Archive for the ‘General’ Category

 

Mar 14

What does GM need to do for gen-2 Volt?

 

Following is some frank talk. Hope you don’t mind, and I don’t think any of it is harsh or untrue.

Maybe it will make GM think, if it hasn’t already made up its mind (possible).

I’ve see the comments here. They range from the skeptical who are now disillusioned and losing faith to the ones who never will and are hopeful still.

Please pardon me if I left any important details out. Can’t cover it all unless you want me to write you another 3,000-plus word story right after yesterday’s. …

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The Chevy Volt’s popularity may be hit or miss because of a few real and several perceived factors that have worked against it, but what would it take to revise it into the solution it was always meant to be?

Apparently we’ll find out next year whether GM makes it a “game changer” as first intended, or whether it will remain a minority player compared to true volume sellers.

Last week a story by Edmunds.com made the rounds when it reported an anonymous industry source – was it someone from GM, a supplier or who? – said the second-generation Volt would be revealed in 2015 as a 2016 model car.

The generation-two car, the source told Edmunds, would receive a new platform but only be aesthetically revised.

“It is different, but not drastically different,” said the anonymous source. “Just really a bit of a styling change to it.”

No hints were made by Edmunds’ source about improvements to the new Volt’s powertrain, price, rear seating accommodations, and if these are only minimally updated, will some say GM just doesn’t get it?

After half a decade since the first one, and a decade since the concept version, will this be another “moonshot” that makes a loud noise, but falls short of launching into orbit?

It’s not out of the question. In January we reported Chevrolet has quietly relegated the Volt to a “niche” that it’s not even trying to mass market. This revelation made people question whether GM was in it to win it or the old mission statement was something it would rather forget.

Remember the original mission? It was supposed to be a Prius beater.

“Basically, it was born out of my frustration at the deification of Toyota, because of the Prius. All the senior executives of Toyota were about to be officially anointed as saints,” said former GM Vice Chairman Bob Lutz in a November 2011 SF Gate interview.

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In its favor, the Volt’s 38 mile EPA-rated range is the longest of any plug-in gas-electric car yet sold. And it pushed the Porsche 911 out of the way in topping Consumer Reports’ owner satisfaction survey in 2011 and 2012. And it won numerous awards, but none of these were for dethroning Toyota.

Last year, Toyota sold 145,000 Prius Liftbacks despite it also being late in its product life. Both it and the Volt had flat sales growth, but the on-its-way-out Prius still managed 145,000 sales compared to the niche Volt’s 23,000.

Does GM really want a car that not only would compete with top-selling hybrids but could also put a dent in its own mild hybrids and other economical cars?

Do we have to look only to Tesla for real unfettered advancements as fast as technology and funds will allow? Is Tesla right that major automakers have inherent conflicts of interest not to cannibalize their existing sales?

Or, was the anonymous source merely “sandbagging” as some commenters on the GM-Volt.com forum said of the news?

Was the report possibly damage control for GM’s former CEO Dan Akerson who has gone off script with promising hints of a vastly improved next-generation Volt?

GM is in an awkward position where people slap it either which way. If it promises great stuff, it might harm present sales. If it says nothing, people think it’s not committed.

It’s also outliving a legacy which inspired its new CEO Mary Barra to say “no more crappy cars.”

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The company says it is committed to electrification and to be fair to the present Volt, its 38 miles EV range means it accomplishes its core mission all-electric driving with gas backup better than any other car yet sold.

It’s also price competitive now at $35,000 and qualifies for a higher federal tax credit than the 22-mile-range $33,000 Ford C-Max Energi and 14-mile-range $30,000 Toyota Prius Plug-In Hybrid.

But its image was tarnished by being the poster child of post-bankruptcy General Motors; it was attacked during the last presidential campaign as a car Obama likes, and it was initially priced at $40,000 which ain’t cheap for a compact Chevy.

Besides that, as GM has said – and Toyota also says of its limited market plug-in Prius – many consumers just don’t get it, other consumers won’t buy generation-one of any product on principle, and in any case sales prove it’s not perceived as a no-brainer.

What the Volt needs is a makeover, so let’s discuss a few possibilities …

Something’s Got To Give

 

Generator

Presently the Volt has a 1.4-liter four-cylinder gas generator that requires premium gas and gets an EPA rated 37 mpg.

This makes it not only the worst on gas-only operation of competitive plug-in hybrids, but the gas costs more too.

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When deciding between one of the others, or even the regular Prius hybrid, the term “trade-off” comes up a lot.

Basically, gas mileage is no issue with the 38-mile or so Volt if your daily range is in the EV zone. Even once it starts to burn gas, its operations cost are pretty cheap and average between electricity and gas make it less expensive to run up to a point.

Various reports have gone out that GM could use a three-cylinder smaller displacement engine that uses regular gas. Something like this or even a more efficient four-cylinder would help it a lot.

Bottom line, the Volt could use mpg in the 40s to put it closer or ideally ahead of the competition.

Electric Range

Former CEO Dan Akerson has said things like the future Volt could get at least 20-percent more range if not as much as 50-60 miles.

It would be great if he really was spilling the beans and the Edmunds report is a case of “under promising and over delivering,” rather than the other way around.

Some drivers are fine with the Volt’s real world range which can be as low as the 20s in freezing winter, and 50 or so in ideal conditions.

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Most people following these cars have heard the original studies saying somewhere around three-quarters of all Americans drive fewer than 40 miles per day, and can thus keep the Volt in 100-percent EV mode the whole time.

But even Volt fans have expressed the desire for a bit more. A pure EV like the Nissan Leaf may be good for somewhere over 90 miles in ideal conditions, and less in not ideal conditions.

A Volt that could easily pull off 48-55 miles would make it far more attractive, especially considering it employs a thermal management system that heats and cools the pack, unlike the Leaf.

