Tesla stock still climbing, despite federal subpoena asking about executive share trading

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In recent days, Tesla Motors stock (TSLA) has been climbing and climbing, hitting a high of $58.18 earlier today before closing at a respectable $53.99. The rise comes amid a string of headline-making events – higher-than-expected sales, franchise dealer fights and a new warranty program, to name just three – but under all of the good news lies a potential problem. The Wall Street Journal revealed today that Tesla was served subpoenas from US federal prosecutors over details on the company’s trading plan for executives. There has been no hint of wrongdoing, the feds just want information, Reuters reports. A similar subpoena was sent to Cardiovascular Systems, which makes medical implements.

The question is how the executives can trade their shares. Reuters reports that it is fine by Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) rules for executives to use something called a 10b5-1 plan to trade their own stock, “even when they have access to private information.” The subpoena does not seem to have anything to do with questions over whether Tesla CEO Elon Musk’s recent “overzealous” Tweet was in any way illegal.

This week, analysts at Longboard Asset Management said they believe Tesla common stock will hit $100 in the next 18 months on the way to $200 per share within five years. In any case, we’ll have more information ammunition for the debate when Tesla releases first quarter results May 8th.

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By Sebastian Blanco

Tesla Takes on Texas Dealer’s Association

Tesla Takes on Texas Dealer’s Association

Tesla Motors is no stranger to resistance from state dealer associations, which oppose the electric automaker’s factory-owned store approach. The best-documented standoff has been between Tesla and the Massachusetts Dealer Association, but has court or legislative battles happening in several states. The latest state dealer association the company is facing off with is the Texas Automobile Dealers Association, according to Automotive News.

Tesla VP of business development, Diarmuid O’Connell has among the highest barriers in the nation for the operation of a factory-owned store. Tesla currently operates two “galleries” in Austin and Houston, but in order to comply with current state franchise law, representatives cannot initiate or complete a sales transaction or deliver a vehicle on-site. Customers must contact a representative in California to complete the sales transaction, as well as arrange their own transport and delivery arrangements. Even in the area of service and warranty work, requests have to be routed through California, which then sub-contracts the work to the service centers in Texas.

To combat the contorted, Goldbergian work-arounds to sell and service vehicles in the state, Tesla is backing a bill in the Texas legislature that would change the states inflexible franchise laws to make it easier to operate factory-owned dealerships and service centers. But the state dealer association has been actively lobbying legislators and has participated in hearings, claiming that the traditional franchise dealer model is the best way to sell and service vehicles. The association is predicting failure of the Tesla-sponsored legislation that would allow them to operate, calling Tesla’s request for an exemption from existing franchise law “arrogant.”

Tesla continues to battle the Massachusetts dealer association with proposed legislation that would change the state’s dealer franchise law. The state’s dealer association is backing its own separate bill thwarting Tesla’s efforts. The one bright spot for Tesla lately has been Minnesota, where the state dealer association has temporarily suspended its pursuit of franchise law legislation that would have prevented Tesla from opening retail outlets in the state.

Source: Automotive News (Subscription Required)

By Edward A. Sanchez

One of World’s Most Efficient Vehicles Unable to Enter U.S.

The MonoTracer MTE-150, in Zurich, being prepared for shipment to the United States.Roger Riedener The MonoTracer MTE-150, in Zurich, being prepared for shipment to the United States.

12:35 a.m. | Updated One of the world’s most efficient vehicles and an X Prize winner has been unable to enter the United States since Jan. 25, held up at the Port of Los Angeles at the city’s international airport by the Environmental Protection Agency, United States Customs and the Transportation Department, people associated with the vehicle said on Thursday.

The regulations holding up the release of the vehicle are complex, but essentially the vehicle doesn’t comply with government rules. An official for the Environmental Protection Agency could not be reached for comment.

The vehicle, the Peraves MonoTracer MTE-150, is a 1,200-pound 200-horsepower battery-powered enclosed cabin motorcycle, capable of a top speed of 150 miles per hour and 0-60 m.p.h. acceleration of less than four seconds. It uses an AC Propulsion drivetrain similar to the one in the Tesla Roadster and manages the equivalent of 300 m.p.g at 75 m.p.h. It won first place in the Alternative Tandem category in the 2010 Automotive X Prize, a competition created to foster the commercialization of efficient vehicles capable of more than 100 miles per gallon.

The base price of the vehicle, made in Switzerland by Peraves, is about $100,000. The MonoTracer MTE-150 now stuck at the Los Angeles International Airport is one of only 10 that have been produced. It is fully electric and has no tailpipe.

