Fresh air coming to car retailing?

If we believe what we read, we should conclude that car salespeople are more keen on smoking and texting than assisting mankind’s shift to electric vehicles. Consumer Reports told us so, albeit not exactly in those words, and now the NYT concurs. Even some auto manufacturers don’t like to sell EVs. FCA chief Sergio Marchionne, in a move he will regret,* outright flouted EVs by begging the public to avoid its electric Fiat because it represents a loss to the company. Yet Tesla sells EVs pretty effortlessly, without even advertising them, and at premium prices. Why?

  1. Compelling product. Already discussed at length, and the topic will continue ad infinitum. Other automakers are plotting their Tesla-killers, as the press constantly reminds us, blah blah blah.
  2. Compelling customer experience. Tesla controls its stores. Other automakers struggle to control theirs, so saddled are they with the grandfathered franchise system.

While number 1 gets the headlines, number 2 is quietly getting some much-needed attention. Lexus says it’s watching Tesla’s retail model very closely. TeslaMondo’s sources inside Toyota speak of a new “transparent” process in the works. BMW has opened a mall store already. And now Audi plots a retail re-boot. So Tesla is simultaneously eroding century-old complacency in both auto development and auto retailing. At last, some fresh thinking. It will be interesting to see how Tesla’s service model withstands the exponential sales growth. Will we witness broad change in automotive servicing too? Probably, and just in time for autonomous pay-per-use cars to force a thorough re-write of this post.

*Can you name a single instance when flouting technological change has worked out swimmingly for any company?

Tagged , ,

Tesla resale best in UK

So says CAP Automotive, a heavy-hitter in car pricing data. This mirrors findings by NADA. Don’t forget that a couple years ago, Musk enacted a resale value guarantee, backed by his own personal assets. Eeeek! But all is well.

Tagged , ,

Trans-China railroad connected

Tesla has now connected northern and southern China with Superchargers. It operates 320 Superchargers and 1500 destination chargers in China. No railroad involved, and “trans” usually means “across,” so ignore the headline.

Tagged ,

Model X to face bestial trials

American Tourister chimp testNow that Tesla is apparently taking general orders for Model X, which starts at $80k before incentives and interestingly offers seating for five, six or seven, we’re counting down to the Samsonite Gorilla* test — when laymen get their mitts on the X and start monkeying around with the falcon doors, just to see what happens. Can they be fooled into hitting something? Will they lift anything? That kind of thing. Monkey business abounds with Autopilot, as YouTube videos attest, but we ain’t seen nuthin’ yet. Like apes to orange suitcases, so will humans stick it to poor Model X. It’s a DNA thing.

It seems the Autopilot shenanigans took Tesla by surprise. The company is working on stricter safeguards to ensure you don’t leave the cockpit of the plane, so to speak. Will Model X shenanigans require any OTA safeguards? We’ll see.

Will TSLA get a boost as Model X moves one step closer to science fact instead of fiction, or will we have to wait until the automotive press gets some test vehicles and reports that yes, Model X does warrant Also Sprach Zarathustra as the soundtrack.

Maybe it’s fitting that the Model X configurator coincides with the 41st anniversary of Australopithecus. Or maybe TeslaMondo is simply forcing a primate theme into this post for no valid reason.

*The famous ad involved neither Samsonite nor a gorilla.

Tagged ,

2016 Prius vs Model III. Ruh-oh.

2016 Prius TeslaMondo

Blame Autoblog for this image

If the VW emissions folly signals that gas engine technology has peaked, Toyota’s re-engineered 2016 Prius might signal the same for hybrids. Sure, the incremental gain in fuel economy and more-than-incremental gain in handling bespeak devout engineering effort, but they don’t approach the feverish pace of improvement in the EV camp.

