Tesla (TSLA) CEO, Elon Musk, has taken off the gloves and is offering an innovative new hybrid lease that promises to bring in thousands of new buyers of his revolutionary, all electric S-1 sedan.
The package eliminates the downside risk that concerned prospective customers about the resale value of their cars down the road. Under the program, Tesla will buy back your car at 50% of the purchase price after 36-39 months. This equates to a rate of depreciation that is on par with other premium, high-end vehicles, like Mercedes, Porsche, and Jaguar.
Assuming that you buy the 85 kWh, 270 miles range S-1 for $79,900, this works out to a monthly payment of $1,025, also in line with the market. Tesla people tell me that since the plan was announced, 90% of the buyers have opted for the lease option. Many are actual cash buyers who are placing the maximum $50,000 down with the intention to pay off the $30,000 balance in six months, just to get the free put option on the vehicle.
Tesla is also moving full steam ahead with its national supercharger network, which will enable electric car owners to drive coast to coast. Only 45 minutes is required to obtain a full charge. Just last night, my S-1 upgraded itself online and I was presented with new superchargers in Gilroy and Bakersfield, California. I can now make it down to San Diego.
Elon has promised to take his family on such an expedition as soon as the infrastructure is in place some time next year. I am considering my own trip from San Francisco to Chicago, which according to MapQuest, I could do in 30 hours. After all, it will be free, less the investment of my own time at the wheel, and the wear and tear on the tires.
When I was a teenager during the 1960’s, I hitchhiked from the West to the East coast more than 30 times. I used to race my younger brother from Los Angeles to New York, who finally won with a record time of 49 hours. I met a lot of strange people in those days. Once, I was picked up in Texas by a nervous, chain-smoking woman driving a souped up Dodge Dart fleeing a violent husband, seeking refuge in California. She drove like a bat out of hell the entire way, and we made the Golden State in record time. It’s funny, the things you remember.
A drive across the Great American Desert can have a cleansing, almost rejuvenating effect, as long as you don’t mind the country western music on the radio. The last time I did this was during the eighties, when I drove my sister to graduate school at Texas A&M. That little foray found me line dancing with a bunch of drunken Aggies in a College Station bar. How is it that everything surreal that happens to me always occurs in Texas?
But I digress. Tesla has quit making the 40 kWh, 130-mile range version of the S-1, as virtually all demand was for the long range model. The waiting list is now down to two months, which is why they took the next step on the marketing front. The four-wheel drive Model X is still on schedule for 2014, and I am number 645 on the waiting list for that vehicle. I have already wired my Lake Take house for 220 volt recharging. Who cares what the price is!
When I stop at traffic lights in the city, I still get applause and thumbs up from cheering groups of pedestrians. And then there are those little notes tucked under the windshield wipers from admiring young women asking for rides. That, alone, is worth the $100k. The State of California has already sent me my $2,500 Clean Vehicle Rebate, and I plan to claim my $7,500 Qualified Plug-in Electric Drive Motor Vehicle Credit (form 8936) on my federal tax return this year.
I have received a lot of emails about the weekend Barron’s article panning Tesla. Elon says he can drop the cost of his batteries from $400 to $200 in five years, making his planned mass market $40,000, 200 mile range “Gen III” Tesla profitable. General Motors (GM) says he can’t. Given the recent track record of the two companies, I am more inclined to back Elon.
Let me tell you what is really going on here. The automobile establishment absolutely hates Tesla, because Musk has proven everything they said was impossible. Tesla doesn’t advertise, as its innovative, low cost business model sells all of its cars online. This is why they are banned in Texas, which hasn’t the slightest interest in seeing non-oil forms of transportation succeed.
Tesla also doesn’t advertise. Open the pages of Barron’s, and you will find ads extolling the virtues of General Motors, Ford, (F), and Chrysler, but not one from the disruptive Tesla. It’s the same with the financial industry. Barron’s often publishes damning exposés on tiny companies you have never heard of, but extolls the great wisdom and foresight of PIMCO, Fidelity, and Morgan Stanley, their largest advertisers. That is the free market, capitalist world we live in.