The story of the green MonoTracer model started six years ago. In 2007, Stefano Paris, an aeromechanical engineer in Ventura County, Calif., caught a glimpse of the MonoTracer motorcycle, a gas version, on display at the Geneva auto show. Mr. Paris, a fan of electric vehicles, got in touch with Tom Gage, the former chief executive of AC Propulsion. Mr. Paris told Mr. Gage that the MonoTracer would be the ideal platform for a super-efficient electric vehicle.

“It’s a Tron bike,” Mr. Paris said. “There’s nothing cooler on the road, period. Nobody has seen an enclosed cabin motorcycle that’s this sexy and efficient and quick and safe.”

Three years later, after a match had been made between Mr. Gage and Peraves, an electric MonoTracer prototype was built to be entered in the 2010 Automotive X Prize competition. Its win there earned a $2.5 million prize for Peraves.

The Swiss company, big on enthusiasm but perhaps less familiar with the intricacies of United States government import rules, put the first production version of the MonoTracer MTE on a plane to America, expecting that its X Prize legacy would help it clear customs. After all, Mr. Paris said, Steven Chu, then the energy secretary, had sat in the vehicle the day of the X Prize ceremony, which was co-sponsored by the Energy Department, and had praised its approach as exactly the innovation needed to address the country’s environmental and energy challenges.

Mr. Paris provided volunteer engineering assistance to Peraves in the lead-up to the X Prize and assisted the company in its efforts to import the vehicle. “California is the world’s largest electric vehicle market, and you have people with affluence who can afford a vehicle like this,” he said. “The plan has always been to garner sales, but you can’t do that without a vehicle here. But there has to be the first one.”

But without an opportunity to put the vehicle into compliance – by applying the appropriate markings and stickers for example – Mr. Paris said he can’t move forward. “We’re stuck, and we don’t know how to get out of the mud,” he said. As a result, the MonoTracer will either have to be returned to Switzerland or, a remote possibility, be crushed.

That prospect, unlikely as it may be, caught the attention of Southern California’s E.V. community, the same people who protested the crushing of the EV1, the ill-fated electric car produced by General Motors from 1996-99 before discontinuing the electric car program and crushing the remaining cars.

Paul Scott, an E.V. advocate and a salesman of the Nissan Leaf at Nissan of Downtown Los Angeles, is spearheading an effort to appeal to government officials to allow the vehicle to enter the United State. “For the E.P.A. to be in the way of this is as bizarre at it gets,” Mr. Scott said.

He added that the pollution generated from shipping the vehicle back to Switzerland would exceed the lifetime emissions from the MonoTracer.

Calls to the Environmental Protection Agency and to Customs at Los Angeles International Airport went unanswered.

This post has been revised to reflect the following correction:

Correction: February 22, 2013

An earlier version of this article misidentified Tom Gage and Paul Scott. Mr. Gage is the former chief executive of AC Propulsion, not the founder. Mr. Scott sells Nissan Leafs at Nissan of Downtown Los Angeles, not Santa Monica Nissan.


Reviewing the Toyota RAV4 EV

2012 Toyota RAV4 EV.Bradley Berman for The New York Times2012 Toyota RAV4 EV.

In Sunday’s Automobiles section, Bradley Berman reviews the 2012 Toyota RAV4 EV, a purely electric version of the compact crossover with a drivetrain sourced from Tesla Motors.

The RAV4 has always been respectible, if not a standout in its crowded segment. A power-source transplant, however, works wonders for the Toyota’s on-road personality, as Mr. Berman writes:

I punched the Sport button on the all-electric Toyota RAV4 EV that I had been driving for two days and slammed the accelerator to the floor. The burst of power — in a blink it kicked me past the 75 m.p.h. traffic in the fast lanes — was not what I expected from a small battery-powered crossover.

The electric surge was transformational. Still gaining speed at a good clip, I could easily have zoomed to the 100 m.p.h. top speed listed in Toyota’s specifications.

Though only 2,600 units of the RAV4 EV will be produced, Mr. Berman expects the car’s cult to grow well beyond the constraints of that modest number.

Read the entire review, check out the slide show and share your thoughts on the RAV4 EV in the comments.


Tesla Unveils Model X at Its Southern California Design Studios

Elon Musk, chief executive of Tesla Motors, with the Model X prototype on Thursday.Jerry Garrett for The New York TimesElon Musk, chief executive of Tesla Motors, with the Model X prototype on Thursday.

HAWTHORNE, Calif. — On Thursday, Tesla Motors unveiled a prototype of its third vehicle, the Model X, here at the company’s design studios. Elon Musk, the chief executive of the electric-vehicle start-up, said the crossover-like car would enter production in late 2013.

“This is kind of the killer app for families,” Mr. Musk said of the X in an interview after a preview for media. “It has more utility than a minivan, and better performance, much better performance, than an S.U.V.”

With a shape evocative of recent premium crossovers like the Acura ZDX and BMW 5 Series Gran Turismo, the Model X fits within a popular niche. Its copious interior space, however, aligns it more closely with minivans and S.U.V.’s.

“Because it is an electric car, and we don’t have to package a traditional internal combustion engine powertrain, we have available to us much more packaging opportunities,” Mr. Musk said.

The new model was shown weeks after the announcement of two high-ranking engineers’ departures sent Tesla’s stock price falling sharply before it rebounded the following week. News of the Model X also came days after Fisker Automotive, another start-up, announced it would not meet sales benchmarks outlined by the Energy Department in the $529 million loan it extended to the company in 2009, and would lay off dozens of workers. Tesla received a loan of $465 million from the department that same year.

Problems with cash flow plagued Tesla as it tried to deliver its first product, the Roadster, but contracts to supply electric power trains to companies like Daimler and Toyota, as well as a lucrative I.P.O. in 2010, have given the company more solid financial footing.

The Model X evokes other premium crossovers, particularly the Acura ZDX and BMW 5 Series Gran Turismo.Jerry Garrett for The New York TimesThe Model X evokes other premium crossovers, particularly the Acura ZDX and BMW 5 Series Gran Turismo.

A signature feature of the Model X, destined for the production model, Mr. Musk said, was the so-called falcon-wing doors for rear passengers. Like a traditional gullwing door, they open upward, but a hinge in the middle allows the leading edge of the door to remain tucked closely to the car.

“You can get in and out in the tightest garage or parking spot without hitting the wall or car next to you, or your head,” Mr. Musk said.

The Model X has two trunks: one in the rear and another under up front, where the engine would otherwise be found. “Some S.U.V.’s and minivans claim to have room for seven passengers,” Mr. Musk said. “But if you fill them with people, there is no room for their luggage. The Model X offers ample room for seven adults, and their luggage.”

Like the Model S sedan, which is expected to arrive in showrooms this summer after numerous delays, the Model X conceals its batteries in the platform of the car. Electric motors spin the front and rear wheels independently. “It has an innovative all-wheel-drive system that is incredibly precise and accurate in its application of power and traction, much more so than any other type of all-wheel-drive out there,” Mr. Musk said.

The Model X shares about 60 percent of its content with the Model S and weighs about 10 percent more. As a result, Mr. Musk said, the X would squeeze roughly 10 percent less range from its battery packs. The X would be offered with a choice of two packs, rated at 60 and 85 kilowatt-hours. For comparison, Tesla estimates a Model S can travel 160-300 miles on a full charge, depending on battery-pack specification.

“Even though the X is heavier, it will still go zero to 60 miles an hour in about 4.4 seconds,” Mr. Musk said. “And that’s not even the Performance model.” Pricing should be close to Model S territory, he added. That model starts at $49,900 after a $7,500 federal tax credit, but the price can approach $100,000, depending on options.

“This will be our most important, and highest-volume car, when it comes out,” he said. A fourth model, aimed at a lower price point and wider audience, would likely be announced in 18 to 24 months, he added.

The prototype's interior, with a central digital interface similar to that found in the Model S.Jerry Garrett for The New York TimesThe prototype’s interior, with a central digital interface similar to that found in the Model S.


Tesla Model S wins 2013 World Green Car of the Year

2012 Tesla Model S at sunrise - front three-quarter view, black

The automotive journalist judges behind the World Green Car of the Year apparently with the overwhelming majority of AutoblogGreen readers, as they’ve just named the Tesla Model S their winner. We don’t yet know what the official ballots were, but our informal poll had the Tesla beating the other two finalists – the all-electric Renault Zoe and the Volvo V60 plug-in hybrid – with over 82 percent of the vote.

This is just the latest win for the Model S. The all-electric sedan was named “Car of the Year” by both Automobile and Motor Trend in 2012 and even Time Magazine called it of the 25 Best Inventions of the year.

Previous winners include the Mercedes-Benz S250 CDI BlueEfficiency (2012), Chevrolet Volt (2011) Volkswagen BlueMotion (2010) and Honda FCX Clarity (2009).