Tesla sees a doubling of battery energy density every 10 years. Has the Prius doubled anything in the last decade? No. The 2016 Prius has boosted fuel economy by 21 percent over the 2006 model if you look strictly at the latest 56 mpg “Eco” version. Otherwise, the gain is 13 percent. Toyota’s Hybrid Synergy Drive is a terrific, reliable setup. But compared with the pace at Tesla, the Prius is frozen in time, and is therefore a sitting duck. This poster child for hybrids, the first one to hit the elusive tipping point, might make the loudest thud in next few years as EVs hit a tipping point of their own with Model III.

Curb appeal, or curbed appeal?
“We forgot style.” That’s the punchline of a Toyota Venza ad. It comes when a guy sporting white socks and Birkenstocks realizes his Subaru is homely next to the Venza, and tells his frumpy wife that they blew it. With that in mind, we turn to the new Prius. And then we quickly turn AWAY from the new Prius. Green cars have lost their license to be ungainly. Tesla has revoked it for all. So this new Prius is in violation as soon as it backs out of your garage. The car with the highest BF in automotive history seems complacently homely. What’s BF? Birkenstock Factor.

Burning gas moves to back burner
Toyota is rightly attempting to shift the focus to fun, as cheapish gas shuffles buyer priorities. At the official launch, fuel economy never made it onstage. Imagine that! The accompanying press release barely mentions the subject. It’s all about the allegedly beautiful styling and the thrill of driving the new Prius. And yes, this new Prius does handle far better, according to early reviews. The problem is, Model III is very likely to offer far stronger sex appeal and driving dynamics. True, we’ll all be passengers in automated cars eventually, but driving still matters for a while.

Price canyon is narrowing fast
You want a Tesla, but you drive a Prius for 70% less money? Makes sense. But will it make sense when the delta is zero? The top-drawer Prius with top-drawer tech packages will push you into the low $30s, overlapping the bottom-end Model III when you include tax incentives. Another thing: Both cars will attract people with plenty of dough, who simply don’t want to blow it on a six-figure car. So even if Model III’s initial run tends toward the high end of the spectrum, around $50k, even that could poach would-be Prius buyers who can justify the ROI of a Tesla, given the OTA updates and zero fuel consumption and ironclad resale value.

Pedigree no longer Toyota’s advantage
Tesla’s image could not possibly get better. It’s a renegade company that challenges the law on multiple fronts, extends a middle finger to car pocket-picking car dealers and gas stations, skips normal advertising, takes chances with vanguard technology, kicks everyone’s buttocks in drag races and has a bona fide rocket engineer in charge. He uses foul language sometimes, too. Young people swoon. Toyota’s image is super value with super reliability. Nice! Not quite rocket engineer nice, but nice. The Prius’s image in particular has indeed matured from an obnoxious accessory for liberals to a smart vehicle for smart people of all stripes. But the BF factor remains high. So too does the parental factor. Young readers here might agree that the Prius in the driveway even smells like parents. Not cool. Social media bear this out.

It might not happen next year, but by 2020, the tech-forward car of Y2k will have to hand the torch to the Mirai, its dubious styling inspiration, and hope for the best. Hybrids will have run their course.

Tagged ,

Model III might drag us all into a new conversation

Model S drag race TeslaMondoTesla tends to kill all in a drag race. YouTube videos abound. Well, now it might dominate the other kind of drag race, as in drag coefficient. It’s a big factor in fuel economy and electric range.

But it’s unglamorous. Aerodynamics usually bores everyone except automotive engineers. Leave it to Tesla to make it an exciting topic among laymen and force other automakers to stop chickening out and start building super-slippery cars, even if the styling startles at first. Model III might do exactly that. If todays’ rumors have a foot in reality:

  • Musk wants the III to slip under 0.20, besting the 0.24 of the S and X, and making it the slickest production car on earth. It would likely require a radical design, something normally relegated to an outlandish concept tucked behind the ropes at a car show.
  • The Model III will indeed have a “special design,” says another bit of hearsay.

Don’t forget, Elon did say Model III won’t look like other cars. Seems we might be in for a shocker next spring. Those nutty concept cars that nobody actually builds, Tesla might build, despite TeslaMondo’s view that the fledgling EV market requires restraint and disallows crazy designs.

