Teslian Gotchas

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The rest of the car industry envies Elon. Not because his cars are superior – but because he gets away with things they’d be boiled alive for doing.

These include selling a car that hasn’t changed significantly since its introduction more than six years ago but which still gets fawning reviews, building cars so expensive to repair their design is arguably defective, making claims about his cars that are egregiously false and making outlandish promises about his cars that are routinely broken.

The Model S is ancient –   

A 2012 Tesla Model S . . .

Introduced way back in 2011 as a new 2012 model, the top Tesla is now an old Tesla. Other than a few software “updates” and the addition of a more powerful all-wheel-drive model, the current model is fundamentally the same as the original model. If the Model S were any other car – including an IC-engined economy car – it would be styled, rightly, as “dated” by the car press. Most current-era non-electric cars get refreshed after two or three years and are usually completely redesigned within four or five years. This is particularly the case with high-end cars, whose high prices are justified at least in part by their newness. Mercedes, BMW, Audi and Lexus would be laughed out of the room if they left a car on the market for six years-plus without a major redesign. They’d have to be massively discounted to offset the massive depreciation.

A 2017 Model S . . .

Only Elon could get away with selling a six-year-old car as a new car.

And he does so, in part, because he doesn’t sell them. He gives each away at a loss – the difference subsidized by the taxpayer and “carbon credits” extorted from other carmakers – who have no choice about updating their cars.

If they plan to sell any – which they have to do, because there are no subsidies for them.

Teslas are economically unrepairable –

Waiting around for hours while your Tesla reboots is just one of your worries. If anything hits your Tesla, it may not be worth fixing it. Relatively minor fender-benders can total a Tesla – which has a base price of almost $70,000. Here are some examples culled from a Tesla-friendly source, Green Car Reports:

  • A $10,000 estimate to repair a “minor but long” scratch
  • A $45,000 estimate for “minor front-end damage”
  • A $7,000 estimate for repair of a small dent and scratch that required no replacement of parts
  • A $30,000 estimate for “minor fender and door damage”
  • An $11,000 estimate for a minor scrape on the rear panel, including a $155 charge to “ensure battery remains charged” during the repair.

Part of this is due to the way Teslas are made – out of aluminum and composites, with special bonding adhesives that cost as much as $100 per tube.

Fixing aluminum is specialized and thus, costly, work. Different welding techniques are involved and a dedicated work space is required. This is an issue with any aluminum-bodied vehicle, including non-electric high-end cars like Jaguars and Audis

But Teslas have additional issues. These include no lower-cost aftermarket alternatives for parts – as is the case with other cars – which means huge mark-up on “authorized” parts – as well as shops having to buy Tesla-specific equipment such as a special cradle in order to remove and hold the half-ton battery pack prior to performing any structural repairs to the car’s body. The cost of this cradle and other Tesla-specific equipment needed to patch up a banged-up Tesla is reflected in the bill.

As well as the insurance.

Teslas are among the most expensive high-end cars to insure precisely because they are easily damaged and because it’s so expensive to repair the damage. Why doesn’t the car press ever mention this? Why are the “consumer advocates” silent?

It must be Elon’s magic Musk.

* Tesla fudges its numbers –

Elon touts the Model S as a full-size car in order to make the Model S look like it’s selling better than it actually is by comparing its sales with sales of low-volume full-size luxury sedans like the Mercedes S Class and BMW 7 Series.

But the Model S – although Tesla’s top-of-the-line model – is in fact a mid-sized car and should be compared with other mid-sized luxury-sport sedans like the Mercedes E sedan and BMW 5 Series.

Let’s do that – since the car press won’t.

A Mercedes S is 206.5 inches long, rides on a 124.6 inch wheelbase, has 41.4 inches of legroom up front and 43.1 inches of legroom for the backseaters. It is a full-sized car.

A BMW 7 is 206.6 inches long overal, rides on a 126.4-inch wheelbase, has 41.4 inches of front seat legroom and 44.4 inches of backseat legroom.

It is also a full-sized car.

The Model S is 196 inches long overall, has a 116.5 inch wheelbase and 42.7 inches of front seat legroom and 35.3 inches of backseat legroom.

It is a mid-sized car – with slightly less room inside than other mid-sized luxury sedans such as the BMW 5 and Mercedes E Class.

Last month (November 2017) Tesla sold – or gave away – about 1,300 Model S sedans nationally. Compared with sales of the BMW 7 Series sedan – of which about 700 were sold; that is, actually purchased by people who paid what it cost to make them, plus a mark-up for the dealer and BMW, in order to make it worth making the car.

But that’s apples-oranges.