Related Gallery2012 Tesla Model S: First Drive

2012 Tesla Model S2012 Tesla Model S2012 Tesla Model S2012 Tesla Model S2012 Tesla Model S2012 Tesla Model S2012 Tesla Model S2012 Tesla Model S

By Sebastian Blanco

Tesla Model S Rated a 99 Out of 100 by Consumer Reports

Tesla Model S test

The Tesla Model S continues to earn rave reviews, the latest coming from the notoriously picky team at Consumer Reports.

In recent testing of the American-made electric luxury sedan the outlet says getting behind the wheel, “is like crossing into a promising zero-emissions future.” But the praise doesn’t stop there.

After performing the same thorough test as all of its cars, CR says the Model S, “is brimming with innovation, delivers world-class performance, and is interwoven throughout with impressive attention to detail.”

SEE ALSO: Click Here to Build and Price Your Tesla Model S

As a result, the car has earned the highest rating the consumer outlet has bestowed on a car: 99 out of 100.

Perhaps the closest rival, the Porsche Panamera, earned an 84, while the plug-in Karma sedan from the nearly bankrupt Fisker company was slapped with a paltry score of 57.

SEE ALSO: Tesla Model S Wins AutoGuide.com Reader’s Choice Car of the Year

Calling it, “the most practical electric car we’ve tested,” it also delivers performance that CR says, “will make many sports cars weep with envy.”

Discuss this story at Tesla-Buzz.com

By Colum Wood

Tesla Dealers Association Lawsuit Dismissed

Dealers in Massachusetts suing Tesla over what they say is an illegal dealership lost today when a judge dismissed the case from the court. 

Norfolk County Superior Court Judge Kenneth Fishman ruled that the dealers association lacks the grounds to sue the American EV manufacturer.

SEE ALSO: Tesla Wins License to Sell Cars in Boston Suburb

The issue raised by the dealers association is a state franchise law which states that a factory cannot directly own a dealership. Tesla’s response was that no business is done at the dealership, and all cars are purchased online. The dealerships merely exist to showcase the vehicles.

The dealers association say that they will not stop trying to shut the dealer down, because of the precedent that will set.

 [Source: Automotive News]

By Stephen Elmer

Massachusetts Dealer Lawsuit Against Tesla Dismissed – Rumor Central

Massachusetts Dealer Lawsuit Against Tesla Dismissed

One of the advantages of being the new kid on the block in business is that you often get to approach things in a different way than the more established players in the market, even down to how your products are sold. That’s the approach Tesla took in selling its vehicles, adopting a manufacturer-direct, company-owned store model. But that approach did not sit well with established, franchise model dealers, claiming the company’s model skirts the car dealer franchise laws in some states. The Massachusetts State Automobile Dealers Association in particular took issue with Tesla, and took the automaker to court after it opened a showroom in the Natick Mall.

But Massachusetts Judge Kenneth J. Fishman dismissed the suit, stating “The court is unconvinced that the 2002 amendment to Chapter 93B expanded the purpose of the statute to protect the motor vehicle franchise system,” Bloomberg reports.

Tesla CEO Elon Musk addressed the legal victory by Tesla in a statement: “We are delighted by the outright dismissal of this case, and the validation that we are operating our business in compliance with the laws and expectations of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.”

But the dealer association hasn’t given up its fight against Tesla entirely, saying it is considering an appeal. “It’s just another bump in the road we have to address,” Robert O’Koniewski, executive vice president of the state dealer association said.

Source: Bloomberg

By Edward A. Sanchez

Tesla Model S ‘Performance Plus’ Handles like a Supercar


Tesla is taking the Model S into “supercar handling territory” according to a product description on its retail site.

The new Model S Performance Plus variant costs $6,500, improves efficiency and improves performance. It manages that by adding upgraded dampers, bushings and stabilizer bars. Tesla also added higher performing tires and wider, staggered wheels.

SEE ALSO: Tesla Model S Resale Value to be Industry’s Best, Says CEO Musk

Those wheels are 20 millimeters wider and Tesla says the car’s range improves a modest six to 12 miles.

Apart from the improved range and performance parts, Tesla hasn’t made specific claims to performance improvements like improved lap times or specifications for cornering grip.

Owners with the previous top-dog Model S Performance can also upgrade to the Performance Plus variant, but the tweaks come with a much heavier $13,000 price tag. Unfortunately, the upgrade doesn’t the revised dampers and stabilizer bars.

Discuss this story at Tesla-Forums.com

By Luke Vandezande