Lawsuits filed against Tesla stores in NY, MA

tesla roadster in retail store



Questions about the legality of Tesla selling its electric vehicles in its own retail stores have been floating around since the days of the Roadster. Last week, the recent wranglings between auto dealer associations and Tesla stores in New York and Massachusetts were moved along in courts of law, proving once again that EVs won’t arrive without hassle.



Specifically, Automotive News reports, the Massachusetts State Automobile Dealers Association (MSADA) has filed a complaint in the Norfolk County Superior Court over the Boston-area Matick Mall Tesla store. A hearing over a potential preliminary injunction is supposed to take place this week. In this state – and others that prevent factories from owning dealerships – you can’t technically purchase a Tesla in a Tesla store. Instead, potential buyers are told to place an order on the Tesla website. Tesla says this complies with local laws. Some local dealers obviously disagree. Robert O’Koniewski, MSADA executive vice president, told AN, “They claim they’re operating under the guise of a non-sales showroom, and we call that out as an outright scam.”



Over in the Empire State, Tesla was sued in New York State Supreme Court both by the Greater New York Automobile Dealers Association and a dealer member. Here, one of the claims against Tesla is that stores owned by automakers are participating in an unfair fight, since small dealerships don’t have as big a budget for advertising and store improvements.



In 2010, the president of the Colorado Automobile Dealers Association said his feeling, “is that a manufacturer-owned store as a business model violates the spirit of the state law here. But not a single person is complaining about it, and it’s kind of a back-burner thing for us. I imagine that if we start getting complaints from our membership, we would move it up to a front-burner thing.” Guess which burner is turned on now?

By Sebastian Blanco

Tesla’s East Coast Superchargers Allow Boston to Washington Travel

Tesla’s East Coast Superchargers Allow Boston to Washington Travel

Tesla Motors’ range-extending Supercharger recharging stations have officially opened up on the East Coast allowing Boston to Washington, D.C. travel, The New York Times reports.

Tesla Supercharger station 300x167 imagePlaced along the highly-trafficked Northeast Corridor, the new Supercharger stations will allow a Tesla Model S with the 85 kW-h big battery (giving it an EPA-estimated 265 mile range) make the trip from Boston to Washington, D.C. As is the case on the West Coast, Tesla’s new East Coast Supercharger stations aren’t placed in big cities like New York or Baltimore; rather they’re placed along I-95 in Milford, Conn. and Wilmington, Del.

Owners of Model S’ with the mid-range 60 kw-h battery pack and 208-mile EPA-estimated range should have just enough juice to make it from Boston to D.C. utilizing the Supercharger network, though they’ll likely be cutting it rather close.

The new Milford and Wilmington Supercharger stations join Tesla’s five West Coast stations, which are strategically placed to allow all-electric travel between Lake Tahoe, Las Vegas, Los Angeles and San Francisco.

Tesla’s Supercharger stations allow Model S owners to add about 150 to 160 miles of range to their EVs in about 30 minutes. Owners of electric vehicles like the Nissan Leaf or even the Tesla Roadster excited about making an emission-less trip from Beantown to the Beltway need not apply; the Supercharger stations use a proprietary plug that currently works only with the Model S sedan.

As is the case on the West Coast, Tesla’s Supercharger stations are free for Model S owners to use. Tesla reportedly hopes to expand its Supercharger footprint with a few more stations on the Northeast Corridor in the near future.

Source: The New York Times

By Christian Seabaugh

Toyota shows off RAV4 EV’s eco tricks with new videos





If a picture paints a thousand words, Toyota’s hoping that a couple videos do a little better than that for its RAV4 Electric Vehicle.



The Japanese automaker recently released a couple of videos touting the EV and its evolution through the company’s partnership with Tesla Motors. The first five-plus-minute video features engineers discussing the benefits of collaborating with Tesla, including software advancements and battery technology that complemented Toyota’s engine-packaging expertise.



