Tesla’s Legal Battles

2013 has been a big year for Tesla motors. Not only has the company turned ten years old, it has turned its first profit ever.  There also have been ups and downs on the legal front. This is not because of fault in the vehicles, but because of the radical manner in which Tesla sells its vehicles. Since the dawn of time, people have bought their cars through a dealership. The dealer is the middle man between the consumer and the manufacturer.  The reasoning behind having a dealer is to increase competition. Tesla want’s to break this mold and sell directly to the consumer, but they have met stiff resistance from lawmakers and the dealers that line their political pockets.

Tesla’s main legal issue is a law that exists in almost all states that prohibit car companies from competing with their franchised dealers. This was originally created to stop car company stores from running dealers out of business. Tesla argues that it is within the law because it has no dealerships whatsoever, so it cannot be in competition with them. Dealerships have no reason to market an electric vehicle over a standard combustion engined one, therefore rendering a dealer ineffective. This law has been interpreted to mean that a manufacturer cannot sell directly to consumers. Recently, Tesla issued a major political bill in North Carolina when a auto dealer-backed bill was struck down in the state legislature. But Tesla has also been blocked from selling in Texas and Colorado. I’m sure Tesla will continue its fight and eventually succeed it changing the way we buy cars.

Tesla’s business model has been met with so much resistance from dealers because the dealers can make so much money off of a vehicle. When purchasing from the dealer, there are dock fees, loading fees, etc. that not only pad the pockets of the dealer, but are completely unnecessary. I wouldn’t be surprised if there was a bee keeping fee buried somewhere in the mountain of fees they charge, as if they can only guarantee a car can bee-free by surrounding it with a cash fort. Dealers are threatened by this change and their loss of easy money. If auto-manufacturers could sell directly to the consumer, the prices of vehicles would actually fall because they would be standardized. If I go to Walmart in my home-town and buy bread, I know I can go to the next town over and buy bread at the same price because the bread is standardized. Walmart may not bake the bread in this example, but it acts as a single entity that sells at a standardized price. If there were bread dealerships and bread-tie fees tacked onto the bread costs, I’m sure everyone would bake their own bread. The problem is we can’t bake cars though. We have to rely on people with the tools and skills to assemble these now complex vehicles.

Tim Jackson, president of the Colorado Automobile Dealers Association, makes three points in his argument for the crusade against Tesla Motors, two of which I have issue with. The first, and logical one is if Tesla were to go out of business, there would be no parts or support for existing Tesla customers. The next is that Tesla could use the money it spends on stores to display and inform their customers instead in product development. I have issue with this because no one but the investors should try to tell any company how to spend its money. If Tesla wanted to build submarines to store its cars in, that’s the companies business, not a dealers. The last, and most strange sounding, is that if Tesla fails, this will somehow destroy the reputation of all auto dealers. How could a company with no dealer can hurt all dealers by failing is beyond comprehension. The only way dealers will be hurt is if Tesla succeeds and shows that they are in fact hurting the competition they say the protect. Competition is the selling of competing products, not the same product at different prices; the only competition is between dealers to see which can make the most money with gimmicks and fees. Dealers don’t need Tesla’s help hurting their reputations; they do that with unnecessary fees, sales pressure, and their attitudes. I have never met a car salesman without a vast superiority complex, and I greatly enjoy using my engineering knowledge to pull apart their egos and everything good they feel about being a salesman bit by bit. Tesla doesn’t have that in their shops. All they provide is information. Tesla allows the customer to make a choice to purchase without any pressure, as compared to the verbal-waterboarding dealership’s customers are forced to endure. Tesla’s future is bright and the company’s vision of electric vehicles is the future. But the money-hungry dealers, scared of change and loss of profits, are afraid of that future and what they stand to lose. If Tesla can win this fight, maybe we can not only have a better future for the environment, but also a better, simpler future for the car buyer.

