Elon Musk Offers a Tesla Happiness Guarantee

28 Oct 2014 | Author: | No comments yet »

Elon Musk KOs The WSJ With A Single Tweet.

Elon Musk has been using Twitter TWTR -9.47% for everything it’s worth recently. Tesla stock rose in mid-morning trading after the company announced it would offer a new, lower-cost lease plan and its founder, Elon Musk, tweeted that domestic sales of its Model S electric sedan were up 65% in North American and had reached an unspecified “record high” worldwide.Elon Musk, chief executive officer of Tesla Motors Inc. (TSLA:US), tweeted that sales of the electric Model S rose 65 percent in North America last month and reached a “record high” worldwide.

Porsche is developing a five-door all-electric mid-size vehicle to challenge the Model S for market share by 2018, according to reports based on company chairman Matthias Muller’s interview with a German magazine. First, he sent out the unfortunately-worded tweet where he announced it was “time to unveil the D,” later revealed to be a new version of the Tesla Model S.

At midday, Tesla stock was trading above $237 a share, up more than $15, or 7% — following a previous-day drop after the Wall Street Journal reported softer than expected domestic vehicle sales — having closed yesterday at $221.67. The company made clear that the bank — being in the financial services business — has a “lower cost of capital” and therefore lease payments would be lowered by up to 25%. The stock has had a roller-coaster season, after a period low of $180 in May, rising and falling on reports that the company would release new models, open a massive “gigafactory” battery facility in Utah and begin building all-wheel-drive and semi-autonomous vehicles. The car would be based on the Panamera’s second-generation platform, likely using lithium-ion battery technology and offering a range of some 400 kilometres. The WSJ article claimed Ward’s Auto data had Tesla sales down for September — unlike most auto companies, Tesla only reports sales quarterly, not monthly, according to CNBC.

It reported that Tesla “looks to lift sagging U.S. sales through new incentives.” Tesla CEO Elon Musk had this to say in response: It should be noted that Tesla reports quarterly earnings next week for the quarter that ended in September. Through the first half of the year, sales were up about 40% from the prior year and the company has guided toward a very strong second half that would see total deliveries from July through December equal to all of 2013. Tesla itself has offered Model S sedans, which sell for a base price of $71,000, at between $800 and $1,300 a month, depending on options, following a down payment of about $6,500.

With September North American sales “well ahead of our estimate,” Tesla’s full-year goal of 35,000 Model S deliveries worldwide is “more achievable,” provided sales in Asia increase in the fourth quarter, he said in a note to clients. While Tesla will have the early advantages of being first to market while expanding its supercharger network, Audi is pursuing wireless charging technology that would be available with specially equipped parking spaces. Among the questionable “facts” in the story consider just this one for openers: “leases represent a substantial share of Tesla sales.” Well no, they don’t. The upstart company aims to increase vehicle sales by more than 50 percent this year to 35,000 and accelerate its build rate to a 100,000-car annualized pace by the end of next year.

But he is, to paraphrase Winston Churchill, guilty of some terminological inexactitude when he says “Article in @WSJ re Tesla sales is incorrect.” It clearly isn’t. In a separate tweet, Musk also disputed the Journal’s characterization of a new lease offer as a discount. “Revenue to Tesla is unchanged,” he wrote. Also unaffected by it is Tesla, which will collect exactly as much per car leased through US Bank as it did before under the lease program it was offering.

Of course, if the company is offering incentives, it would be a clear sign that things are not as peachy as Musk claims, since car companies tend to offer incentives when sales are soft and they need to move metal. But until then, there will be a nagging doubt that Tesla’s high-priced vehicles don’t look so much of a bargain with gas prices at $3 a gallon or below. While that seems like a clear win for leasing, with more money out of pocket initially and no chance to benefit from the potentially high resale value of the car, it’s not a clear-cut choice for many. Leaving that aside, the entire sourcing for the report of flagging U.S. demand is Wards Auto, which claimed Tesla has sold 10,335 cars in the U.S., a whopping 26% below last year’s figures.

So here’s what Musk actually said earlier this year about where he thought Tesla would sell cars: “Actually, the best fidelity that we can forecast right now is really that we think non-North American sales will be about twice the size of American sales, roughly speaking.” In other words, not half. It’s true Tesla offered something new yesterday that could be construed as “sales insurance.” You can now return your car within 90 days if you don’t like, no questions asked.

Musk called that the “Tesla happiness guarantee” but made it clear you can’t use it to trade in your car for another one without incurring the cost differential. There was some unhappiness last month when the all-wheel-drive D variant was rolled out and people who had recently taken delivery learned they couldn’t upgrade to it.

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