GM’s engineers conservatively set up the Volt’s 16.5-kwh pack and it uses only 10.8 kwh of this. The Cadillac ELR uses a bit more from the same pack, and other EV makers use much higher percentages.

Getting more range could be a matter of simply reducing the “buffer” meant to preserve the battery, or chopping weight from the nearly 3,800 pound car. It’s already very aerodynamic so improvements there won’t likely do much to buy more miles.

Ironically, the Volt’s extra heft has been cited as helping it do better in crash tests. The Volt hits hard like a mid-sized car.

Talk of using a different chemistry has also circulated. Word of a collaboration with Envia systems was that more energy density could be had, but that tech now appears to be vaporware.

What else GM has besides is unknown, but it has what may be the largest battery lab in existence, and lots and lots of engineering talent.

To those who think GM cannot do better, it would be misguided to underestimate its capabilities. It has already said it will match Tesla later, and whether it can do so is of little question as the technology is available in the public domain.

The question is does GM have the will to execute what its fans would dearly like to see?

Seating/Room

The Volt is a four-seater with a T-shaped pack occupying the center tunnel. GM-Volt founder Lyle Dennis – from whom I took over in February 2011 – sold his Volt and bought a five-seat C-Max Energi to accommodate his kids in his growing family, even though it has less range.

That was a sore point for GM, and ironically, GM was the one who developed the “skateboard” chassis that Tesla now proudly showcases.

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Its flat floor lets the designers do what they wish. Whether GM goes this far or otherwise redesigns the battery to allow for five passengers will be something fans are eagerly waiting to see.

GM monitors its fan base and has heard it hundreds of times. Will it come through?

And while we’re at it, with the new platform, depending on wheelbase and design, a couple extra inches of rear knee room would be welcome.

It’s a compact class car – the C-Max Energi, Fusion Energi and Toyota PHEV are all midsized.
Good thing a lot of people don’t carpool – in the California HOV-with-solo-driver eligible car – as has been encouraged, because the Volt would scrunch up taller people if they all tried to cram in.

A new Volt needs to be more accommodating.

Price

What a new 2016 Volt will sell for largely depends on what its engineers are allowed to do in redesigning the car.

Reports that GM is losing money on every one have been plentiful. Really only the accountants know for a fact whether the Volt has been a liability GM cannot back away from but is loathe to go forward with because of the financial equation.

GM executives from Europe and Akerson also have said the next Volt will have more than $10,000 in costs cut out of it.

Will GM do this so as to not reduce quality? No one knows, but it plans to reduce costs – and this does not guaranty it will pass all this on as savings on the window sticker.

Frankly, if GM can bake in more range, room, and gas mileage, the present price would be far more reasonable.

If all it does is trim costs, restyle it like the source told Edmunds, it had better pass along some savings and bring the Volt down a few thousand.

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This looks like it could be the way GM goes too, if statements Akerson made last May prove to be the case.

“This next generation, we think we can decrease the price on the order of $7,000 to $10,000,” said Akerson speaking at Fortune’s Brainstorm Green conference in Laguna Niguel, Calif.

The fantasy wish list wants it all. We have no indication any of it will be made available, but some balance of the wished-for items must be given to improve the value proposition.

Also, if GM can improve the car’s desirability in the eyes of the general public, it could sell in volume and make up for slim margins.

If Elon Musk or Carlos Ghosn were at the helm what would they do?

Both Tesla’s and Nissan’s CEO are going for broke to prove their plug-in cars are mass market solutions for today.

To date the Volt has sold more than any other plug-in car in the U.S. but this is a qualified statement, and it and the Leaf which is catching up did have a head start.

Corporate average fuel economy (CAFE) regulations are pushing all automakers to search for cost-effective solutions.

That GM could design a game changer is not really a question. The question is will it?

Is it worth it to GM, and does it fit its plans?

No one knows because it plays its hand so close to its chest.

 

Mar 13

Why Tesla Is banned from New Jersey

 

New Jersey’s auto dealer president says he’s a “fan” of Tesla and supports them but only if they come clean and play like the other OEM kids in the Garden State sandbox.

After reading this, one might wonder if Tesla is in over its depth, or being sold down river, or what else is left out of the story?

We saw a bunch of reports passing on news from the Mind of Tesla, but being an enterprising reporter, and given there’s this thing called a telephone, we used it, and lo and behold, got an earful.

Funny, Tesla did not mention what we heard when we contacted the governor’s office and auto dealer association – especially the latter, as you’ll see.

What’s next for Tesla? Will it pursue legal action? I’ve not seen anything definitive on that, but if anyone has info or insights, feel free to share.

Alternate title: Why New Jersey became the latest to say Tesla Schmesla.

 

Tesla Motors will be barred from selling its cars in New Jersey after April 1 following a decision Tuesday by the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission (NJMVC), and that’s no joke.

Nor was an 11th hour Tesla blog post attempting to rouse support Tuesday interpreted by New Jersey officials as funny. On the contrary, Jim Appleton, president of the New Jersey Coalition of Automotive Retailers (NJ CAR) in so many words said it was a pouting session by an influential lawbreaker used to getting its way.

In the post, Tesla did lash out saying it had been let down from “good faith” assurances by Gov. Chris Christie’s administration, and the NJMVC. It implied also it and NJ CAR had agreed to publicly discuss their differences.

But nothing could be further from the truth, said Appleton. Instead, he said, Tesla’s words smack of hypocrisy, self incrimination, and more. And if what Tesla wrote implicating the governor, NJMVC and legislature means as much as it implies, there might be trouble beyond Tesla being barred from doing business.

In its post, Tesla said it had been working with the governor’s general counsel on allowing it to keep receiving state auto dealer licenses – something New Jersey reaffirmed later in the day it has no right to receive.