Written by J. Potts, Automotive Contributor for The Spirited Drive

Edited by JRB, Editor-in-Chief of The Spirited Drive

Sources used:

http://www.greencarreports.com/news/1084622_tesla-loses-legal-battles-to-texas-north-carolina-dealers/page-2 by John Voelcker at Green Car Reports.

http://www.greencarreports.com/news/1080001_auto-dealers-fight-against-tesla-stores-elon-musk-weighs-in/page-2 by John Voelcker at Green Car Reports.

http://www.engadget.com/2013/06/27/tesla-victory-north-carolina/ by Melissa Grey at Engadget.

http://www.teslamotors.com/about by Tesla Motors.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/05/09/tesla-profits_n_3244814.html by Deepa Seetharama at the Huffington Post.

http://www.reddit.com/r/teslamotors/search?q=tesla&sort=relevance&restrict_sr=on&t=all

Source not used, but is very interesting:

http://www.forbes.com/sites/adamhartung/2013/06/28/why-tesla-is-beating-gm-nissan-and-ford/

Spot Light Car Show: The T37 Tempest

Over the weekend, The Spirited Drive team attended its first car show in an official blogging capacity. As we made our way around chatting with the owners, we were intrigued and moved by some of the stories about the cars. It was then we had the idea to create a spotlight article on the vehicles that had special stories that moved us. So expect to see one or two spotlight articles for each car show we visit.

This spotlight features a 1970 Pontiac T37 Tempest, owned by Louie and Kathy Henson. The vehicle (seen below) is featured in a color called Palisade Green and still has the original 350 cu. in. engine, putting out 325hp. This vehicle, as was told to us by Kathy, was developed by Pontiac in the late 1960’s as an alternative to the Pontiac GTO. It could be ordered with many of the same options as the GTO, but the insurance was significantly less.

This vehicle is not only special because of its rarity; it also holds great sentimental value for the owners.  Only 1,419 T37s were produced in 1970. On a more personal note, this is the same year and model that Kathy drove when the couple was married. I’m sure having this vehicle brings back many memories for both of them. In the glove box were papers documenting the car’s journey from the plant to its first owner were found. This always makes a car special as it gives a greater feeling of connectedness to the previous owners and really tells the story of that individual car, not just the model.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

It is a truly beautiful thing to see car owners with so much pride for what they’re driving. Kathy and Louie were incredible to talk to, and from the first minute of conversation we couldn’t help but be drawn into their story. Their story proves that every vehicle, ordinary or exotic, has a special place is someone’s history.

Written by:

D. Fowler, Production Editor

J. Hamlin, Production Editor

J. Potts, Automotive Contributor

Edited by JRB, Editor-in-Chief

The Spirited Drive’s Day at a Local Car Show and Cruise-In

The Spirited Drive’s J. Potts, D. Fowler, and J. Hamlin had the opportunity to visit and cover the Spot Light Car Show in Wingo, KY. While there, they were invited to the Top Gun Cruise-In later that evening in nearby Mayfield, KY. They mingled with the car owners, made some new friends, and snapped some awesome photos.  Here is their story of the day’s events:

We arrived to the car show in Wingo, a small town in Graves County, Kentucky. A small crowd gathered at the event for not only the cars, but also the karaoke. It was a small show, but right off we could tell the owners were a close-knit community of people passionate about cars. Each owner had a special story about his or her vehicle, from the time it took to restore the vehicle to how he or she had owned something similar in the past. This show featured cars from all eras, from a 1936 Chevrolet to a 2000’s era Mustang. There were very few moments during this event that one of the three of us weren’t completely in awe of something.

At the car show, we were invited to a cruise-in which was sponsored by Top Gun, a local car show series in nearby Mayfield, Kentucky. We were stunned to be invited to an event we didn’t even know existed and to be so fully welcomed into the community so quickly. As the car show wound down, we packed up and made the quick trip to Mayfield. A little while after we arrived, the cars began to arrive in a continuous, steady stream. There was everything from a Model A Ford to a brand new Corvette. We took the opportunity to befriend even more car owners and hear more interesting stories of car passion and restoration.

This outing was a lot of fun, and I think we all left full of wonder and plans to get to work on some sort of restoration of our own. We’re grateful to the Graves County community and to Top Gun for putting these events together and for being so gracious to us while we were there. I think we’re all excited to come out next time and see what else Graves County has to show.

Article by J. Potts, Automotive Contributor; D. Fowler, Production Editor; J. Hamlin, Production Editor

Photographs by J. Potts, Automotive Contributor and D. Fowler, Production Editor

Photographs edited by J. Hamlin, Production Editor

Edited by JRB, Editor-in-Chief of The Spirited Drive

Volkswagen’s “Buggy-UP!” idea and concept – a possible reality?

