Wednesday, May 27, 2015

From the ridiculous to the sublime: Did same ad agency do TV spots for Infiniti?

Did you see the latest TV commercial for Tesla Motors' Model S? Of course not. Thankfully, Tesla doesn't advertise and try the patience of TV viewers who would do anything to avoid sitting through another idiotic spot from Mercedes-Benz, BMW, Audi, Cadillac and the Japanese luxury brands.



By VICTOR E. SASSON
EDITOR

How about that TV commercial for the Infiniti Q-Something, the one with the bored young man sitting in the back seat of a luxury sedan as it speeds down the highway on top of a car carrier?

Turns out the car has a so-called revolutionary feature, but you don't find out what that is until the male model, his face covered in a two-day-old beard, climbs behind the wheel and actually drives the car off of the truck in reverse, then speeds off down the highway.

How did they do that without tearing up the transmission, transaxle and so forth?


Adaptive steering?

Then it's revealed. This Infiniti Q-Something claims to be the only car with "direct adaptive steering."

What the hell is that? I can adjust the steering in my Tesla Model S from "comfort" to "standard" to "sport."

Do I have "direct adaptive steering," too? Even if I did, I'd never buy a car for that reason alone.

Then, Infiniti runs other TV commercials, emphasizing the safety of rear-view cameras and warning systems when backing up in its gas-guzzling SUVs, each of which could squash you like a bug.

Did the same ad agency do the two commercials for Nissan's luxury division?

What were they saying when the Infiniti-on-the-car-carrier commercial was being discussed?


Look-alike luxury cars

The ad agency was probably looking for a dramatic way to distinguish the Infiniti sedan from similar cars sold by Lexus and Acura.

But why would anyone who saw that bizarre TV spot run out to buy the Infiniti over the others?


Thursday, May 21, 2015

Tesla Model S sparkles in suburban driving on the way to shopping, eating out

In my Tesla Model S, I went shopping for a tuxedo rental in Westwood, N.J., for my son's prom.



By VICTOR E. SASSON
EDITOR

Auto writers are so focused on 0-60 mph times they lose sight of the value of a car that can sprint easily to 35 mph in North Jersey's suburban driving.

In the five weeks I've had my Tesla Model S 60, I've enjoyed brisk, near silent pickup from traffic lights and stop signs on Bergen County's antiquated roads, where the speed limit is usually 25 mph or 35 mph.

When driving on Cedar Lane or Teaneck Road in Teaneck, N.J., the Model S is just what you need to keep ahead of others as those streets go from two lanes to one and back, and frustrate drivers with few turn lanes.

And when I need an afternoon pick-me-up, I can plug in and recharge my Model S just outside the entrance to Aroma Espresso Bar, a chain based in Israel, at Westfield Garden State Plaza in Paramus, N.J.

The state's largest mall also has a Tesla Motors Store, where I've purchased a red Tesla cap to match my car.


In Englewood, N.J., I stopped at Jerry's Gourmet & More on South Dean Street, near Route 4, for restaurant-quality takeout dinners, such as pork shanks with all the trimmings, below.

The dinners are reduced to $5.99 after 4 p.m., if there are any left.
Lan Garden, 88 Route 46 west in Ridgefield, N.J., claims to be the only Chinese restaurant in the state offering more than 50 freshly made dim sum throughout the day and until 1 a.m. I prefer the dim sum to the regular menu.


Saturday, May 16, 2015

GM didn't build a competitor to Tesla's luxury car, but uses media to fool public

A Tesla Model S 60 outside The Plaza Diner in Fort Lee, N.J., a few blocks from the George Washington Bridge.



By VICTOR E. SASSON
EDITOR

The 2014 Cadillac ELR has to be the biggest flop yet of a green car.

The media persist in calling it "electric," but in reality, this major disappointment from General Motors is a plug-in hybrid that uses gasoline.

The Caddy has the same powertrain found in the Chevy Volt, but double the MSRP -- $75,995.

Only 1,835 Cadillc ELR Coupes have been sold in North America in the past 18 months, Bloomberg.com reported this week.