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Tesla accused Gov. Chris Christie’s administration of going back on its word, and acting beyond its authority. It also insinuated a conspiracy by Christie’s office and “a private interest group” – NJ CAR – in an unforeseen “attack” against Tesla as the governor and auto dealers sought to protect a “monopoly” at consumers’ expense.

Appleton, an attorney, in turn said it was “the pot calling the kettle black” to accuse anyone of backroom dealing. Appleton said he was amazed Tesla publicly admits it had even sought such agreements.

The dealings, he said, implied Tesla was lobbying behind the scenes to get the governor’s general counsel or someone with power to pressure or convince the NJMVC to turn a blind eye to laws already on the books.

“I mean, for them to publicly say that they’ve met with the governor’s chief counsel and they had an agreement to allow the motor vehicle commission to let Tesla operate in an open and notorious unlawful manner,” said Appleton. “I mean it’s mind boggling that they would put that in writing. I mean someone could go to jail for that.“

HybridCars.com did attempt to give Tesla equal opportunity to respond. Tesla initially invited our query and sent a general response by its business development VP to a boilerplate answer by Gov. Christie’s office.

Tesla did not reply however to statements made by Appleton, which we’ll publish below.

Later in the day, Tesla edited its blog post removing the names of Gov. Christies’ legal counsel with which it said it was dealing.

The edited post is still largely similar, but we have retained an original copy (below) upon which Appleton’s responses which follow are based.

At Issue

New Jersey is one of the country’s most affluent states and has a small but growing customer base which has bought fewer than 700 Model S sedans so far, with Model S and Model X customers also waiting now in queue.

Its two existing stores are at the Garden State Plaza, and Short Hills, and a service center is in Springfield Township.

The subject of Tesla’s blog post was PRN 2013-138, a proposal to state motor vehicle regulations under title NJSA 56. This proposal would add teeth to the way car dealer license applicants would be reviewed by the state. The intent of PRN 2013-138 was to reform the applicant review process so it will not let applicants slip past already existing New Jersey law.

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Approval by the governor and NJMVC – not to mention moral support by NJ CAR – is thus for upholding existing legislation, not new legislation. It effectively means New Jersey will fully enforce the law whereas before it had not. It also means Tesla’s existing dealership licenses will likely not be renewed, and it would not get any new ones.

Tesla put things differently, however in its opening sentence:

Since 2013, Tesla Motors has been working constructively with the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission (NJMVC) and members of Governor Christie’s administration to defend against the New Jersey Coalition of Automotive Retailers’ (NJ CAR) attacks on Tesla’s business model and the rights of New Jersey consumers. Until yesterday, we were under the impression that all parties were working in good faith.

Unfortunately, Monday we received news that Governor Christie’s administration has gone back on its word to delay a proposed anti-Tesla regulation so that the matter could be handled through a fair process in the Legislature. The Administration has decided to go outside the legislative process by expediting a rule proposal that would completely change the law in New Jersey.

 

In response to Tesla’s alleging Gov. Christie’s office had some sort of informal word-of-mouth deal in the making, its press officer Kevin Roberts replied this was not the case.

“Since Tesla first began operating in New Jersey one year ago, it was made clear that the company would need to engage the Legislature on a bill to establish their new direct-sales operations under New Jersey law,” said Roberts. “This administration does not find it appropriate to unilaterally change the way cars are sold in New Jersey without legislation and Tesla has been aware of this position since the beginning.”

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The response by Tesla’s VP of Business Development, Diarmuid O’Connell, reiterated it had an agreement with the governor.

The statute in New Jersey plainly allows Tesla to be licensed to sell cars there. Indeed, the Motor Vehicle Commission has licensed Tesla under that statute ever since October 2012, and any suggestion that Tesla was told “since the beginning” about any problem with its ability to be licensed there is false. The only thing that has changed is the Christie Administration’s sudden decision to go around the Legislature in an attempt to enact a rule that the statute doesn’t permit. Worse, it has done so without any reasonable notice or even a public hearing.

 

Appleton in turn said New Jersey’s decisions should have been upheld. He said the existing regulations under New Jersey’s motor vehicle code title 56 are very specifically worded to forbid automakers from owning and qualifying as a legal franchise.

“Clearly they are not a franchisee and because they’re not a franchisee they don’t comply with title 56, and because they don’t comply with title 56, and these regulations are intended to conform the licensing process that MVC follows to title 56,” said Appleton of Tesla, and the pending proposal PRN 2013-138. “Once it’s done they will have to take a look at Tesla upon renewal of their license to determine whether or not they are qualified to be a licensee in New Jersey, and I assure you that they are not. And they’re proud of it.”

Some news reports, and some fans commenting on the Tesla forum are largely portraying Tesla’s point of view, which it wrote above and continued, as follows:

This new rule, if adopted, would curtail Tesla’s sales operations and jeopardize our existing retail licenses in the state. Having previously issued two dealer licenses to Tesla, this regulation would be a complete reversal to the long standing position of NJMVC on Tesla’s stores. Indeed, the Administration and the NJMVC are thwarting the Legislature and going beyond their authority to implement the state’s laws at the behest of a special interest group looking to protect its monopoly at the expense of New Jersey consumers. This is an affront to the very concept of a free market.

Sympathy followed in Tesla’s forum as well:

jtodtman@gmail.com | MARCH 11, 2014
It seems that NADA and its state affiliates are taking a page from Big Tobacco’s playbook . . . lawyer the opposition to death.

 

logicalthinker | MARCH 11, 2014
Oh my word. How dirty do politicians get?
In a similar vein, Christie had nothing to do with the bridge scandal, of course.
Tesla is far from sure success in this battle to be able to sell its cars. Every Tesla owner in NJ has a personal emergency today and should take a sick day to go rally for BASIC American values at
NEW JERSEY MOTOR VEHICLE COMMISSION ANNUAL REORGANIZATION MEETING OF THE BOARD MEMBERS
Commission Headquarters, 8th Floor East Wing 225 East State Street, Trenton, New Jersey
2:00 p.m., Tuesday, March 11, 2014

 

mrbarnes | MARCH 11, 2014
Unbelievable. Except, as a NJ resident, I remember this occurring when they increased the tolls on the roads, NJ transit fare increases – they left little to no public comment, and if so – it was a 1 day in advance notice at a location that would be very difficult to get to.

The NADA and NJ CAR (dealers association) must have donated heavily in Christie’s re-election, and therefore are now hoping to be repaid.

I will be contacting my assembly persons and state senator; please call yours (or any if you are from out of state):
http://www.njleg.state.nj.us/members/abcroster.asp
http://www.njleg.state.nj.us/members/legsearch.asp

 

Many more points are made on the Tesla forum and elsewhere, but in defense of the franchise system, Appleton said it was not an attack against Tesla no matter how Tesla spins it. Instead, said Appleton, it is in the interest of the consumer and public safety.

And it’s been seen as a safeguard against automakers.

A real fear expressed by other state auto dealer associations is against self-interested automakers who could ride in on precedents carved out by Tesla.

Points along this line of reasoning were aired last year by Texas state auto dealer association president, Bill Wolters.

Tesla has said at other times it sees itself in the the moral right, and explained its core rationale in Tuesday’s post:

We strongly believe it is vital to introduce our own vehicles to the market because electric cars are still a relatively new technology. This model is not just a matter of selling more cars and providing optimum consumer choice for Americans, but it is also about educating consumers about the benefits of going electric, which is central to our mission to accelerate the shift to sustainable transportation, a new paradigm in automotive technology.

Tesla is also banned in Arizona and Texas, and faces opposition elsewhere. But while auto dealer associations express various concerns, for his part, Appleton emphasized the public safety and free market angle.

Tesla alleged collusion in New Jersey against free trade, but Appleton countered this view.

“We believe that the franchise system of automotive retailers is a system that works well to support the public and consumer interest in motor vehicles,” said Appleton. “Specifically it promotes price competition, and it encourages full and fair compliance with warranty and safety recall service.

“When an automaker sees a warranty or safety recall claim, they see expense. And if you doubt it, look at what General Motors has done with respect to the current recall that’s going on and how long it took them, how many lives it took before General Motors recognized there was a problem.

“When an automotive retailer, an independent automotive retailer sees there is a warranty or safety recall claim, they see opportunity and revenue and that’s why the legislature in its infinite wisdom in New Jersey and many other states has dictated,” he continued,

“You can’t put the fox in charge of the chicken coop. And automakers are not permitted to directly retail or own motor vehicle dealerships in the state. OK? So that’s the state of the law in New Jersey; has been for decades.”

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Appleton said he was dismayed by Tesla’s audacity and that it ever got a license against the law which he says is “black and white,” not gray.

“Tesla comes along a year and a half ago. I assumed they have lawyers,” said Appleton. “I assumed they could read. Notwithstanding the fact that New Jersey prohibits an automaker from owning or directly retailing cars, they apply for motor vehicle licenses and much to everyone’s surprise, after the fact, they got them.

“When that fact became evident and Tesla began to openly and notoriously conduct business in an unlawful manner in the state of New Jersey, people took notice. And the motor vehicle commission was advised that they had screwed up. They looked at it, their lawyers looked at it, and sure enough they came to the conclusion that they screwed up.”

It was last October that PRN 2013-138 was proposed and at that time Tesla and NJ CAR filed comments which Appleton said were considered by the NJMVC.

“The summary of the public comments indicate that the motor vehicle commission recognized that they goofed, and that the Tesla arguments – while they might be arguments that could be made to the legislature or a court of law – are not arguments that go to the question of whether or not the motor vehicle commission can or indeed must adopt a regulation which conforms their licensing process to state law,” said Appleton, “And that’s what they are deciding today.”

Ironically, Appleton noted, while Tesla accuses the governor, and NJ CAR as trying to protect a “monopoly,” it is Tesla that would be viewed as attempting to establish a monopoly in its own right with factory control of the sales, distribution, and service.

New Jersey’s title 56 regulations, while periodically amended Appleton said, have stood substantially and been upheld intact for decades.

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“The regulators have consistently gone back and looked at it for good reason,” he said. “The public policy which is supported here is to promote competition and ensure full and fair compliance with warranty and safety recall service dictates that an independent network of motor vehicle franchisees is preferable to a monopoly system such as the one which Tesla advocates.”

Appleton also answered implications that NJ CAR was in on some form of agreement, as Tesla wrote of PRN 2013-138 in its original blog post before editing out their names.

This move comes in spite of discussions with the Governor’s departing Chief Counsel Charlie McKenna and incoming Chief Counsel Chris Porrino as recently as January, when it was agreed that Tesla and NJ CAR would address their issues in a more public forum: the New Jersey Legislature.

To this implication, Appleton said the only interaction he ever had was with a Trenton lobbyist he was friends with that Tesla hired. He said they met at the state house, chuckled that they were on opposite sides, and that was the end of the discussion. Since then, he’s had no professional contact with Tesla, he said.

“I’ve never met anyone from Tesla. Let me just say again. I think Tesla is a great product, I just think they’ve chosen an unwise and illegal distribution method in New Jersey,” said Appleton. “And I look forward to the day when Tesla wakes up and realizes that if they’re going to be a real car company selling any significant number of cars in the market they’re going to need franchisees, and that’s what’s sort of silly about this whole thing. It’s just a lot of circus but it’s not very productive. I guaranty you that if Tesla goes down market and has a $40,000 car which they claim they’re going to have in the market soon – and I don’t know if that’s to pump up stock value or if that’s a real statement – but if that’s for real, then how are they going to sell enough of those $40,000 cars without dealers? Without service facilities in the neighborhoods, and God forbid there should be a serious recall like the Toyota unintended acceleration or the current GM recall.”

We asked Appleton about Tesla’s allegation that conspiracy and backroom deals may have been at play when it wrote the governor and NJMVC were working “at the behest of a special interest group.”

“It’s the kettle calling the pot black. This is a group that’s used to getting their way,” said Appleton. “Their internet billionaire, you know, who’s used to throwing his money and weight around and is frustrated, and they thought that they had an agreement in the governor’s office to turn a blind eye to the law and to allow this company to operate outside the law. And I can assure you that nobody in the governor’s office was going to agree to allow them to.”

Tesla has three choices in Appleton’s view:

1) Conform its business model to New Jersey state law.

“I believe they’ll do that sooner or later, and I would prefer sooner rather than later because this legal and regulator stuff is a sideshow,” he said.

2) Conform the law to its business model by sponsoring legislation. (Thus far there’s been none. In Texas Tesla tried that, but it was defeated.)

3) “Go to court and challenge regulations as unlawful or unconstitutional or oppressive or unfair, arbitrary, capricious. I’m a lawyer I can tell you there a hundred different ways they can challenge the law,” said Appleton. “None of them is going to do them much good” because the law is there to promote competition and “ensure that consumers get the full and fair treatment when it comes to warranty and safety recall service.”

“What Tesla is saying is we got by the motor vehicle commission once, and we think we should be able to get by them forever, even though our business model is unlawful under current law,” said Appleton. “And what the motor vehicle commission is saying is we’ve screwed up. We’re changing our procedures so that they conform with the longstanding existing law. And once we conform our procedures to the longstanding existing law, Tesla is at risk of losing its license.”

We asked how Appleton viewed Tesla saying the governor and NJMVC went against their “authority” in supporting proposal.

Having previously issued two dealer licenses to Tesla, this regulation would be a complete reversal to the long standing position of NJMVC on Tesla’s stores. Indeed, the Administration and the NJMVC are thwarting the Legislature and going beyond their authority to implement the state’s laws at the behest of a special interest group looking to protect its monopoly at the expense of New Jersey consumers.

“It’s just the opposite. They’re [governor and NJMVC] honoring the requirements of the legislature, and sticking to their authority to enforce the current statute,” said Appleton. “There is no bill pending before the legislature right now that I’m aware of that would allow Tesla to operate in the way they’re currently operating and the law has been in New Jersey for decades, as I stated.

“What are they saying? Is there backroom deals now with the legislature too?” said Appleton, asking rhetorically.

otr_s

So, we asked, how did the NJMVC originally make an error in allowing Tesla a license?

“Title 56 is not enforced or administered by the motor vehicle commission and as a result I think they didn’t really understand,” Appleton said conjecturing. “And frankly nobody ever asked, you know? There were no automakers coming to the state without [qualified] franchisees. So they never looked at title 56 as a precondition for licensing notwithstanding the fact the statue required it. So that’s the good faith mistake.

“The other option which now that I see that they claim they’ve been involved in all kinds of backroom dealing with the administration is somebody agreed that they turn a blind eye to the regulations and go ahead and issue the licenses and see if there were problems. And if there were problems they would agree not to enforce the law. Now I don’t believe that to be true, but looking at the Tesla statement, I’ve got to rethink that.”

 

HC
 

Original blog post:

Defending Innovation and Consumer Choice in New Jersey
By The Tesla Motors Team

Since 2013, Tesla Motors has been working constructively with the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission (NJMVC) and members of Governor Christie’s administration to defend against the New Jersey Coalition of Automotive Retailers’ (NJ CAR) attacks on Tesla’s business model and the rights of New Jersey consumers. Until yesterday, we were under the impression that all parties were working in good faith.

Unfortunately, Monday we received news that Governor Christie’s administration has gone back on its word to delay a proposed anti-Tesla regulation so that the matter could be handled through a fair process in the Legislature. The Administration has decided to go outside the legislative process by expediting a rule proposal that would completely change the law in New Jersey. This new rule, if adopted, would curtail Tesla’s sales operations and jeopardize our existing retail licenses in the state. Having previously issued two dealer licenses to Tesla, this regulation would be a complete reversal to the long standing position of NJMVC on Tesla’s stores. Indeed, the Administration and the NJMVC are thwarting the Legislature and going beyond their authority to implement the state’s laws at the behest of a special interest group looking to protect its monopoly at the expense of New Jersey consumers. This is an affront to the very concept of a free market.

Proposal PRN 2013-138 seeks to impose stringent licensing rules that would, among other things, require all new motor vehicles to be sold through middlemen and block Tesla’s direct sales model. This move comes in spite of discussions with the Governor’s departing Chief Counsel Charlie McKenna and incoming Chief Counsel Chris Porrino as recently as January, when it was agreed that Tesla and NJ CAR would address their issues in a more public forum: the New Jersey Legislature. Instead, rather than engage in an open debate on such a significant policy issue, the Administration has expedited the implementation of a new law that the Commission intends to stealthily approve at a meeting in Trenton today at 2:00 PM EDT.

We are disappointed in the actions of the NJMVC and the Christie Administration, which come on the heels of more than nine months of unexplained delays in the issuing of a new sales license for Tesla, despite our numerous requests, calls, and letters. In addition, the NJMVC has also delayed the annual renewal of Tesla’s current dealer licenses without indication of the cause of the delay. The delays have handicapped Tesla in New Jersey, where, without clear licensing procedures and fair enforcement of existing law, we have been forced to delay our growth plans. This is an issue that affects not just Tesla customers, but also New Jersey citizens at large, because Tesla would be unable to create new jobs or participate in New Jersey’s economic revival.

At the same time, neither Tesla nor the taxpayers of New Jersey have been able to participate in any of the analysis or proposed rulemaking. Despite being the subject of the regulation, we were only able to obtain information about Tuesday’s meeting since we became aware of the proposed rules Wednesday.

We strongly believe it is vital to introduce our own vehicles to the market because electric cars are still a relatively new technology. This model is not just a matter of selling more cars and providing optimum consumer choice for Americans, but it is also about educating consumers about the benefits of going electric, which is central to our mission to accelerate the shift to sustainable transportation, a new paradigm in automotive technology.

We urge the Christie administration to act in good faith and withdraw the proposed amendment, or amend it so that it reflects the true intent of the Legislature and the people of New Jersey.

 

 

Mar 12

Cadillac ELR Lease For $699*

 

*To qualified new customers, that is, or it’s a bit more for everyone else.

Spring is around the corner, and Cadillac has only just started with its ELR.

What do it and the Volt have in common? No, not the powertrain, that’s a given, it’s that the haters were lined up against Cadillac and GM and sales got off slowly.

To help spur things on, GM is offering a boost for lessees.

 

Cadillac has sold 115 ELRs since six cars were delivered in December ahead of its official January 2014 launch, and to prime the pump, it’s offering incentives.

The car is already eligible for a $7,500 federal tax credit and state benefits, as the case may be, but GM is offering a $699 lease with $4,499 due for new-to-GM customers who qualify also for a $1,500 cash allowance.

On top of that, and as we’ve reported previously, the first 1,000 customers will get a free 240-volt Bosch home charging station. The charging equipment comes with an installation credit up to $3,000.

This offer was received via e-mail this week.

This offer was received via e-mail last Fridat.

Last year before its launch, Cadillac’s marketers said they did not expect a lot of sales, but any ambiguity as to whether this is a direct competitive offer against the Tesla Model S has since been cleared up.

Cadillac media rep Brian Corbett replied to our question of Cadilllac’s consumer site showing a cross-comparison chart between the ELR, Tesla Model S, and BMW 4-Series Coupe.

“It’s an electrified luxury coupe that uses the EREV technology from a full-line luxury automaker with hundreds of dealers provided service and maintenance from coast to coast in the US. So there’s really nothing like it,” wrote Corbett in an e-mail last month. “But we consider Tesla a competitor given its price point, EV technology, customer base and interior and exterior design.”

Cadillac’s “Poolside” ad has also stirred up heartstrings – and ideological sensibilities. We’ve seen around the ‘Net lots of praise heaped on Cadillac and condemnation of “liberals” who object to the ad.

At the same time even media outlets known for a right-leaning worldview have not been entirely kind to the “Poolside” ad, while in other cases some have.

As for whether the ELR and its 115 sales are coming close in the market to Tesla, no pundit is needed to answer that one: Tesla has sold an estimated 2,700 units in the U.S. since January.

 

Mar 11

Tony Posawatz signs onto Electrification Coalition

 

If any of you were wondering where Mr. Posawatz would land after the end of Fisker, hr.’s the answer.

We wish him well on his next endeavor …

Yesterday former Volt line director and former Fisker CEO Tony Posawatz was announced as a new member of the Electrification Coalition (EC).

2011-chevrolet-volt-with-vehicle-line-director-tony-posawatz-photo-232537-s-1280x782

 

The EC says Posawatz will “advise EC leadership on all matters of electric vehicle policy and the organization’s deployment community efforts, Drive Electric Northern Colorado (DENC) and Drive Electric Orlando (DEO).”

CEO for the EC, Robbie Diamond welcomed him to the organization and noted his credentials at helping it in its mission.

“The entire EC team is ecstatic that Tony is bringing his unparalleled record of experience and accomplishments to our organization,” Diamond said. “As a leader in transportation electrification, Tony will play a vital role in helping the EC develop and implement the policies needed to accelerate the deployment of EVs in order to diversify our nation’s transportation sector, break oil’s monopoly, and strengthen our country’s energy security.”

In an e-mail yesterday, Posawatz said he’s “very excited to join the EC and work with the other members/directors.”

The EC’s members and directors include CEOs of outstanding companies like FedEx, GE, Eaton, Nissan, and others, he noted.

“Much has been accomplished to date with much more work still to be done by harnessing the innovative and collaborative spirit of the stakeholder community,” said Posawatz. “ I look forward to helping create an energy secure future that is both economically and environmentally sustainable and delivers the best automotive products the world has ever seen.”

 

Mar 10

How different will the 2016 Volt be?

 

By now everyone’s seen the news that a gen-2 Volt is on its way. Plenty of questions remain, however. …

 

Last week according to “industry sources” speaking anonymously with Edmunds.com, it was reported the second-generation 2016 Chevy Volt would be revealed in 2015.

“It is different, but not drastically different,” said an anonymous person to Edmunds. “Just really a bit of a styling change to it.”

The redesigned version will reportedly ride on a new front-wheel-drive GM platform.

Unknown is whether electric range or the premium-gas-burning generator would be changed for the present car (pictured) that was launched in December 2010.

To date the Volt has remained essentially unchanged, and received only minor trim updates, as well as 0.5-extra kilowatt-hours and 3 miles more EV range in 2013.

Unknown is how much life this will breath into the “Voltec” program which has seen no new mainstream-priced spinoffs for what many owners consider an under appreciated car.

Volt sales have been just so-so of late, and 2013 was essentially one of flat growth.

