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Seven Things You Need To Know About Tesla (Recently)

George Kennedy
July 2, 2013

Just in case you’ve been living under a rock, we’ll state the obvious; the Tesla Model S has been setting the automotive world on fire. The all-electric luxury performance sedan has held its own, and brought in the accolades over the last year, playing the role of darling of the automotive press.

Though other green-carmakers like Fisker and Coda have bitten the dust, Tesla has not only remained, but grown. For a plethora of reasons, Tesla has managed to stay in the news- and it has not all been good news. Here are the seven latest major storylines from one of the most buzzed-about car companies in the last year:

1. Tesla Had To Recall Cars, and Its Stock Went Up

02-Tesla Model S
02-Tesla Model S

Tesla had to recall 1,228 vehicles as a result of a weld that may not hold the rear seat in place during a crash. The fix will cost Tesla $150,000 to perform on all vehicles combined. This fix had to be done after a Tesla plant worker noticed the malfunction and reported it to his superiors, who filed it with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. This self-policing must come off as novel in the stock market, as Tesla’s stock price rose two percent in late morning trading the day of the announcement. Its stock price currently sits at $105.88.

2. It Can Beat Sportscars In The 1/4 Mile, and Do It A Bunch

Earlier this year, there was the video of a Model S trouncing the BMW M5 in a drag race, which may come as a shock, unless you understand the principal behind electric motors. Unlike internal combustion engines (that thing under the hood of your Camry) that need to get the engine speed up to reach peak output, 100 percent of the electric motor’s torque is available at zero RPM. That means that the Model can screech away from a standstill like its no one’s business.

And to prove this point DragTimes estimated that it could make that run 170 times before needing a recharge, and that it would cost a nickel per drag race, based on its FL-based power costs. That’s racing on a budget!

3. People Are Buying Them For More Than Just Green Tech

03-Tesla Model S
03-Tesla Model S

Karl Brauer is the director of insights at Kelley Blue Book, so he gets all the goods on how Tesla is performing and where the company is going. Karl also lives in Los Angeles, and the state of California is by far, the largest market for Tesla, w/ a 51.4 share of Model S sales. So in addition to seeing the numbers, he’s on the ground, and knows many Model S owners.

“When people show me their Model S,” says Brauer, “the first thing that they talk about is not the green credentials. They want to show me the in-car tech, or talk about the 0-60 time.” Tesla understands that it’s going to take making the green-tech seem like back-burner stuff in order for the Model S to draw appeal. The notion of an EV might not be a huge draw for some, but if the car has the BEST infotainment and is a pleasant car to look at and drive in, then people will buy it regardless of what powers it.

4. PR Mastery

01-Tesla Model S
01-Tesla Model S

The stock going up the same day as a recall is only the latest windfall for an automaker that has been experiencing a veritable windfall of good news. Awards? The Model S has been racking them in spades. Motor Trend Car of the Year, Automobile Magazine Car of the Year, and (unsurprisingly) World Green Car of the Year.

What was surprising was its performance in Consumer Reports testing. We knew it would to well, but the independent consumer journal gushed over the car, giving it 99 out of a possible 100 points. Jake Fisher, CR’s Director of auto testing said that if the car could recharge in three minutes, “This car would score about 110.” (More on THAT later)

5. Even When There’s a Bad Review, Tesla is In the Right

00-Tesla Model S
00-Tesla Model S

Perhaps these awards have been bestowed properly and accurately, but there is the chance that jurors for these particular accolades are just afraid of Tesla CEO, Elon Musk. He is vocal, he is passionate, and when you improperly dis his car, he’ll come after you. Such as when New York Times auto writer John Broder wrote an unfavorable review, which even included the Model S being taken away on a flatbed.

The goal of his review was to get from Boston to DC using Tesla’s network of supercharging stations. Frankly the true motivation behind his review was either to push his previously documented views against EVs, or to troll the internet and gain notoriety. Point- several colleagues pointed out to me that they did not know who Broder was until this review, but they do now. Mission: Accomplished, for the NYT auto scribe.

6. Battery Swapping Is Here

Remember that part where Jake Fisher said Consumer Reports would have given the Model S a 110 if it could charge in three minutes? Well on June 20, Elon Musk held a press conference in LA where he demonstrated the Model S’s battery swapping capability. It pulled up to a machine, which unbolted the battery and retracted it into the sub-floor, installing a new, fully charged battery.

In fact, Tesla demonstrated that two vehicles could be swapped out in the time it takes to fill up a tank of gas. While Tesla’s 30-minute supercharger (which ads 150 miles of range) will always be free, it is estimated that the battery swap will cost $50. You can either keep the new battery for a fee, or come back for your original battery.

This is the element that turns the Model S into a game-changer. It already has impressive performance and comfort, but this means that no logistical sacrifices are made for electric driving. It is just one more step to the Model S becoming a mass-market vehicle.

7. Dealers Have Other Plans

Tesla Dealer
Tesla Dealer

One of the ways in which Tesla is challenging the status quo is its distribution plan by selling their vehicles through Tesla-owned stores rather than dealership franchises. This has traditional dealers up in arms, as they see this practice as a direct threat to their business, and have been fighting Tesla tooth-and-nail in the courts and statehouses across the country.

The National Auto Dealers Association has a strong lobby, and various fights are taking place nationwide. In New York, for example, there was an attempt to rush through a bill that would have made it illegal to register a vehicle that was not sold through a third party. NY lawmakers did not take action on the bill, so it is basically dormant until January.

News has not been so good elsewhere, as Tesla was denied a dealer license in Virginia, and in Texas, it will have to wait two more years to attempt to get an exemption to sell cars directly. These are only a few of the battles going on between the EV-maker and the established auto dealer community.

From the car itself to the way it sells cars, Tesla is trying to change the game. Dealers are fighting because they are not only scared of the precedent that it would set, but also a promise made by Elon Musk. In a recent shareholders meeting, Musk said he does not think someone who purchased an automobile should have to pay to for service for that vehicle.

If I were a dealer, those words would have me up at night in a cold sweat too.

PHOTOS: See more of the Tesla Model S