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Tesla S-85 Performance - A Test Drive

|Includes: TOYOF, Tesla, Inc. (TSLA)

I finally got around to a Tesla test drive. S-85 Performance, in suburban NJ. Traffic prevented much of a workout.

Yes, it has (more than) decent acceleration. There is the huge 17 inch monitor - I wanted to know what all the little doodads and icons did, but did not have the opportunity to play with it.

Having heard all the "Wows!" from the Tesladors, I was hoping to be thrilled. It was a very nice drive, and extremely quiet (5 stars!). But, orgasmically Wow? Well, not for me. Perhaps my expectations were too high.

I thought the lack of infrastructure was interesting. Tesla has been selling at the Short Hills (NJ) mall since November, yet they do not have *any* way of recharging. In the showroom, the cars are not even plugged into basic 120v, event though the cars are alive - dashboard lights, etc., including one saying needs to be charged, no electricity available. There was a wire attached to the car, but I guess it just goes under the car, not to an outlet. The sales guy said there was some issue with the mall management.

In a remote part of the lot there are a few spaces allocated for Tesla - BUT no charging stations! (not even 120v). I asked about charging, and the sales guy muttered about some of their loyal customers taking them home to charge. November to April - no charging? Hmmm. The incentive to buy the car, park and shop is missing.

I asked about bricking. I mentioned that rumors said the bricking problem had been solved; what were the hardware or other changes done? "Hmmm, well there might not have been any hardware changes, but we now communicate better to customers, with texting, emails, and even phone calls when the battery is low." Well, I guess it is better that communication is better, but it still sounds like parking the car for a few months is still verboten. Especially in cold weather, when the battery has to be kept warm.

I asked about seeing the warrantee - nope, can't see it until after I make a deposit on the car … which seemed a bit odd. I asked about the $600 per 12,500 miles required warrantee. Some writers have opined that meant cheap maintenance - a max of only $600 per year.

Well, I drive about 30,000 miles per year; the sales guy confirmed that is about $1,800 per year maintenance - about 5 cents/mile. The car uses at least 150 watts continuously (and over 1500 watts in extremely cold or hot weather) even when fully charged, so that is another few hundred dollars per year. The tires are expensive, apparently wear out fast, and are not covered by the warrantee. Some writers have mentioned annual tires at several thousand dollars - but I guess that depends on how you drive.

In short, ignoring battery depreciation, it's several grand a year for maintenance. Some people calculate battery depreciation at 40 cents/mile; I could not get a straight answer whether driving 30,000 miles per year was considered excessive and would actually be covered under the warrantee.

In comparison, I often drive a Prius. Not because it is green, but because I get c. 50 mpg, which saves me thousands in gas over my last car, a GM Suburban V8. The Prius has free maintenance for the first $30,000 miles, as does BMW.

Like all $100,000 cars, she is superficially very appealing. And, just like a magazine cover girl, that superficial attractiveness doesn't translate into wanting to take her home for a permanent (and expensive) relationship.

I will pass.

Disclosure: I have no positions in any stocks mentioned, and no plans to initiate any positions within the next 72 hours.