Archive for the ‘General’ Category

 

Mar 04

February plug-in car sales summary

 

February saw plug-in sales continue to tow the line and the Volt finished with 1,210 units sold, while the Spark EV sold 71, and Cadillac ELR sold 58 units.

The Volt’s sales were down 25.6 percent from February 2013 which had witnessed 1,626 sales. Calendar year to date, Volt has 2,128 for 2014 versus 2,766 for 2013.

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The ELR’s 58 is up a bit over its 41 in January and 6 in December. The Spark is down from 93 in January and this is the second month it went into the 70s since September 2013 whereas from July-onwards it’s been between 80-some and 100-some with its record being 126 in December.

Following also are the February unit sales for some of the others of note:

Nissan Leaf: 1,425, Ford Fusion Energi: 779. Ford C-Max Energi: 552, Toyota Prius Plug-in Hybrid: 1,041, Tesla Model S: estimated by Autodata at 1,600, but we’ll see if Alan Baum lowers this educated guess as he sometimes does.

Of these, the Leaf and Toyota are worth mentioning as doing relatively well.

Nissan noted in another one of its positive press releases Sunday night that it’s the 12th straight month the Leaf has set a record.

Its 1,425 sales are up 118.2 percent higher over February 2013.

Toyota also gets honorable mention for selling 1,041 units in just 15 states in which its manufacturer makes it available.

Ford’s two PHEVs sold in total 1,331 which means both these cars are needed to beat limited-market Toyota.

Of General Motors in its entirety, it sold 222,104 vehicles and was down 1 percent compared to February 2013.

“Weather continued to impact the industry in February, but GM sales started to thaw during the Winter Olympic Games as our brand and marketing messages took hold,” said Kurt McNeil, U.S. vice president of Sales Operations. “Car and crossover sales were particularly strong at Buick and Chevrolet, and we continue to have a strong mix of pickup sales.

“Despite a slower start to 2014 than most people expected, we look forward to a very successful year, backed by plenty of new products and what should be the strongest GDP growth since the end of the recession.”

 

Mar 03

Would a Gigafactory in Texas put Tesla in the political driver’s seat?

 

Hint hint — this story has the makings of another whole untold story at the bottom.

I only touch on it here, and have really said nothing about it until now. It has to do with one lone Texan pitted against three hired guns for Tesla who had a showdown on making a hole for Tesla.

Unfortunately no one recorded this back-and-forth between Tesla’s legal council, its Washington lobbyist, an economics professor, versus one auto dealer president.

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It’s been said “you can catch more flies with honey than vinegar,” and could a new take on that in Texas be Tesla can catch more legislators’ ears with a Gigafactory?

That possibility was one angle discussed in a piece by San Antonio Express-News business writer Neal Morton who confirmed his city is one of the potential candidates posturing and preening itself as attractive now in the eyes of Tesla Motors.

According to his report, Texas Governor Rick Perry is leading the negotiations with Tesla for a $5 billion factory that could bring 6,500 jobs, with groundbreaking as soon as this year.

“They made it clear to us they want to go through state-level entities, then screen down to the local level,” said Mario Hernandez, president of the San Antonio Economic Development Foundation often governor’s office. “The governor has signed a nondisclosure agreement [with Tesla], so the information they revealed is very limited at this point.

“We are in direct contact with the governor’s office, and at this point they are on the lead.”

As you may recall also, Tesla is barred from operating its sales and service centers in Texas.

This remained true after May last year when the Texas Auto Dealer Association (TADA) led a successful campaign against Tesla which petitioned the state legislature to make a hole in the laws allowing Tesla through.

The TADA said it had a raft of reasons why and no one but HybridCars.com gave them full billing, but the court of public opinion is still less than convinced.

In speaking to an analyst for Kelley Blue Book on the subject, the San Antonio reporter Morton aired the notion that Tesla could in time exert far more clout in a way that legislators understand – by talking about their constituents’ dollars and jobs.

If Tesla were to set up shop somewhere in Texas like San Antonio – proximal also to Toyota and a potential rocket and spacecraft venture in Brownsville – and then Texas laws were such that cars sold poorly in state, how would that go down politically?

“I hadn’t considered that angle, but it does make a lot of sense,” said Kelley analyst Alec Gutierrez apparently in response to a leading question by the reporter. “If you talk about building a factory, bringing jobs, supporting the (Texas) economy, I can see that as a rather bold play by Elon Musk.

“If he’s running into hurdles trying to sell his cars there, what better way to circumvent that than bringing jobs?”

But the TADA is sticking to its guns, and said in a statement it would welcome anyone offering job creation in Texas “as long as they play by the rules.”

The rules include car sellers must submit to franchising.

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The state auto dealer association figures its members invest over $10 billion in Texas as it is, “so legislators will not be easily tricked into abandoning a system that has worked so well for consumers for years to allow a direct sales approach.”