The other video, clocking in at almost five minutes, delves into the issue of aerodynamics and how engineers cut drag coefficient in an effort to boost range and chip away at drivers’ potential feelings of “range anxiety.” Toyota used its sleekest wheels, tires and headlamp lenses while customizing the front facia, adding a rear spoiler, removing the roof rack and smoothing out the underbody in order to allow the SUV to better cut the wind.



Toyota, which first announced the RAV4 EV in 2010, said in May that the SUV will have a 100-mile single-charge range and will be priced at $49,800, with sales starting by the end of this year. Initial markets will be contained to California and Toyota is only expecting to make and sell around 2,600 vehicles during the first three years.



You can see the videos below.

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By Danny King

Tesla Model X Production Won’t Start Until Late 2014

The Tesla Model X at the 2013 Detroit auto show.Paul Sancya/Associated Press The Tesla Model X at the 2013 Detroit auto show.

Tesla Motors has confirmed that production of its all-wheel-drive Model X electric crossover will begin in late 2014, a year later than the company had originally announced. The revised timing was described in the company’s Form 10-K filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission last Thursday.

When Tesla first revealed the Model X in February 2012, the company said production would begin at the end of 2013, with deliveries following in 2014. Nearly a year later, at the Detroit auto show last January, Elon Musk, Tesla’s chief executive, made the first public statement about the shift in the schedule. Mr. Musk said production of the Model X would begin in the second half of 2014, according to Reuters.

While Tesla has been saying since the Detroit auto show in January that Model X production would begin in 2014, “our recent 10-K was the first written verification of that,” Shanna Hendricks, a Tesla spokeswoman, said in an e-mail.

“I almost have trouble calling this a delay in Model X, because that makes it sound like we’ve run into problems with Model X, and it’s taking longer than we thought, and it’s out of our control,” Ms. Hendricks wrote. “When, really, we’re consciously pushing back timing to allow ourselves to focus on its production and product enhancements in Model S.”

While Tesla did encounter production delays and problems with its first car, the Roadster, deliveries of the first Tesla Model S sedans were made in early June 2012, a few weeks earlier than originally projected. But in the first few months of Model S production, the company fell short of its own targets, delivering only about 250 cars. By the end of last year, the pace had picked up.

Converting customers with reservations into actual deliveries is critical for the company’s financial health. Tesla reported a fourth-quarter net loss of $81.5 million but says it expects to be profitable sometime in 2013. “We are very focused on achieving profitability and maintaining that profitability,” Ms. Hendricks said.

Tesla has not started putting alpha or beta versions of the Model X on the road for testing, Ms. Hendricks said. Tesla is “still finalizing the design prototype that has been on display at both Detroit and Geneva motor shows,” she wrote. The crossover’s most prominent design feature is the use of “falcon doors,” which are hinged at the top and rise like wings.

The Model X is built on the same platform as the Model S sedan. Tesla’s 10-K document provides this description of the Model X: “This unique vehicle has been designed to fill the niche between the roominess of a minivan and the style of an S.U.V., while having high-performance features such as a dual-motor all-wheel-drive system.”

Reservations for the standard Model X require a $5,000 deposit, while the Signature version requires a $40,000 deposit.

Prices for the Model X have not been announced. Tesla’s 10-K document states: “We anticipate that we will make Model X available with 60 kWh and 85 kWh battery pack options, with pricing of each version similar to those of a comparably equipped Model S.” Prices for the Model S sedan include a standard 60-kilowatt-hour version for $69,900 and an 85-kilowatt-hour model for $79,900. Many buyers are eligible for a $7,500 federal tax credit.

The company continues to state Model X production targets of 10,000 to 15,000 cars a year. There is still some wiggle room on the actual start of production with Mr. Musk stating “the second half of 2014” at the Detroit auto show while the S.E.C. documents state “late 2014.” Tesla’s Web site simply says, “Deliveries begin 2014.”

