Elon’s Game of Three Card Monte

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Elon is in the news again – but not for the right reason.

The SEC is angry with him over his Tweets – which ought to anger Tesla shareholders even more (not because of the SEC’s investigating Elon but because of the effect of Elon’s Tweets on the value of their stock).

But why isn’t anyone – including Uncle – angry with Elon over his extremely misleading – arguably fraudulent – advertising?

Not about the real-world range of his electric cars – and the effect of very cold (and very hot) weather on how far they’ll go – though these are also things you won’t read about in Tesla product literature. Which things would get any other automaker in at least warm water with various agencies of Uncle. Who – to make the point – went after Hyundai when it was felt there was evidence some of those cars didn’t deliver quite the mileage advertised. The difference in MPGs was trivial – the inquisition wasn’t.

And of course, there is VW.

But that inquisition was for misleading Uncle – something he never tolerates and always punishes mercilessly.

Back to Elon.

And his misleading advertising.

He touts the price of the Model 3 as much less than it actually is – $26,950 vs. $35,000 by discounting what you’ll supposedly save on gas. Which you may, but it doesn’t change what you’ll pay Elon.

Which is still $35,000.

No other car manufacturer does this – nor would they get away with it.

Toyota does not advertise the price of its Prius hybrid less what they think you’ll save on gas by purchasing it. They do tell you its city/highway mileage – and so does Uncle, who also calculates the annual cost to fuel the thing, based on averages – and in comparison to other cars.

You will find this information on the window sticker of every new car.

But Toyota would get Hut! Hut! Hutted! if it jiggered the advertised price of the car to reflect claimed fuel savings. There is actually a law pertaining this, the so-called “Monroney” law – which requires a window sticker be affixed to every new car detailing such things as its standard equipment and warranty details, crash test ratings, mileage and emissions information . . . and the manufacturers suggested retail price, or MSRP.

This price can’t be “discounted” by the manufacturer and would be regarded as Dirty Pool by so-called consumer advocates (who remain mute when it comes to advocating for consumers with regard to electric cars and their many downsides) if anyone else did it and would likely be considered actionable by Uncle if any other car company did it.

As in Hut! Hut! Hut! time.

Uncle literally frog marched VW executives – manacled them, as though they might be dangerous – into court over minor quibbling on obscure vehicle exhaust emissions certification tests. The “emissions” at issue were so trivial it took elaborate equipment to suss out the differences. The “cheating” cars passed all state-level tailpipe “sniffer” tests and no one would ever have been the wiser (because no one would ever have been harmed) had not some busybodies looking to skewer VW diesels – which represented a real threat to the Electric Car Agenda  – subjected the cars to the Third Degree and discovered the “cheating.”

Well, how about misrepresenting the cost of the Mode 3 by $8,050?

That isn’t trivial.

It doesn’t take elaborate machinery to suss out that difference.

What Elon is doing is tantamount to VW removing catalytic converters from its vehicles – or quietly removing structural parts to lighten them up, in order to get them to deliver much-better-than-advertised mileage and touted those savings in its advertising.

There would be an extreme Hut! Hut! Hutting! in that case. VW – any car company who did it – would probably be put out of business.

But Elon sails on.

Interestingly, the Germans  – well, the German’s Uncle – has had enough of Elon’s three card monte – at least with regard to this particular game. Earlier this month, Tesla was ordered to stop including “future fuel savings into the displayed cost of a Model3” by March 20 (see here; it’s auf Deutsch, but you’ll get the jist).

But Elon continues to tout the “$26,950” cost  of the Model3 in its U.S. advertising – with an asterisk which, if you read the fine print, reveals that this assumes what the company says you’ll save in gas – as well as the federal and state kickbacks of other people’s money available to the buyer of any EV.

It does not, however, change the sum the buyer must hand over – or finance – at time of purchase.

This is cheesy at the very least. Fraud, arguably. Yet there is no Hut! Hut! Hutting! Not even the unofficial ululating of “consumer advocates,” who never fail to ululate when the most minor sin of omission is committed by other car manufacturers.

It is interesting to speculate as to why this is the case.

I’ve written before (here) and will (briefly) give once again my explication for the oddly (and uniquely) kid-glove treatment of Elon by Uncle, et al.