Now let’s compare sales numbers, apples to apples.

BMW sold about 4,000 examples of its 5 Series sedan in November – more than twice and nearly three times as many as Tesla Model S give-aways. Same goes for Mercedes – which sells even more of its mid-sized E-Class (4,600 in November).

This doesn’t look nearly as good for Elon – but almost no one knows about it because the car press doesn’t report it.

Musk gets away with what would be considered fraud if done by anyone else – 

Elon raises capital by taking money from people in return for the promise that they may get a car . . . eventually.

He has taken several Brinks trucks’ worth of money from people who’ve been promised a new Model S – the delivery of which continues to be delayed. If GM or Ford did this the eructation of outrage from Automotive News and Consumer Reports would be deafening.  And this business of taking $50,000 deposits on a $200,000 car (Musk’s recently promised supercar) that is purely hypothetical at this point, years away from production – and may never be produced – must have poor old Preston Tucker doing Yoga in his grave.

Nevermind. Elon will have us all taking side trips to Mars just five years from now.

Right?

. . .

Got a question about cars – or anything else? Click on the “ask Eric” link and send ’em in!

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29 COMMENTS

    • Funny. Just the other day, I was reading where the co-founder of Bitcoin was telling everyone to dump Bitcoin (good advice)….and buy Bitcash (bad advice). Some say he “knew what was coming”…..others said [more likely] that he caused what we are now witnessing, by causing a quick sell-off of Bitcoin.

      It just shows how easily something which has no intrinsic value can be manipulated.

      Throw yer money into a black hole…where it goes…nobody knows…including you!

      • Bitcoin is mainly a fiat system that enables lots of outlawed commerce.

        It’s not a suitable investment unless you are already marginalized and an active agorist.

        It’s rise points to a future without clear property rights and traditional commerce.

        More than 700 people have left the Environmental Protection Agency since President Trump took office, a wave of departures that puts the administration nearly a quarter of the way toward its goal of shrinking the agency to levels last seen during the Reagan administration.
        https://www.nytimes.com/2017/12/22/climate/epa-buyouts-pruitt.html

            • But ya know what happened, Tor-ski- Anyone who got in late, was bailing when it started tumbling. Imagine someone who bought when it was $17K, and was looking at <$11K today 😮 !

              Dudes who were playing futures and had stops, were all blown out….

              Yeah, it don't look bad on a chart, 'specially to those of us who don't have money on the table- but in reality, today was probably a big purge/transfer of wealth (To be expected, if yer gonna speculate).

              Chart looks to me like it'll either stagnate for a while, or drop.

              • Interesting.

                I know the market as a processor, not an investor.

                Back in the Day Trading Mania days, a friend got me a second job as an options trading assistant.

                I had to get the Series 7, Series 24, and a few more SEC licenses, and then I was kosher to work for Wall Street.

                It was for American Express, who let any customer with 100K do unlimited trading for almost no money.

                Every one was so happy, making money hand over fist for all those loco day traders.

                Then the tech boom went bust, and there was nothing. It was a ghost town, and Amex discontinued its free trading, and Day Trading became a thing of the past.

                I wonder if the net effect was a win or a loss. I honestly don’t know. I just facilitated things.

                • People I know who got burnt in the dot-com crash, have only recently fully recovered. A few still haven’t. Many got burned in the dot-com, and then again in ’08.

                  I’ve lost touch with all of them, but I’ll bet ya the very same ones are due for another pruning.

                  I really don’t get it. They live lives built upon debt, and then try and make money through usury too. Why not just skip the debt, and the usury, and always be ahead of the game, with no risk?

                  Even I ALMOST felt like I was missing the boat in the dot-com days. But shortly thereafter, while those around me were losing their homes, and cementing debt obligations for the next 30, I wasn’t missing a penny; and got to move to my rural paradise, and have remained debt-free.

                  THEY got to see some impressive numbers on paper…for a while; and were buying frills, like the laptop computers of the day- which of course are laughable now. Seems they paid a very high price for those things. And the cycle just keeps repeating.

  1. good article Eric, glad to see that you are still publishing the only honest, incitefull and free content out there in the world of autos…. dont worry, tesla blows up as soon as wall street closes its checkbook!