Fans are quick also to accuse dealers of attempting to maintain a unethical, and self-centered economic hegemony.

The TADA is well aware of the bitterness felt by some against it, but has insisted while its members do stand to gain, this is not its sole rationale. Rather, it’s a complex balance of control against concerns over other OEMs that stand to use the Tesla case example as a wedge to erode economic safeguards.

The TADA argues also at stake – even if it is not widely reported – is consumers’ welfare, local small economies, even safety concerns.

Last fall HybridCars.com spoke with TADA President Bill Wolters in follow-up to the long piece linked above in this piece.

He said he had personally been willing to help Tesla craft its strategy so that it could still operate essentially the same as it has. These include:

• A mall-based showroom

• Off-site service

• Technical advisors rather than salesmen

• One set price

• Control of the number of outlets and dealership process

• Ownership if there is an investor of Tesla’s choosing who has a buy-out provision.

These can all be done within the confines of existing Texas state franchise law, but the media has typically not reported the full extent of Texas’ arguments.

Last fall we offered Tesla an opportunity to comment on the above bullet points that were the subject of a Tesla versus Texas debate that was never published, but Tesla declined.

Tesla is following its own path, and if its Gigafactory is constructed in Texas, it may get its way. Or, if it settles elsewhere, it will have less potential leverage and have to figure something else out when the Texas state legislature reconvenes after a two-year period in 2015.

In any event, eyes now are on a future, said David Marquez, economic development director for Bexar County, Texas, the county in which San Antonio resides.

“Everyone’s gunning for them, and it will become a little bit of a beauty pageant,” he said. “Everyone’s scrubbing their databases to check for contacts they have, (and) it’s most important that you know somebody who knows somebody.

“I’ve got my staff researching to try to see what’s in the pipeline,” he added. “But every other major city and economic development group in Texas is doing the same thing.”

San Antonio Express-News

 

Feb 28

Hollywood rolls out the green carpet for Cadillac ELR

 

For the 11th Annual Global Green USA Pre-Oscar Party, Cadillac’s ELR was center stage as the annual event also marked the organization’s 20th anniversary with a “zero waste” celebration.

GM says Hollywood’s “elite activists and eco-conscious celebrities” had a great clean time with plant-based dining and a fundraising auction with intent to raise awareness for Global Green USA’s ongoing initiatives.

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“More than 400 guests attended the star-studded event,” said Cadillac. “Notable nominees in attendance included Lupita Nyong’o (’12 Years a Slave’), Leonardo DiCaprio (‘The Wolf of Wall Street’), David Warshofsky (‘Captain Phillips’), Richard Linklater (‘Before Midnight’), Steve Cogan (‘Philomena’) and Spike Jonze (‘her’).”

Among names on the “Green Carpet” in Beverly Hills, included:

Frances Fisher
P.J.Byrne (Wolf of Wall Street)
Malin Akerman (Trophy Wife)
Joan Rivers
Maggie Grace (Lost)
Ed Begley Jr.
Luke Perry (Beverly Hills 90210)
Billy Zane
Vanessa Marano (Switched at Birth)
Ashley Greene (The Twilight Saga)
Michelle Branch
Matt Walsh (HBO – Veep)
Anita Kravos (The Great Beauty)
Ken Jordan (Chrystal Method)
Moby (Singer-Songwriter, Musician, DJ and Photographer)
Chris Paine (Who Killed the Electric Car & Revenge of the Electric Car)

“Sponsoring this event gives Cadillac a chance to help celebrate achievement,” said Melody Lee, Global Cadillac director, Brand and Reputation Strategy. “Working with The Hollywood Reporter also continues to build on our larger involvement within the film industry.”

As you may recollect the Volt enjoyed a similar celebration when it was newer.

 

Feb 27

Tesla gives more details about planned ‘Gigafactory’

 

Yesterday Tesla Motors released graphics and a brief written statement divulging more about its much-anticipated “Gigafactory” to produce batteries for its future cars.

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Chief among the future cars is the “Gen 3” sedan which Tesla rep Alexis Georgeson said should see 200 miles EPA-rated range on the sticker, and cost around $35,000.

This car will take lessons learned from the Model S, and incorporate them into a model intended to be competitive with the likes of a BMW 3-Series, says Tesla.

Or, perhaps some might find this a worthy alternate to a Volt?

It has been called “Model E” by speculators but Georgeson said the company calls it Gen 3.

To get the batteries needed for this, and other vehicles, Tesla says it is still deciding where to locate the massive battery facility.

States in consideration are Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas and the final location will be announced later, says Tesla.

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Following is the brief message Tesla issued:

As we at Tesla reach for our goal of producing a mass market electric car in approximately three years, we have an opportunity to leverage our projected demand for lithium ion batteries to reduce their cost faster than previously thought possible. In cooperation with strategic battery manufacturing partners, we’re planning to build a large scale factory that will allow us to achieve economies of scale and minimize costs through innovative manufacturing, reduction of logistics waste, optimization of co-located processes and reduced overhead.