Still, the media are helping General Motors save face by comparing the ELR to Tesla's Model S, as in this Bloomberg.com headline:


"Cadillac is selling its Tesla-like car
at a huge discount"


Price is the only thing the all-electric Tesla Model S 70D -- the new all-wheel-drive base model with a range of 240 miles -- has in common with the Cadillac.


'Never buy gas again'

On Friday, The Record of Woodland Park, N.J., carried an ad from Brogan Cadillac of Totowa for the "all-new 2014 Cadillac ELR Electric 1.4," offering $25,000 off MSRP.

"Never buy gas again," the ad declares.

But readers who notice the asterisk next to that deceptive statement learn in small print that's only the case if you drive "less than 35 miles a day" -- the limited range on the car's batteries and electric motor.


Green cars and MSRP

Bloomberg.com also ran a chart showing data from TrueCar Inc. on the difference between the average transaction price and MSRP, but Tesla's Model S was conspicuously absent.

The Model S is sold directly to the consumer, not through dealers, and hasn't been discounted since its debut in mid-2012.

The BMW i8 plug-in sports car is the only one of seven all-electric or hybrid models to sell above sticker.

Cadillac dealers are slashing the price of the ELR Coupe an average of $11,000, according to TrueCar Inc.

TrueCar apparently hasn't seen the Brogan Cadillac offer of $25,000 off MSRP.

Mercedez-Benz dealers are cutting an average of $4,000 off MSRP for the all-electric B-Class, which uses a Tesla powertrain and has a range of just under 100 miles.


Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Dilemma facing world's big automakers: How to make old technology seem fresh

The wildly overpriced BMW i8, a plug-in hybrid that uses gasoline, was one of the most popular cars on Tuesday at the annual Spring Brake in Bear Mountain State Park, below. Despite the word "brake" in the event title, some members of the International Motor Press Association received speeding tickets from uniformed park police in marked vehicles.

Audi and Porsche were among the automakers that were conspicuously absent. About 20 others -- from Acura to Volkswagen -- did provide vehicles for the ride-and-drive event on twisting two-lane park roads and nearby highways.



By VICTOR E. SASSON
EDITOR

Aren't you sick of watching all those stupid car commercials on TV every night?

New cars being driven at insane speeds on empty roads or within inches of a male model shouting to be heard over the roar of passing vehicles are experiences so far removed from the challenge of owning a car in the congested metropolitan area.

Did you see the idiotic one showing a Lexus cutting off competing Mercedes-Benz and BMW models in the dessert as it traces the logo of Toyota's luxury brand? 

I saw that commercial again on Tuesday night after returning from an event for auto writers at Bear Mountain State Park, where I got a chance to drive the 2015 Lexus RC-F Coupe, which has a sticker price of $77,720.

It's fast, of course, with a 467-horsepower V-8 that gets only 16 mpg city, and growls through loud performance mufflers.


Lexus v. Tesla

The Lexus costs almost as much as the car I drove to Bear Mountain, my 2015 Tesla Model S, an all-electric luxury hatchback that is an oasis of calm in our noisy world.

But -- like all but one of the cars I tried out -- the Lexus coupe is basically 19th century internal-combustion engine technology disguised as something fresh and new.

Just another dinosaur dressed in couture to join the herd of smelly, noisy cars and SUVs that are destroying the environment and our health.

That Lexus coupe has the same 16 mpg and 25 mpg city/highway fuel-economy rating as the 2015 Dodge Charger R/T Road & Track, which has a V-8 Hemi engine and a sticker of just under $44,000.

Another thirsty car was the big Mercedes-Benz S63 AMG Coupe, powered by a 5.5-liter V-8 with 577 horsepower, described on the company Web site as a "beast that is truly a thing of beauty."

Only one EV

Only Nissan brought an all-electric car, the best-selling Leaf, a quiet, zero-emission wonder that clashed with the Japanese carmaker's gas-guzzling SUVs at the event, including a new Murano and the hulking Infiniti Q80, which is about the size of a minibus.

And there was a long wait to drive Nissan's fearsome GT-R, a four-wheel-drive coupe with an MSRP of $103,000-plus.

So far, at two events for auto writers, I have yet to see Mercedes' green cars -- the all-electric B-Class, which starts at $41,450, or the German automaker's S550 Plug-In Hybrid Sedan, which has an MSRP of $94,400.


'Rock concert' mufflers

You should have heard the mufflers on the BMW M4 Convertible I drove over two-lane roads and on the Palisades Interstate Parkway.

Another participant said the old M4's mufflers sounded like a "symphony," but the new ones are definitely a "rock concert."

Just what we need: A sophisticated, four-wheel version of all those noisy Harley-Davidson motorcycles that disturb us day and night.



American-made performance cars, such as this Chevrolet Corvette, seem cheaply made and unsophisticated when compared to similar European and Japanese models. 


Crude Mustang GT

My second car was a 1966 Mustang GT with a small V-8 engine, a 4-speed manual transmission and what Ford called a fastback, with fold-down rear seats and a pass-through hatch to the small trunk.

It was red, and I kept it for 13 years, even though a rear fender rusted through and I had to replace the water pump several times.

On Tuesday, I drove the boxy 2015 Ford GT Convertible, which seemed heavy and slow compared to competitive cars.

It also seemed cheap: The driver's seat could be adjusted electrically, but you had to use a manual lever to move the seat back.

On two-lane park roads, the performance seemed anemic, compared to all the noise it was making, reminding me of the automaker's stock.

I guess I shouldn't have expected much from the 2015 Mustang after a Ford-provided "breakfast" of coffee, tea, muffins and pastries.

No juice, yogurt or eggs were available.


Not even cat and mouse

New York State Park Police were assigned to the IMPA event, as they have been for the five years it has been held at Bear Mountain.

On Tuesday, there were usually two marked cruisers and uniformed officers in the parking lot that held the new cars, and others deployed on park roads.

This morning, police would not say how many speeding tickets were issued to IMPA members and other park goers on Tuesday.

But at least one auto writer was observed driving a performance car at more than 100 mph on a two-lane park road.


Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Model S has no CD player, no wheel locks and hidden cruise-control stalk from hell

At the gym, I complete for spaces with a large number of other members who drive smelly, gas-guzzling SUVs, below.




By VICTOR E. SASSON
EDITOR

Tesla's Model S is an all-electric car worthy of superlatives.

Acceleration is effortless, even in the base model I've owned since mid-April, leaving most other cars, whether gasoline-powered or hybrid, fading in my rear-view mirror.

When I approach the car in my garage, with the Model S-shaped key in my pocket, the lighted chrome door handles extend, locks are released and the radio goes on.

A Tesla app on my smart phone allows me to turn on the climate-control system a few minutes before I'm ready to go.

Stop to start

You don't have to push a button or turn a key to start the Model S. 

Just press on the brake pedal, a move drivers are accustomed to since the unintended-acceleration controversy involving Audis. 

California-based Tesla Motors says the Model S has the highest safety rating in America. Take that, Volvo.



The smart key for my Model S atop its leather holder. Even when in the holder, pressing the key's "roof" opens and closes the four doors, pressing the "hood" opens the front storage compartment and pressing the "trunk" opens the hatchback.



No CD player

The luxurious Model S, a four-door hatchback, has a 17-inch touchscreen in the middle of the dashboard, and lots of controls on the steering wheel -- fan speed, radio volume and so forth.

You don't need a CD player, because you have a subscription to Slacker Radio, and you can simply ask for whatever you want to hear, such as Miles Davis or other favorites.


No wheel locks

Nor did my Model S 60 have wheel locks. So, I ordered them through the parts department in Paramus, N.J.. They cost $60.

There's no spare tire, either, but I'm told Tesla's 24-hour road service trucks carry replacement wheels and tires to swap with yours.


Starbucks Coffee

I stopped at the Paramus Showroom and Service Center on Tuesday afternoon for help with the touch-screen controls and to see if my wheel locks had come in.