By BRADLEY BERMAN

Daimler Deserves Credit for Saving Tesla Says CEO

American electric automaker Tesla is enjoying great success, at least in terms of the EV market, and its CEO Elon Musk credits Daimler for saving the automaker in its time of need.

Three years ago, Daimler invested a hefty $50 million into Tesla Motors, a move that surprised even the most enthusiastic Tesla supporters. In a recent interview, Elon Musk revealed that Tesla Motors would now be extinct if Daimler hadn’t stepped in with its funding. In Musk’s own words, “There were a couple of near-death situations.”

Surprised? The bold CEO now has no problems sharing his thoughts on competitor Fisker, and Tesla is clearly heading towards in the right direction. Had Daimler not stepped into the picture however, we wouldn’t be speaking about Tesla at all today, and who knows where Musk would be in terms of finances.

Thankfully Musk confirmed that Tesla’s financial status is “pretty good” and we should be seeing plenty more from the automaker for years to come.

[Source: Autoblog]

By Jason Siu

Henrik Fisker Resigns From Fisker Automotive

Henrik Fisker, co-founder of Fisker Automotive.John Gress/Reuters Henrik Fisker, co-founder of Fisker Automotive.

Fisker Automotive announced Wednesday that Henrik Fisker, its co-founder and executive chairman, had left the company because of disagreements with management. In a statement, the company said his departure was “not expected to impact the company’s pursuit of strategic partnerships and financing to support Fisker Automotive’s continued progress.” The company declined requests for interviews.

In an e-mail to Automotive News, the company attributed Mr. Fisker’s resignation to “several major disagreements” regarding the business strategy of the company’s executive management.

Tony Posawatz, who succeeded Mr. Fisker as chief executive in August, said on Wednesday, “We’re in the midst of some serious negotiating.” Mr. Posawatz was previously vehicle line director at General Motors for the Chevrolet Volt plug-in hybrid.

On Feb. 18, Reuters reported that the Zhejiang Geely Holding Group of China had made a bid of $200 million to $300 million to acquire a majority stake in Fisker Automotive. Geely is the owner of Volvo, the Swedish automaker, which it acquired in 2010 for $1.8 billion.

“One possibility is that Mr. Fisker thought if there’s an acquisition, the new company could say they’re in control over direction,” said John Gartner, research director for the Smart Transportation practice of Pike Research. Given that Geely is a Chinese company, Mr. Gartner said, it could take significant steps to reduce costs. “Fisker’s board could say that they have to do what’s necessary to make the deal,” he said. “Maybe Henrik Fisker thought, ‘It’s not going to be my company anymore.’”

Mr. Fisker impressed the automotive world with the design of the company’s luxury Karma plug-in hybrid when it unveiled a preproduction version in 2008 at the Detroit auto show. But since then, the company has been plagued by mixed critical reviews of the car, as well as business setbacks and technical problems, including two recalls. In addition, the Karma’s federal fuel-economy ratings were disappointing and its all-electric range proved limited.

After repeated delays, Fisker Automotive made its first sale of the Karma in October 2011. The company sold about 1,800 units before production was suspended in November 2012, one month after A123 Systems, its battery supplier, declared bankruptcy.

As long as Fisker is unable to produce and sell vehicles, it cannot raise the revenue needed to restart production and continue development of the Atlantic, a lower-price vehicle it plans to make at a former G.M. plant in Delaware. In late 2009, Fisker received a $528.7 million loan from the Energy Department, but that money was frozen after Fisker fell short of its production targets.

It’s not uncommon for the leadership of high-tech and automotive start-ups to replace visionary founders with chief executives who have more tactical experience. In 2007, Martin Eberhard, Tesla Motors’ first chief executive, was fired. In November 2010, Kevin Czinger, the first chief executive of Coda Automotive, resigned. And in October 2012, Shai Agassi, the founder of Better Place, an electric car infrastructure company, stepped down.

