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.
Now 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.
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.
Tesla 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:
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.
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:
The 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:
BMW 2 Series
Better than average
Hyundai Genesis sedan
Worse than average:
BMW 5 Series
Tesla Model S
Much worse than average:
Chevy Tahoe/GMC Yukon
Jeep Grand Cherokee
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.
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.
“Driving Matters.” That’s Mazda’s newest tagline. Unfortunately, it won’t matter much longer. With this in mind, TeslaMondo just bought a 2000 MR2 Spyder. This 9/10 scale Boxster embodies Toyota’s closest brush with insanity. Or consider it the closest you can get to a Lotus Elise without the blue smoke. A Tesla Roadster is the next-closest, sharing some Lotus DNA and all, but it’s too expensive.
This Mister Two is grandfathered in from another era. Maybe great-grandfathered in. It doesn’t have Autopilot or emergency braking, or blind spot monitoring, or a rear camera, or sonar. It doesn’t even have a limited slip differential, or stability control. Or a USB port, or Bluetooth. But it does have perfect weight distribution, perfectly flat cornering, perfect torque curve, perfect harmony of clutch/shifter/throttle, perfectly optimistic attitude and a cassette player. Of course, you must leave your cassette in the player at all times, because there’s nowhere else to put it. The engine hogs the trunk, the spare tire hogs the frunk and the jack toolbag hogs 1/4 of the cubby behind the seats.
When car and driver suffer their inevitable divorce in a few years, making the world a safer, quieter and greener place, this dirty little deathbox will live on at TelaMondo’s headquarters, the cost offset by a well-timed sale and re-purchase of some TSLA shares. The sale came within minutes of the Consumer Reports snub, and the re-purchase a few days later. TeslaMondo does not advocate market timing, except in hindsight.
Speaking of Consumer Reports, it did recommend the Spyder over the Miata and the BMW Z3, so this midship runabout has a perfectly sober rationale buried somewhere in your local library’s magazine archives, probably rubbing shoulders with an in-depth review of personal digital assistants.