Winning this “drag race” would grant Tesla some mighty-impressive bragging rights during the III unveiling. Impressive to geeks, that is. But, you see, Tesla is making geeks of us all.

Tagged ,

Gig 2 scouting already underway

Sprockets TeslaMondo

Sprechen schon? Wow!

So Tesla is talking Gig 2 in Germany. Is this news? If Germany is a shoo-in, then yes, because it’s “enemy territory.” But Tesla might be doing what it did with US states during Gig 1 planning:  just scouting around for incentive packages. Perhaps we’ll see a bidding war between nations, with Germany touting its prowess in auto engineering, and free beer to boot. Apparently, Germany’s economy minister is so excited, he just can’t hide it and he’s singing about it in public. Maybe that’s the news. Germans don’t excite easily.

UPDATE: A non-denial denial by Tesla:

Screen Shot 2015-11-18 at 12.17.54 AM


You could fare plenty worse than Model S

imageThe January 2016 issue puts Model S reliability into some context. Here are the reliability ratings for any vehicles that could be construed as Tesla competitors (a stretch in some cases, but just go with it, dammit). Any conspicuously absent models were simply not rated, for lack of data.

Of course, looking beyond this one metric, Tesla’s customer satisfaction could not be rosier despite the hiccups.

Much better than average:
Audi A4
Audi Q3
BMW 2 Series
Lexus (anything)
Toyota (anything)

Better than average
Audi A5
Audi A6
Audi A7
Porsche 911
Porsche Cayenne
Porsche Boxster

Audi A3
Cadillac CTS
Hyundai Genesis sedan
Infiniti Q70
Mercedes E-Class
Mercedes GLE-Class

Worse than average:
BMW 5 Series
BMW i3
Cadillac XTS
Tesla Model S
Porsche Cayman
Porsche Macan

Much worse than average:
Acura RLX
Cadillac ATX
Cadillac Escalade
Chevy Corvette
Chevy Suburban
Chevy Tahoe/GMC Yukon
Chrysler 300
Dodge Challenger
Infiniti Q50
Infiniti QX60
Jeep Grand Cherokee
Mercedes CLA
Mercedes C-Class
Mercedes GL-Class
Mercedes S-Class


Toyota says autonomy will make driving more fun. Right-O.

Toyota is launching a new autonomy/safety/mobility initiative. It will save lives and bring mobility to the infirm/elderly. Good so far. But what about the fun of driving a car? Is the sports car dead? TeslaMondo’s previous post takes a pessimistic view of our driving future and cheers a wholly unintelligent sports car from 15 years ago. Quite a brutish view of the world for a Tesla investor, yes? Maybe.

But then again . . .

Skip to 34:34 and you’ll hear Toyota’s new tech advisor Gill Pratt say: “if you are a non-expert driver, but you would like to experience the joy of driving in a way [of] high performance, what’s wonderful about parallel autonomy is that it can help prevent you from having an accident even if your skill is not quite good enough, and it can help you learn how to drive better because it will help teach you how to drive in the best way.”

Let’s reflect quickly on “intrusive” technology in cars. Taking a hardcore view would mean rejecting the likes of antilock brakes. That seems silly. Of course the car should think for itself, uh, a little.

But there’s something disturbingly clinical about Pratt’s statement. It seems that spirited driving in a Toyota, and all cars eventually, will become as corralled, monitored, measured, and sterile as the eroticism in the Lucas film THX1138. You and your car will never again have a private room, but don’t worry. Sex is better with proper coaching.

THX1138 TeslaMondo

But wait just a second. Toyota says the fuel cell Mirai represents transport for the next hundred years. How does one drive a Mirai in a high-performance manner? This whole topic of a car and driver marriage is moot, at least for Toyota. Divorce proceedings have commenced. Pratt might as well take a seat.

%d bloggers like this: