Tesla Motors Inc. (NASDAQ:TSLA) has been on a spending spree as it ambitiously spreads its global footprint and prepares for the release of its all-electric Model X crossover. Fans of the Palo Alto, California, auto company founded by billionaire tech industrialist Elon Musk see a carmaker that has already won the electric-vehicle game.
Accolades from Model S luxury sedan owners and reviewers abound, and all of this good feeling has lifted Tesla’s stock price by more than 700 percent since the Model S went on sale toward the end of 2012, to nearly $240 per share on Monday. But not since three highly publicized vehicle fires late last year (which were later ruled inconsequential) has the Model S gotten so much bad press.
Criticism of the Model S isn’t likely to put much of a dent on Tesla in the short term, but as the car ages serious questions about the car's after-market value will begin to emerge — and become far more important than they are today.
Under Tesla’s U.S. financing program, the company promises to buy back three-year-old post-lease cars for a guaranteed price. If the company cannot recover that expense in the after-market, it will have to report losses in future earnings.
Due to supply constraints and the waiting list for deliveries, some owners have been able to sell used low-mileage Model S sedans for more than the price of new ones. But that quirk should vanish as Tesla is able to boost production to meet demand, and the reputation of used versions of the cars on the road today will be important to their resale values.
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Edmunds, the automotive pricing and car reviewer, listed a number of vehicle flaws in the $105,000 Model S, including a touchscreen that went blank more than once and three roadside stalling incidents.
“Our car amassed quite the repair résumé during the last 17 months,” said the report authored by a number of Edmunds test drivers in some of the first long-term testing of the Model S by a major reviewer. Edmunds.com concluded that despite some “brilliant” features, including the vehicle’s famous torque, the car was “hard to recommend” because of the technical glitches and maintenance needs. It was the first major negative review of the Model S since the New York Times gave the car a thumbs-down in February 2013, which elicited a bullet-point-laden response from Musk himself.
TrueDelata.com is also showing a poor repair record for older Model S sedans, albeit on a small sample set because so few older Model S cars are out there. Out of 35 records, 19 have been brought in for repairs, ranging from a rear door that spontaneously opened in a Model S with 17,000 miles in Missouri in September 2013 to a replacement of the main battery pack in a California-based Model S with 49,000 last month.
In his conference call last Thursday, Musk reacted to the Edmunds review, suggesting his technical repair teams are taking an “ultra-proactive” approach to cars requiring maintenance, swapping out components for newer ones. Tesla, he says, is constantly tweaking and improving the vehicle, and flaws in early cars have been fixed in vehicles making their way to showrooms today.
Carter Driscoll, a clean-tech analyst with New York-based investment banking firm MLV & Co., told International Business Times that Tesla’s novelty in the marketplace means it’s been working out kinks as it builds a car from the ground up.
“They’re improving the way the Model S modules are packaged and produced, including adjustments in the supply chain,” said Driscoll. “The car is vastly superior to what it was in the third quarter of 2012," when the first Model S cars went on sale.
Tesla vs. Lamborghini: Tesla Gets Smoked
The Model S is still overall considered an innovative car. It’s the first electric sedan ever produced that can top 200 miles in range. The vehicle’s torque is borderline legendary. With a direct line to the powertrain, the full force of the car’s power is felt immediately when the pedal is pressed. But as this video shows, it has a long way to go to reaching the performance of high-end (and far more expensive) sports cars. Here you can see the Tesla pulling ahead quickly from full stop against the Lamborghini Gallardo LP570-4, but then the Italian racer catches up and quickly surpasses the Model S.
But considering that only about 14,000 Gallardos were ever produced, and that when they were available they cost more than two loaded Model S sedans, this is an unfair race. Nevertheless it does deflate some of the hubris bouncing around the Tesla fan blogs about the vehicle’s impressive torque.
[Read the Drag Times article here about the Tesla-Lambo faceoff.]