Volkswagen has just acquired a fourteen year patent on its “Buggy-Up!” design in the U.S., as reported by AutoCar. Does this mean that Americans will see the little dune buggy in the near future? If the design ever does move from paper into full scale production, will this car be worth buying?

First we must look at the history of the dune buggy. During the middle of the twentieth century, a man named Bruce Meyers saw some heavy, steel dune buggies on the beaches around Baja and decided he could make something better. This led to a Volkswagen Beetle frame attached to a custom built fiberglass body. This combination was very powerful in desert conditions; the low weight allowed the vehicle to glide along the top of the sand. The Meyers Manx, as it was called, went on to win several off-road events and became a legend.

Volkswagen seems to be interested in recapturing some of the hype associated with the Meyers Manx by creating a concept for the “Buggy-Up!” variant of its “UP!” line. The “Up!”, exclamation point and all, comes in several varieties to fit a myriad of people. The “Cross-Up!” is built for a person who wants a vehicle that looks like it could be capable off road, but also capable as a family car.  The “E-Up!” is the fully electric version for the environmentally conscientious. The “Buggy-Up!” is an updated version of the Meyers Manx in styling with a more this-is-the-future look to it that almost all concepts have. The “Buggy-Up!”, if it follows the same range as its brothers, will have somewhere around 75-110 hp, slightly more than the 53hp that the power-plant of the Manx, which had the original Beetle motor.

The original Manx may have had the weight advantage over other major off-roaders of the time, like the Jeep Cj-5 Renegade, but will that be enough to compete in the modern market? Modern off-road vehicles like the Jeep JK Wrangler come not only as capable off-roaders and daily drivers from the showroom floor but also have luxuries one cannot see the “Buggy-Up!” having, such as air conditioning; so one has to consider it a “toy” vehicle, like a motorcycle. The “Buggy-Up!”  is lighter and faster and does not require assembly like the Manx does,which is still available, if you happen to have a forty year old Beetle chassis and engine laying around, making it the more accessible to the masses.  It has to be built as almost exclusively a “toy” rather than a daily driver, so two major factors will determine if it will succeed. The first is the cost. Most motorcycles cost between $10-15k, so it will have to compete in this price range.. Volkswagen might have to take a loss on each unit sold in order to promote the VW brand, which is probably the companies plan all along. Next will be the mechanics. The Suzuki Samurai, a small off road vehicle that is similar to the “Buggy-Up!”, had around 65hp and weighed roughly a ton. If the “Buggy-Up!” can weigh in close to the 1 ton mark without breaking the bank on ultralight materials, it will be an excellent contender. It may have a problem hitting that weight mark because of all the excess safety features forced upon it and every other vehicle by the government. Volkswagen must also consider one of the key truths of off-roading:  people will get involved with their off-road vehicle mechanically.  This is just a plain and simple fact. So not only must the “Buggy-Up!” come with a powerful drive-train (low gear and 4WD) for the novices, it must also be accessible and simple enough for the common redneck to improve upon.  If VW can balance all these factors on this odd, dune buggy tray, along with proper marketing, it may just be a success in America, opening up even more potential customers to the Volkswagen brand.

- J. Potts, Automotive Contributor for The Spirited Drive

Edited by JRB, Editor-in-Chief of The Spirited Drive

Sources Used:

Hilton Holloway, “VW Up Buggy Edges Closer to Production”: http://www.autocar.co.uk/car-news/concept-cars/vw-buggy-edges-closer-production

Jens Meiners, “Volkswagen Cross Up! / E-Up! / Up! GT Concepts”:http://www.caranddriver.com/reviews/vw-cross-up-e-up-up-gt-concepts-first-drive-review

http://www.meyersmanx.com/history.shtml

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Volkswagen_Beetle

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Suzuki_Jimny#SJ413.2FSamurai