    (its been a while since i checked your website, i used to recommend it to all of the bosses to read when i still worked at gm, before i called it quits from powertrain engineering a few years ago)

    live in nicaragua now and we just bought a new dmax, probably over 75% of the vehicles sold here and i would assume in many other “developing” contries are mid size crew cab pickups exclusively diesel powered and they are awesome, averages 35mpg in routine stop and go driving, i could put a full ton on it if i had too and the price was only a few 000 more than what i paid for my last new truck, a half ton 4×4 ext cab chevy in the usa 20 years ago! nothing like that is available in the ussa. if you get outside the usa sometime, be sure to drive one of these intercooled turbos, very impressive

    we opted for the 2.5l due to the cost, but the 3.0l we had previously did about the same on fuel, and would surely would outpull a gasolene V8 twice the displacement up to about 2500rpm, a real tractor!

    all the best, keep up the good work,
    walt bolthouse

    • Thanks, Walt!

      I have several friends who once worked at GM, including a couple of former fairly high ups; I remain in communication with them and we often talk about the state of GM today. The decision to move PR/marketing to NYC was telling. I often wish I’d been around 40 years ago, when Car People still ran car companies…

  2. Eric, I finally came across another “car guy” who is “on to” the Tesla scam! Although he is by no means a Libertarian, and is someone whose vids I normally avoid (He’s a nasty statist prick actually), this Aussie speaks the truth! (Ya didn’t expect there to be someone else here in North ‘Merca, didja?!)

    Also, he has given me a new favorite place-name to use instead of Bumblephuc or BFE: “Dogshitistan”.

    Check this out!!!! He likens Tesla to a cult- and for once, is spot-on!:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LlvYv1SJJEY

    • Median bitcoin strike price down another $1000 today.

      Hi ho.

      I’m selling off 10% of my Berkshire for doll hairs on the 26th. I’m ahead on the position versus Doll Hairs.

      But lifetime I’m way down, since I once tried to trade Del Monte stock, which turned out to be a very expensive mistake.

      Sure Amex gave me a good price for just the trade, but you can lose a whole closet full of shirts in only a few minutes in that Stock Market Thingy.

      Maybe I’ll go plant some acres of Tulips, and wait for Tulip Mania 2.0. Even if the tulip boom never comes, at least you have tulips.

      • Getting out of any position at a time that allows you to take a profit, is the whole key. Most people let greed get in the way, and want to stay and try and get a bigger profit, and even after it turns south, they wanna hope they can recover, so they hang out a bit.

        If ya just have the discipline to get in; take a profit; and get out…..you’ll do good. Trading is more about money management strategies than it is about market analysis. If you have the discipline to manage yer money properly, you can practically flip a coin as to what trades to take, and still make money.

        The best market indicators are the common sheeple. -people who echo the sentiments of the average clueless American- as they reflect exactly what the majority of investors will do.

        That’s one of the reasons I don’t play the markets- the psychology that drives it is diametrically opposite of my own- so it’s unituitive for me; (and the more so as time goes on) and I don’t want to waste my time trying to figure out how the sheeple will react to the latest nonsense.

  3. “Part of this is due to the way Teslas are made – out of aluminum and composites, with special bonding adhesives that cost as much as $100 per tube.”

    Most likely a hold-over technique from when they were buying Lotus’s and retrofitting them with their drivetrain. Everyone knows that a “fender bender” in a modern day Lotus can easily be a “car ender” from an repair/insurance standpoint.

    It also highlights why Tesla can’t weld anything- they are virtual infants to that technology and while anyone can buy robotic spot welders and put them on a line, you have to get the design stage right when it comes to marrying the chassis- which requires old school design knowledge passed down over generations of engineers to the younger ones- not young guys straight out of college with their mechanical engineering degree from a West coast school and little internship experience with old industrial giants(most of which reside on the East coast, Michigan and Ohio in particular but some of which now also reside in the Deep South).

    Other things to consider: BMW walked away from aluminum chassis’s for a bit, probably because of some of the welding challenges associated with them and went back to steel(that was only in 2011). A similar thing was done by Ford when it implemented Volvo’s P2 chassis for it’s own fleet, changing it from aluminum to steel.

    It’s one thing to use aluminum components(suspensions arms and the like), but welding it can be challenging even for the big/experienced manufacturing.

    Lastly, somewhere in Musk’s semi-deluded mind, I’m sure he’s hoping he can eek out a profit before incurring the substantial cost of re-tooling as a justification. Which will clearly never happen.

    I suspect he’ll have to bail and sell out to one of the big manufacturers, or a deep pockets(google?) actor and call it a “win” right before bankruptcy becomes more apparent. I’m pretty sure Neo-cons see this subsidization as an economic war against oil producing nations, hence justifying their BS support of the subsidies, even though it is in effect punching the US taxpayer and legacy/realistic car manufacturers it the face.

  4. Heck, the fact that the damn Tessler hasn’t made any significant changes to frivolous things like sheet metal in 6 years, is probably the only good them about them. Although, that would be a positive with the major manufacturers, as it would keep production costs low, and ensure the availability of cheap repair parts…of course those advantages are nullified with Tesla, so I guess it’s a false positive.