An employee called in from a nearby Starbucks to take an order from other workers, and the invitation was extended to me, so I ordered a tall latte with skim milk.

Later, as I was waiting for my car to charge at one of the free Superchargers, a Tesla owner came in asked where he could find a car wash.

He said he had left Minnesota on Sunday and was headed to his final destination, Kingston, N.Y. His car was a Model S Signature edition, one of the first thousand made in 2012.

Roger, one of the employees, said they would wash his car for free. 



The cruise-control stalk in the 2010 Toyota Prius my wife now drives is visible through the steering wheel spokes. Japan's No. 1 automaker has used the same easy to see and use cruise-control  system for decades, and it can be found across the entire Toyota and Lexus lines, as well as in some Subarus.


Cruise control

I became a big fan of cruise control during a July 4, 2004, trip to Lorain, Ohio, in my first Toyota Prius, a 2004 in burgundy.

I used it the entire way, averaging 57.1 miles per gallon in the gas-electric hybrid. I made the 497-miles trip from Englewood, N.J., on less than a tank of gas. 

You can still find the same easy to see and use cruise control across the entire Toyota line, as well as in Lexus luxury models.

Despite all of the great foward-looking features in the Model S, Tesla Motors dropped the ball on the cruise-control stalk, which is hidden behind one of the steering wheel spokes.

I suppose once I memorize how it works, it won't be a problem, but for now it's a rare design flaw.

Still, from the way the Model S looks and drives, and from my independence from the oil companies, responsible for so much of the misery in the world, I can argue that I bought the best car in the world.



Sign on the wall at Tesla Showroom on Route 17 in Paramus, N.J. Or you could pay well over twice as much for a Mercedes-Benz S65 AMG Sedan with a twin-turbo V-12, but still get left in the dust by the fastest production sedan ever made. The Mercedes, with an MSRP of $222,000, is a full second slower to 60 mph than the Model S P85D. LOL.


Friday, May 1, 2015

AP says Tesla's Elon Musk is embarking on another one of his 'far-out projects'


California-based Tesla Motors has revolutionized travel with all-electric luxury cars that can go more than 200 miles on a single charge and a nationwide network of free Superchargers. Now, Tesla is planning to do the same with home energy.

Eight Supercharges are available at Tesla's Showroom and Service Center on Route 17 north in Paramus, N.J.



By VICTOR E. SASSON
EDITOR

A Tesla home storage battery that can keep your lights on and your appliances humming during a blackout has been dismissed as a 'far out' project.

An Associated Press story said David Foster paid $7,500 for his battery as part of  pilot program after California state incentives -- less than the cost of a noisy standby generator powered by natural gas.

Thousands of those generators were installed in the New Jersey-New York area after Superstorm Sandy plunged much of the region into darkness in late 2012.

Yet, AP reporters Michael Liedtke and Jonathan Fahey, who are based in California, say "as with Tesla's electric cars," the battery "will probably be too expensive for most consumers."

Of Tesla CEO Elon Musk, the reporters say "he is renowned for pursuing far-out projects" like "colonizing Mars ... one of Musk's goals at Space X, a rocket maker he also runs" (The Record of Woodland Park).

Powerwall

Today, Musk announced Tesla Energy's home battery will be about the size of a large flat-screen TV and cost only $3,500.

Musk is calling it the Powerwall Home Battery, and his Tesla Web site shows the battery under an elegant cover mounted on the wall of a garage holding a Model S.

The official announcement came only a few hours after the AP story appeared in morning newspapers, but showed what is often the case with the wire service:

Its reporters are uninformed and often base their stories on mere speculation, not facts.

See: The Tesla Powerwall

Solar power

As a homeowner with more than 60 solar panels on my roof, Tesla's home battery is just what I am looking for as an alternative to a noisy, expensive backup generator.

A battery that can store electricity also would supplement the power generated by the panels, making me even less dependent on the grid.

Now, I generate all the electricity I need five to six months out of the year, meaning I pay nothing to power my home.

In addition, I have earned more than $10,000 from selling solar credits to my utility through a middle man.