For the past two years or more, rumors have been that the new Volt would see at least $10,000 less in production costs whittled out of it. Another rumor prompted by statements by former CEO Dan Akerson is that its range could be as high as 50-60 miles on a charge – well over the present 38 rated.

The Volt’s present 1.4-liter gas generator has also been rumored to be due for replacement, possibly by a three-cylinder.

Based on what was said to Edmunds, if it is “just really a bit of a styling change” we suspect some plug-in fans will be ultimately disappointed, unless its pricing or some other critical part of the value proposition is improved.

Ideally, most Volt fans would like more electric range.

General Motors also just launched the 2014 Cadillac ELR, a sort of tech flagship in compact size based around the Volt’s powertrain.

Not said is whether it too would benefit from changes being made to the Volt, or whether the new Volt would be permitted to upstage it in the powertrain department.

That Edmunds believed the source(s) reliable and spoke in affirmative terms of what “will” happen is revealing.

Ultimately, it’s too soon to tell, and without full substantiation, this news should be treated as a rumor for now as well …

…Or, do you believe it, and implications the Volt may just be stylistically updated?

Is a style change enough, or does it need more AER??

If so, how much AER should the new car have?

What should it be priced at?

Do you think it will be constructed not as well as the present Volt in any way?

Where will they shave costs?

Will the genset carry forth?

Will GM upstage the ELR?

Could a better Volt come out and it not hurt’s the ELR image?

Will a redesign help the Volt shake free of any hold-over stigmas its been fettered with?

Will more people buy it?

Is this a good sign for Voltec?

Is GM waiting too long to update the Volt?

 

Mar 07

Now in progress: Coast-to-coast and back in a 60-kwh Model S

 

To the “Tesla Smesla” folks, please accept my apologies, but this is an interesting story happening and I could not find a decent Volt story for the weekend.

If anyone is feeling enterprising, you can look up the distances between Supercharger stations on Google Maps and figure how tough this person really has it pushing the lowest-range Model S across country and back. Thanks to Mark Z for the story tip.

668xNxsupercharger.jpg.pagespeed.ic.d3c-VE2NaF
 

Will this be another one for the record books?

On Wednesday, a person called only “Sam” who has chosen to not identify as male or female defied odds by completing the first half of a cross-country journey in a 60-kilowatt-hour Tesla Model S using only Tesla’s Supercharger stations.

The successful first half of the trip in progress was estimated by Sam at 3,800 miles. It began in Hawthorne Calif. at 5:30 a.m. Saturday, Mar. 1, and “Sam” arrived at Virginia Beach, Va., 7:45 p.m. Wednesday, Mar. 5. Trip time: 107.25 hours.

Sam then paused for some sleep and is now in process of returning the same way – twittering and interacting with Tesla fans as the challenging journey progresses.

The really tough part is this: Unlike the 85-kwh versions rated at 265 miles range, the 60-kwh Model S is EPA rated at 208 miles meaning it might not have made it given the stretches between some of the stations. Any waste of energy could reduce this estimate, and conversely driving carefully and using as little juice as possible can extend the range.

668x383xsuperchargerlandingpagemaps_22814.jpg.pagespeed.ic.hoXvZpwst8
 

The full purpose of Sam’s trip is not exactly clear either, other than the stated intent of making it all about Tesla and its Model S.

Although Sam chose not to disclose gender, it’s been guessed Sam’s a man.

Some of the character of “Sam’s” narrative sounds masculine, and in the Tesla Forums Sam did not correct a poster who praised Sam in saying “You are a brave man.”

Sam was called “brave” because Sam is using careful technique that saw the 60-kwh Model S arrive at some destinations along the way with next to no range left in the battery.

“So driving style is what I would describe as hypermile-lite,” explained Sam in the forum post Sam put up to chronicle the trip. “I speed up toward the end so that I arrive with 15 or fewer miles,” wrote Sam. “I’m not keeping detailed notes since that’s been done a lot. But I am taking notes and have some photos posted on twitter @teslaMS60.”

Following is the entire Tesla Forum post that explains the driver’s rationale – to the extent that Sam was willing to divulge.

FIRST SUPERCHARGER-ONLY COAST TO COAST ROAD TRIP IN A TESLA MODEL S 60

SamoSam | FEBRUARY 28, 2014
Call me Sam. I’ll be your driver for the next week (or so). Guy . . . girl. Doesn’t really matter. This story isn’t about me. This is about a Tesla MS60. And the Supercharging Network.

The smallest battery currently offered by the company, the Model S 60 is the bare bones of their line. Starting at $63,070 (with Supercharging enabled & living in CA), you get free long distance travel, for life. Add in HOV and HOT access (solo) and you are able to drive at a reasonable rate of speed in areas (Bay and SoCal) that rank among the worst commutes in the U.S.

Just so happens that my hometown also offers free metered parking as a perk of living in what some derisively call the Republic of Santa Monica.

+++++++++++++++++

But this is about the drama. What everyone wants to read and see. Cars on fire, stuck on the side of the road, struggling through adversity. If that’s what you are reading ahead here for, then please close your browser, block my tweets and unfriend me immediately.

This is a story about anyone doing a trip across the country (and back). If you’d consider doing this trip in your gas car at least. Most people never drive cross country. I was going to google the actual percentage, but you can do that yourself. If you care. Which I don’t.

But if you do like to drive, there is no better road warrior that the Model S of any flavor. 14K miles since August 2013 delivery.
Cross country is different. A great city car, be it ICE or EV, can turn against you on the open road. Hoses burst and belts snap. Worst of all you run out of fuel. Since the advent of the pure EV, range has been the forbidden five letter word. The MS60 is different.

It has a range of 208 miles which you can extend even beyond that with careful driving. But we’ll come to that later. Can’t get ahead of ourselves. First the route. Hawthorne Supercharger to Virginia Beach VA. And back.