The Gigafactory is designed to reduce cell costs much faster than the status quo and, by 2020, produce more lithium ion batteries annually than were produced worldwide in 2013. By the end of the first year of volume production of our mass market vehicle, we expect the Gigafactory will have driven down the per kWh cost of our battery pack by more than 30 percent. Here are some details about what the Gigafactory will look like.

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Graphics also supplied by Tesla also tell the story.

Plans are big, and the plant intended to churn out 35-plus gigawatt-hours of batteries per year is seen as vital in Tesla’s plans to get economies of scale necessary to produce its affordable cars at acceptable profits.

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Feb 26

BMW offers creative i3 financing

 

BMW Offers New Financing Package For i3

By Phillippe Crowe

The BMW i3 has gotten the company’s financial arm, BMW Group Financial Services, to tailor a new spin on creative financing to the buyers of this new EV.

With the launch of the BMW i3, the brand’s first premium electric vehicle, BMW Group Financial Services (BMW GFS) said it created a financial “solution” to ownership that provides eligible customers with the options to lower their monthly payment and return the vehicle at the end of their contract term.

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The financing product called “OwnersChoice with Flex,” provides eligible BMW i3 customers the option to increase their final OwnerChoice balloon payment due at the end of their contract term by up to $7,500, said BMW GFS.  This increased final balloon payment reduces the amount of the customer’s required monthly payment, it said – without getting into details like the actual amount of likely or potential monthly payments.

BMW GFS added eligible buyers of a new i3 may also be able to receive a Federal EV Income Tax Credit.

According to Fred Isele, Vice President of Sales and Marketing for BMW Group Financial Services, “OwnersChoice is similar to a lease program in that the retail contract provides low monthly payments followed by a balloon payment at the end – however, the distinct difference remains in ownership. Owners can gain a comfortable payment for one of the highest technological and efficient premium electric vehicles available to date, and know that we’ve created end-of-term options including optional return of the vehicle, while providing them a means to own the vehicle.”

BMW GFS added end-of-term options include completing the purchase of the car by paying the full balloon payment due at the end of their contract term, or returning the car in exchange for a pre-determined vehicle price and paying the remaining amount of the balloon payment at that time.

BMW GFS’s “OwnersChoice” will be available in 48 states for the new BMW i3 subject to credit approval, state restrictions, and other conditions.

“While the program provides ownership, it includes a walkaway vehicle return option similar to a lease,” said Isele.

BONUS: Volt zips to 60 as quick as McLaren’s P1 supercar

By Jeff Cobb
 

The McLaren P1 packs a 727-horsepower, 3.8-liter twin turbo engine (191 hp/liter!), and if that is not enough for the 3,075-pound carbon-festooned car, it also has a 176-horsepower electric motor.

Equipped with active aerodynamics – banned on race cars – the hybrid car is a new benchmark, and owners of the P1 will need a crash course in not crashing – McLaren actually does require them to be instructed before taking delivery.

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It’s pretty serious, but the Volt will run with it from a standstill to 60 mph.

In EV mode.

In all-electric mode, the P1 auto shifts through its 7-speed transmission briskly and quietly running the supercar to 60 in around nine seconds.

Of course, this is as tame as it ever gets, and now you know why I did not make this an actual headline.

:)

Use the ICE, and the P1 is faster than a Volt. As in, 0-60 in 2.7 seconds, 0-125 in 7 seconds, top speed limited to (!) 217 mph.

The 903-horsepower wonder is being touted as letting you have it all.

All you needed was $1.15 million but it’s too late if you’re thinking about it, because all 375 were sold out last November.

 

Feb 25

Volt fleet to cross 400 million EV miles today

 

The running tally of Chevrolet Volt miles kept by GM shows cumulative electric only miles are enough to walk the Great Wall of China 30,000 times.

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Or, in simpler terms, it’s over 399,700 as of 11:30 p.m. EST Feb. 24 and when I checked 24 hours ago, it was somewhere close to half a million less or thereabouts.

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Assuming the same rate today (2/25) the EV mile count should be ticking along nicely towards four hundred million miles.

UPDATE: This assumes also GM’s Web site is accurate. Presently at 10:50 a.m., if you refresh the page the supposed running count re-starts at 399,714,060. That’s right. You can watch the purported real-time data run up but if you refresh, it starts again at a lower count …

As you can see by screenshots taken around the same time, documented total miles are over 639.6 million and gallons of gasoline saved are over 20.7 million.

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(Oh also, the EPA says the Volt gets 38 miles all-electric range, not 28 miles, in case some of you were beginning to think I forgot that. I was out video shooting all day and could not edit yesterday’s article.)

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Source: Chevrolet

Link of interest: Voltstats

Thanks to: kdawg who mentioned the EV miles milestone the other day in comments.