Before founding Fisker Automotive, Mr. Fisker was a top design executive for BMW, Ford Motor and Aston Martin. In addition to the Karma, his design credits include the BMW Z8 and the Aston Martin DB9 and V8 Vantage models.


This post has been revised to reflect the following correction:

Correction: March 13, 2013

An earlier version of this post gave the incorrect year for the unveiling of the preproduction version of the Fisker Karma at the Detroit auto show. It was shown in 2008, not 2007.

By BRADLEY BERMAN

Tesla announces ‘revolutionary’ lease option for Model S starting at $1,050/month

tesla model s signature red



Just how “revolutionary” you think the just-announced lease option is for the Tesla Model S will depend on a lot of factors, like how much gas costs where you live and whether or not your current car drinks premium or not.



The promised “exciting” news from Tesla Motors is what the company calls a “revolutionary new finance product.” It’s not really a lease, but it is claimed to combine the “best aspects of car leasing and ownership.” As with everything else, Tesla is going its own way here.


There are specific lease payment costs – $1,199 a month for the 85-kWh Model S, $1,421 for the 85-kWh Performance model and $1,051 for the 60-kWh version – but Tesla is putting up invisible asterisks all over the place.

There are specific lease payment costs – $1,199 a month for the 85-kWh Model S, $1,421 for the 85-kWh Performance model and $1,051 for the 60-kWh version – but Tesla is putting up invisible asterisks all over the place. Instead of highlighting those numbers, Tesla’s online calculator talks about the “true cost of ownership.” Tesla factors in the value of your time, cost of gas and EV incentives. We appreciate that there is much more to buying any car than the initial cost, but there is a lot of sunlight between Tesla’s headline-grabbing $500/month cost and what you’ll really pay. “Your net cost of ownership is five-to-six hundred dollars a month,” said Tesla CEO Elon Musk in a conference call announcing the new pricing structure, adding, “As much as possible, I’d like to broaden the affordability of the car.” Musk said he expects around half of the Model S “sales” in the US to be this new lease-like option.



I calculated my own numbers for the 85-kWh model and came out with an effective monthly cost of $1,133. Other Autoblog writers calculated theirs, and came up with results between $834 and $688. This makes us think that to hit that $500-a-month level you need to be in the center of a very strange Venn diagram.



In any case, Tesla has done some interesting things here. It worked with Wells Fargo and US Bank to reduce the cost of driving a Model S while also giving drivers the opportunity to own their cars. The banks, if you have good enough credit, will “provide 10% down financing for purchase” and that payment “is covered or more than covered by US Federal and state tax credits ranging from $7,500 to $15,000.” Now, the loan is a 66-month term loan but, after 36 months, “you have the right, but not the obligation to sell your Model S to Tesla for the same residual value percentage as the iconic Mercedes S-Class, one of the finest premium sedans in the world, made by Daimler (also a Tesla partner and investor).”



So, that Tweet about how Musk was putting his money where his mouth is? As Tesla puts it: “Tesla CEO Elon Musk is personally standing behind that guarantee to give customers absolute peace of mind about the value of the asset they are purchasing.”

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By Sebastian Blanco

Akio Toyoda Talks EV with Tesla, Hints at New-Age Supra

Akio Toyoda Talks EV with Tesla, Hints at New-Age Supra

NAGOYA, JAPAN — What will Toyota Motor Company get out of its recent minor investment in Tesla Motors? Perhaps an electric vehicle prototype, Toyota President and CEO Akio Toyoda told a group of American reporters Friday. Toyoda expressed enthusiasm for working with a new, Silicon Valley-based high-technology company and said through an interpreter they can “join hands and develop cars, in terms of being a joint-venture.”

Toyoda said his company is “building a prototype EV unit,” but would announce details to the press at a later date. When asked to clarify whether the EV car is a joint venture with Tesla, Toyota Executive Vice President Shinichi Sasaki said there are two Toyota EVs in the works. One car is from Toyota alone and the other is with Tesla. Bottom line is that Toyota will work with Tesla on something. Whether it ever goes public will depend on its engineering success.

Earlier, Sasaki expressed enthusiasm for Tesla’s use of household personal computer lithium-ion batteries, but conceded that “reliability goes down” when you string thousands of them together to power a car.

And, of course, one thing Toyota doesn’t need these days is a new reliability problem. The whole point of the American automotive and business journalists’ visit to Japan, ending Friday, was a deep dive into Toyota’s quality and safety operations.

Toyoda said that its investigation of more than 3600 unintended acceleration claims found no problem with its electronic throttle control systems. He also said Toyota has no intention of blaming customers for accidents caused by what the drivers claimed were unintended acceleration problems.

Toyoda skirted the issue of whether Toyota’s new quality and safety initiative is eating into its resources to build more interesting cars. His hints that Toyota might build a new-age Supra were no more than hints, and Toyoda acknowledged it will take the approval of the whole company to build such a car; that it’s not simply his decision. Watch for more detail and analysis coming presently in the Motor City Blogman blog.

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By Todd Lassa

Tesla Motors to Provide Batteries for Freightliner Custom Chassis Electric Van

Tesla Motors to Provide Batteries for Freightliner Custom Chassis Electric Van

Most people don’t think of a boxy step van when they hear “Tesla Motors,” but the electric automaker is supplying its lithium-ion battery packs to a new electric van built by Freightliner Custom Chassis.

Freightliner had previously announced it was partnering with Enova to develop an electric step van, but it hadn’t announced where it would source the vehicle’s batteries. Few details on the battery packs have been revealed, but the company says it will provide a range of 100 miles on a single charge, which takes roughly 6 to 8 hours.

The battery pack powers electric motors with power ratings that range between 121 hp (90 kW) and 323 hp (240 kW). These motors propel vans with gross vehicle weight ratings starting at 14,000 pounds and ranging up to 19,000 pounds, depending on the configuration.

Production of these electric vans should begin in the first quarter of 2011, and will begin testing in major delivery fleets across the U.S. shortly after.

Source: Freightliner Custom Chassis

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By Andrew Peterson

We Hear: Tesla May Work With Google on Autonomous Cars

We Hear: Tesla May Work With Google on Autonomous Cars

Tesla Motors may collaborate with Google to develop autonomous cars, Bloomberg reports. CEO Elon Musk reportedly wants his car company to develop driverless technology, which could be created in partnership with Google.

Tesla CEO Musk said he believes the driverless or autonomous technologies are the next big development for the car because they could dramatically improve road safety. “I like the word autopilot more than I like the word self-driving,” he told Bloomberg. “Autopilot is a good thing to have in planes, and we should have it in cars.”

Although Tesla has been in “technical discussions” with Google about its driverless cars, Musk believes the roof-mounted laser-scanning system used by Google is too costly and inefficient to make sense for production cars. He reportedly favors a cheaper camera-based system, “with software that is able to figure out what’s going on just by looking at things.” Musk told Bloomberg that although it is possible that Tesla will cooperate with Google, it’s more likely that the startup will engineer its own unique autonomous-car technologies.

Google Autonomous Toyota Prius front three quarter 300x187 imageGoogle has a fleet of Toyota Prius hybrids (pictured), as well as a Lexus RX450h, that can drive without a human’s input. Lawmakers have granted the Internet company permission to test its autonomous cars in Nevada and California. Lexus demonstrated a semi-autonomous LS sedan at the Consumer Electronics Show, where Audi also showed off self-parking systems.

Self-driving Teslas are some time off, however: Musk says Tesla will focus on launching electric cars, including the Model S sedan and upcoming Model X SUV, before focusing on bringing autonomous technology to production. “Autopilot is not as important as accelerating the transition to electric cars, or to sustainable transport,” he told Bloomberg.

Source: Bloomberg

By Jake Holmes