It is because Tesla is the EV stalking horse. The company’s role was not to build EVs or even to sell them but to get the public used to them. To habituate people to the “reality” of EVs so that they would be more palatable; to set the precedent and normalize the EV as a car more or less like the cars people are used to, only better.

This explains why Tesla didn’t tout economy – boring! – but rather performance and sex appeal. Electric cars are exciting! This got people excited. Especially since the media – especially the car press – shoved all the not-exciting things about EVs (e.g., their high cost, their limited range, their long recharge time) under the rug.

And covered for Elon, for years.

It also explains Uncle’s gentle, even careless attitude toward Tesla – viz his indifference over the Teslian tendency to erupt in flames, to crash into barriers and other such things which would have resulted in Toyota or Ford being crucified.

And it explains Uncle’s indifference to this marketing scamola.

Tesla serves a broader purpose.

That purpose, however, has almost run its course. EVs have been normalized; the public – gulled into a state of soporification by “coverage” so one sided it makes Jim Acosta and CNN seem like pals of the Orange Man – appears to have accepted the “inevitability” of EVs.

They are in for a reality check.

Perhaps Elon, too. Once his “job” – his real job – has been done, Uncle may no longer have much use for him. This moment may be coming sooner than Elon thinks.

Too bad it’s probably too late for us.

. . .

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

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23 COMMENTS

  1. My brother drives a Tesla Model S sedan. He had someone in a pickup with a tow hitch back into him at a red light at 2 mph. It was just enough to destroy the license plate and dent the bumper a little. The Tesla customer service rep insisted that the bumper must be completely replaced in order to remain in compliance with the Tesla warranty (there are a lot of sensitive electronics in the bumper).

    So now, my brother is going to have to drive the Model S for three hours to the closest major city where there is a service center. He will have to leave the car there for 2 weeks while Tesla gets an unpainted bumper in stock from their warehouse. In the meantime he will have to get a rental car to get himself home and for the next two weeks while the bumper is painted and installed. Then he will drive back 3 hours each way to pick up the car.

    There is nothing luxurious about a car that causes this much inconvenience and hassle. I don’t understand why people associate Teslas with status and luxury. They are just a giant hassle.

  2. “He touts the price of the Model 3 as much less than it actually is – $26,950 vs. $35,000 by discounting what you’ll supposedly save on gas. Which you may, but it doesn’t change what you’ll pay Elon.

    Which is still $35,000.

    No other car manufacturer does this – nor would they get away with it.”

    But the dealers do. That $189/month lease is only after you pony up a $5000 down payment.

  3. The Chinese are working on a diesel hybrid with a 700 mile range.
    Our local power company could install 440 volt lines but it is unlikely. Reduction of charge time about 50% of what a 220V line will handle.
    The battery technology is there with the use of glass in the batteries.
    Nothing built to handle an electric car as yet.
    Heating is a major problem in winter.
    Basically all electric vehicles are an over priced piece of junk at this point in time.

    • The limiting factor in the range of a hybrid is the same as any internal combustion engine car, the size of the tank(s) that hold the liquid fuel.

      440 vs. 220 at the same current delivers 2X the power but that doesn’t mean the car halves its charge time.

      The voltage of the lines to the house only determine the current draw on the AC side of the charger. On the DC output side of the charger voltage is determined by the battery pack. The charging time is dictated by the cells. The cell arrangement determines the DC voltage and the chemistry both voltage and current.

      Thus if a car’s battery pack can be charged at its speed limit with a charger running on 220V AC switching to 440V AC won’t change it. The only way it changes is because the output side is kept lower than the cells can take because the input current would go too high. Then 440V will do something. It probably won’t double. It would also be a case by case basis depending on the details of a particular battery pack.

  4. What say all you readers about *used* Teslas? The cars have been coming into the market, albeit slowly, over the past few years, and I am starting to see used ones for sale. As a boutique car, I understand about those vehicles being dealer-serviced, and no one really to work on them, parts unavailable by 3rd parties, etc. However, for a car to be viable in the used car market, I think it must have those 3rd party services available. My thinking, as it stands now, is that living with a used Tesla as a daily driver would be about as convenient as using an antique MG or Triumph. I do find the performance of the Tesla’s intriguing and appealing, but having to live with a used one… no way!

