alternative to the mainstream mid-sized sedans, we think it will sell very well, and with the addition of the new showrooms, the future looks bright, for Tesla.