  5. I actually went on a demo ride in a Model S yesterday (we can’t call them “test drives” in Texas because of legal reasons relating to Tesla not having an independent dealer network). And is that acceleration ever addictive. Wow. Y’all should go experience it.

    But your other points are right on. It’s now six years old and has already had its mid-model refresh (the front bumper no longer has the fake radiator opening, plus other changes). It’s due to be restyled. Sure, it still is one of the most attractive sedans out there. But it’s time.

    The rear seat room, after adjusting the driver’s to a comfortable position for my 6′ size, is in the “OK to ride to lunch” category. I wouldn’t want to take a highway trip back there. It needs those missing 10 inches, most of which needs to go to rear seat comfort. If only for the China market, where a car in this price range is expected to have a driver and the owner rides in back.

    The good news is you don’t strictly need the $1200 charger. Get your electrician to wire in a 50 amp RV plug. It won’t charge quite as fast, but if you come home from work you’re probably not going out for several hours anyway.

    The Auto-Pilot system works. And is impressive technology. But I don’t trust it. On the highway it maintained 65 mph in my lane even though the next lane over was doing maybe 35 mph as people exited. All it’d take is one of those other drivers to bail on their lane and pull in front of me, and there’s no way the Tesla could have stopped in time. A cautious driver would have dropped their speed to allow for someone else being an idiot.

    And yes, you need to experience the acceleration personally – you get pushed back in your seat at any speed because the torque comes on immediately. And it’s even more surprising because of how much it weighs (more than my body-on-frame Lexus GX SUV).

  6. Eric exposing the press for the shills they are and Musk for the crony he is. The comparisons provided here illustrate the point: Support the agenda, they don’t care what you do. And in the case of VW, give your customers what they want (freedom of choice, low cost): suffer the consequences.

  7. It would be funny if it weren’t so tragic. The real tragedy being that the world takes Musk[rat] seriously. A man whose “businesses” lose hundreds of millions of dollars every year; who makes cars which claim to be “green” and yet use just as much or more energy than the average car; a man who promises the future, and even incorporates into his products features for things which do not yet even exist as viable technolgoes- much less stable ones (e.g. the Model 3 coming pre-wired for driverless automation); and a man who actually has the audacity, stupidity and brash hucksterishness to claim that he will be colonizing Mars in a few short years.

    The fact that this person is afforded any credibility, by politicians; the media; and the general public, is an indication of the level of darkness society has sunk to.

    “Colonize Mars”- LOL- apparently, one can colonize Mars faster than one can bring a moel 3 to market on earth. Perhaps E-con…I mean Elon meant “Colon-ize” Mars (Maybe his rocket will crash into the planet, creating a huge colon- not that I expect that his rocket could actually even do that….)

  8. Good going Eric – good to see someone actually spreading the word….. Elons business model is solely based on harvesting subsidies and other government payments….. nothing he does makes any financial or economic sense….

  9. “All the world is made of faith, and trust, and pixie dust.”

    “Dreams do come true, if only we wish hard enough.”

    “Do you believe in fairies?…If you believe, clap your hands!”

    “You won’t forget to come for me, Peter? Please, please don’t forget.”

    – From the book Peter Pan, J.M. Barrie

    Many people are desperate for a Peter Pan to come down and help us fly away from this horrible world. The millennials have even taken to living in Wendy Houses, at least if you believe the media hype. Child-like innocence is praised, not mocked. As is succumbing to adolescent impulses, as long as you can claim victimhood or disease as the cause. Musk is just the personification of the bigger problem.

    Oh, and if you aren’t clapping along with the children, you’re an asshole.

    • “help us fly away” should have read “help them fly away.” Then again, they still need us to provide for them, so maybe they do want Peter to take all of us away.

  10. Lately Musk has been trolling the media on Twitter according to a report on jalopnik.

    The things he gets away with makes him a living example of how I see human society functioning. There are people who get away with things and people who don’t.

  11. Even this asshole’s name makes me cringe, Elon. What retards name their boy after a powder-puff edition T-Bird (ela’n)? Next thing you know, the twinkie will be in the headlines getting a sex-change and calling himself “Ellen”. If he was Bill Smith or Jeff Jones, I doubt anyone would pay him any attention. Is it any coincidence that crap attracts flies and propagates maggots? I think not.

  12. When will people wake up to the fact that Emperor Elon has no clothes? And the water is cold, Jerry.

    Elon Musk is truly the P.T. Barnum of our age. Except we get to pay him regardless of whether or not we get one partake of one of his “shows”.

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