Most people with the 85kWh version (and a range of 265 miles) are over it. They know it can be done. At least it has been twice already. Once by a father and daughter team from NYC to LA. And then a few days after by Tesla Motors team.

This trip isn’t going to break any records for speed or charging. I reckon it’s going to be a bit of a snooze. But if you want to see how an EV works. How the Supercharging Network work. And how, with superfluous laziness, you can still drive cross country for FREE in about 4 days.

There is a purpose to my trip, but I could just as easily have flown. No I’m not telling. Nosy.

This trip is like any other road trip. It’s also the final nail in the coffin of range anxiety when discussing Tesla. Tesla will NEVER have another car that has a shorter range than mine. I can fail. There is no net. I will be posting updates over the next week (or so) and I’ll try to answer as many questions as possible.

I’ll post updates and photos at on Twitter and Instagram: @TeslaMS60

 

Unknown is whether Sam had to slow down inordinately between some places. In other cases, Sam was able even to skip stations.

To be sure, energy preservation was needed, and anyone who’s seen the movie “Apollo 13″ might grasp this was about not over-using finite battery power on things like cranking up the heat, or speeding.

“I like the seat heaters and they served me well throughout,” wrote Sam.”When I needed a little warm air, I turned on the front defrost to low and it heated the cabin nicely.”

sam-twitter
 

Doing this trip meant also ensuring tire pressures were optimal, and it’s all the more remarkable it was done during winter when cold weather can sap potential range.

“I filled my tires before we left with a nitrogen gas so that they would have keep their car pressure and I also filled them to the max sidewall pressure which is 51 pounds,” wrote Sam. “That seems to done the trick and I haven’t had any issues. My watt hours did drop last night when it was about 6°, but this morning everything seems to be okay.”

Sam is keeping a running dialogue with well-wishing fellow Tesla fans along the way, and commented that while most people would rather fly, the prospect of the American road trip is becoming more feasible in the Model S with no gas to pay for.

I totally agree with your point regarding road trips. The road trip is on its way back especially when there is no incremental cost to take a road trip. I have now currently 15,814 miles on my car in the first five months of ownership because it’s making it fun to drive again.

“I’ve played a bit, but mostly it’s feel. I reduce my speed up the steep climbs if my miles are getting tight. But for the most part I start in the bonus, and I keep my cushion until I know when to step on it. The battery fills fastest from empty to 80% so there’s no need to keep much in reserve. I’ve decided to be a bit more careful from here on out and I arrived in Mitchell, SD and Worthington, MN with 4 and 5 miles, respectively.

Tesla
 

We called Tesla media rep, Patrick Jones yesterday and inquired about the trip, and it came as news to him. So far Tesla has not gotten back to us with further comments.

When a couple of guys from Louisiana last month drove a Model S out of the country in a far-more sketchy journey to the Panama Canal, Tesla’s media team stood back, and had no comment.

But Sam’s drive is in a Model S on the Supercharger network which last month Tesla itself ran across the country in its own 85-kwh cars to certify to the world that it was ready.

Conspicuously absent in Tesla’s publicity releases is any mention of the ability of 60-kwh versions to make it, but in speaking with Tesla, its representatives have conceded its network could leave people in 60-kwh cars stranded.

model_S
 
Tesla fans also know the score, but fans who are accentuating the positive are less-than-vocal at exposing any potential holes in Tesla’s statements – and to top it off, fan Sam is out to prove it can be done, if not with extra special care.

Another factor making Sam’s trip potentially more time-consuming is the fact that Superchargers normally slow down the rate of charge from 80 percent to 100-percent full.

In a 60-kwh car, topping off the battery is necessary more often than in an 85-kwh car to ensure the car has enough range to make it in the extra long stretches.

That Sam made the 3,800-mile first half of the trip in 107 hours and 15 minutes is remarkable next to Tesla’s 76.5-hour, 3,464.5-mile journey to New York for which it is applying for a Guinness world record.

The trip also beat father and daughter team John and Jill who made the absolute first trip from New York to California in 130 hours and 50 minutes.

Fans of Sam have suggested this latest trip should also apply for a spot in the record book.

In any event, what Sam is doing is rather more adventurous at least for now.

superchargerlandingpagemaps_comingsoon_214
“Coming soon” Supercharger map.
 

Tesla now lists 78 U.S. Superchargers, and it’s quickly adding more through the country. A year from now if someone makes the trip Sam did, it may be less of a feat, or there may still be some gaps.

Meanwhile, Sam’s journey is only just past the half-way mark, and following is Sam’s post upon arrival Wednesday.

The first half of my journey is complete. I arrived in VA Beach tonight at 7:45PM EST. I drove ~3800 miles and charged using nothing but Tesla Supercharging Stations.

I want to thank everyone that gave me hints, suggestions, and made me laugh along the way. Most of all I want to thank Tesla Motors for making the best car I’ve ever seen, driven or owned.

Tesla, you are changing the world one drive at a time.

Everything is possible in this new world. Sustainable transportation. Free Cross Country Travel. Most of all, you are changing heart and minds. Not through advertising and manipulation. But my making an incredible product that sells itself.

I’m going to sleep 12 hours (at least) and then turn around and come home. If anyone is interested if it is possible, twice, I will continue to post here. I don’t have the numbers yet, and likely won’t for another week. For that, I apologize.

If anyone is interested in meeting along the way, please email me and I’ll do my best to let you know the route and timing.

Sam
teslams60@gmail.com
@teslaMS60 on twitter and instagram

 

superchargerlandingpagemaps_2014_214
Superchargers estimated to be in place by end of 2014.

 

As of today, Sam is back on the road.

If you want to know more, we’ve linked most of what you’d need to know, or you can contact Sam.