http://www.zukioffroad.com/Tech_Library/samurai_specifications.shtml

The Return of Datsun

Nissan, a well known and reputable brand in America, once marketed another brand that many are familiar with:  Datsun. Eons ago, in 1958, Nissan began selling its cars and trucks built in the USA under the Nissan name, but its cars were exported to America under the Datsun badge. Datsun produced some much loved cars, such as the Fairlady Z series and the 720 pickup trucks, which are remembered as excellent vehicles until the Datsun brand was discontinued in the United States in 1986. Recently, Nissan announced that it was resurrecting the Datsun badge as a new brand for emerging markets, such as India and Russia, to compete with other manufacturers with low cost brands. Nissan sees a potential gold mine and has one thing that other brands in these new markets don’t:  a brand that has been well marketed before and that has been associated with American prosperity. Datsun was sold in America during one of the countries most prosperous times. This point can be used as a marketing tool to make people feel as prosperous as the USA.  In America, I’m sure many would be nostalgic and wish to buy a Datsun; so, could Nissan bring this brand back to America? And if so, what type of cars could we expect to see?

Let’s begin by asking why Nissan would even bring back the brand instead of just using the Nissan brand. Using the Nissan brand would be most logical since I’m sure they have a few extra Nissan-branded parts laying around. But one must also stop and think about why any major car corporation has multiple brands. First of all, multiple brands allow corporations to sell vehicles at different price ranges. A company can associate one brand with luxury vehicles and another with practicality. The cars may be assembled with some of the same parts, but the luxury brand can be sold at a higher price and have higher levels of refinement/performance. Another reason corporations utilize multiple brands is vehicle diversity. A brand cannot not only be associated with a price range but also a type of vehicle. The Chrysler Group, owned by Fiat,  is an excellent example of this. They own a multitude of brands, and each has its own type association. One would be greatly disturbed to go to a dealership, looking at the Fiat brand, synonymous with city cars, and see a Jeep Wrangler with a Fiat badge. One would also be terrified to drive a Dodge Charger with a Chrysler 300 body fitted to it. Markets have come to expect certain things from certain brands, and when these brands deviate from the norm, the vehicle is usually a colossal failure. An excellent example of this is the Chevrolet SSR.  It was a truck, but was also a convertible.  In someone’s twisted imagination, this must have been an excellent idea, but in the real world, this was just an abomination; an identity crisis, if you will.  In only three years, Chevrolet pulled it from production.

Nissan is taking both of these ideas of brand price and vehicle purpose into consideration. First of all, it will isolate the main Nissan branding from whatever publicity, good or bad, is generated by the Datsun brand. Since Datsun is designed for emerging markets, it is going to be cheap; approximately $3000-5000. Brand separation also keeps Nissan from being seen as the cheap brand that Russians use to haul their vodka around. Second of all, Nissan is somewhat free to explore new designs that wouldn’t be feasible under the Nissan name. They won’t be trying to compete with Ferrari and Porsche, but they could and probably will be creating small, city-style cars to give the Smart and Fiats more competition. This idea can be seen somewhat by the styling sketches, seen here in the Nissan press release http://www.nissan-global.com/EN/NEWS/2013/_STORY/130701-01-e.html, which shows a small looking vehicle that looks like it would be at home in crowded city streets. This is only speculation, since the sketches do nothing to reference the actual size of the vehicle.

If this brand takes off well in these new markets and enough interest in the brand is generated in America, could Datsun return to the U.S.? I highly doubt this would ever be the case. The brand is going into the market tarnished as a cheaper vehicle, and the old Datsun purists would frown upon that notion. But what if they could return? What would we see from this new old brand? I think that, as stated earlier, they would focus on city cars. They could even possibly revive a variant of the Fairlady as a new, even cheaper entry level sports car. I would love to see what a new brand could do in the American market with the backing of an established company like Nissan, which has a substantial history.  Some things are impossible, like a Datsun hypercar, but maybe, with a great deal of luck, we can see a Datsun city car in the streets of America again.

Sources Used:

Chris Tutor, “First new Dasun in decade sketched, set for Indian Reveal”:   http://www.autoblog.com/2013/07/01/first-new-datsun-in-decade-sketched-set-for-indian-reveal/

Santanu Choudhury, “Take a Peek at Datsun’s New Car”: http://blogs.wsj.com/indiarealtime/2013/07/01/take-a-peek-at-datsuns-new-car/

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Datsun

http://www.nissan-global.com/EN/NEWS/2013/_STORY/130701-01-e.html

- Written by J. Potts, Automotive Contributor for The Spirited Drive

Edited by JRB, Editor-in-Chief of The Spirited Drive