    • Hi Tom,

      My main concern with a used Tesla – or any used EV – would be the state of the battery pack. Just like any other battery, an EV’s battery performance – its ability to hold charge – decreases over time. This means the range is further reduced – and that you’ll spend more time recharging. Replacing an EV’s battery pack can be monstrously expensive, too – especially relative to the depreciated value of the car itself.

      This is why you find Nissan Leafs only a few years old selling for $10,000 or less on the used market; they cost $30,000 new. That is quite the depreciation hit. Part of the reason being the cost of battery replacement.

  5. How does this jibe against dealers sale ads, which go like this, “New F150 from $17,999*!” Then you look at the * and it says something like, “price on stock # xyzpdq, with $8000 downpayment, 1 at this price”. Well sheeeyut, just say the truck cost is $0 with a $25,999 downpayment! What is especially delicious (here in VA anyway) are the “processing fees”, averaging about $700. Similarly, just say the “processing fee” on that F150 is $26,998.99 and advertise “no down payment, and only one penny to buy!”

    • Hi Tom,

      Agreed; that’s cheesy also. But the difference here is that there has been almost no comment by the “consumer” press about the deceptive practices of Tesla.

  6. We have one charging station in my office’s building in Downtown Austin, and a 40 degree high a few weeks ago had all the snowflakes scrambling and messaging each other so they could shuffle cars in/out of the space and get a “top off” for the ride home to the suburbs that evening, at worst 30-40 miles.

    It made me want to go rent a Silverado (the rental car companies give the free upgrades away at Austin-Bergstrom) and park it in the space for the afternoon. Oh, the howls that would have generated

    • Haha Roscoe. That would be glorious! Please report back if you ever do decide to do this, with pics and/or video too.

  7. Eric,
    Browsing Teslaclub.com yesterday I noticed that you are asked to NEVER fully charge your Tesla at any station and only go from x to 70% or 90% charge (while you wait 30 minutes for your supercharge..). Does this also affect the ‘calculated’ savings in fuel and also the mileage range being only 90% or 70% as advertised? Talk about fraud… It’s like buying a V8 and getting 4 cyl turbo on delivery. Notice the asterisk used in the price also. Does Tesla have to pay SMOG/CAFE fines to Uncle Scam too or is the pollution generated by electricity use out of sight, out of mind? The cult grows bigger everyday for them, at least for now it is voluntary…

    • Displaced emissions do not count so out of sight and mind. If they tried to get to 100% at the charger they would be sitting there for hours as the charge tapered after 80%.

    • Increased emissions from power plants will be paid for with carbon credits bought on Al Gore’s exchange. Same type of mechanism the Fed uses to issue currency. A central carbon creditor will issue credits to the exchanges, who will then offer them (minus a couple points for their needs) up for sale on the “open market.” The amount of carbon dioxide will be regulated by the central creditors, just like the Fed controls the amount of currency.

      I’m sure it will work every bit as well as the central bankers too. And be completely above board with no evildoers involved.

      • Energy based currency. The control mechanism of technocracy. Also it’s equalizing socialism. No matter what you do you only get so many energy based currency units, same as everyone else.

        But here’s the real kicker, technocracy’s system in this regard was hashed out in or before the 1930s. Also at some point technocracy and progressivism merged. Funny how this CO2 driven climate change thing occurred and how well it fit their already existing agenda.

        • Well, the dollar’s “world reserve” status is because the oil can only be bought using Federal Reserve Notes and nothing else. Helps keep everyone in line since it is pretty easy to enforce sanctions when you won’t let the offending country have any dollars, and when someone offers them other currency we tend to get a little bit bomby.

          China and Russia are basically ignoring the rules though. But we can’t do much about that.

      • That’s assuming that the existing power plants have enough capacity to power tens of millions of EVs. In my area, they’re closing down the nuclear facilities.

    • The software won’t let you fully charge the battery at the Supercharger stations. That’s because you can’t run that much current into the battery when it’s nearing 100% full. You have to slow the charging to a trickle past 90%. So you can only ever charge from some level up to about 90% and then you might as well drive off. Of course, you can reach 100% on a slow charger (like at home), but it takes many hours.

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