Thursday, March 31, 2016

Update: More than 115,000 Model 3 orders placed in last 24 hours, Tesla says

People who want to be among the first to own an all-electric Model 3 started lining up at 3 p.m. on Wednesday and camped overnight, according to employees of the Tesla Motors Showroom and Service Center on Route 17 north in Paramus. By 10 a.m. today, the line wrapped around the store, and into the parking lot, below.




Editor's note: After unveiling the $35,000 Model 3 in California tonight, Tesla CEO Elon Musk announced more than 115,000 orders have been placed for the car in the last 24 hours.

By VICTOR E. SASSON
EDITOR

After a light workout at the gym in Paramus this morning, I drove over to the store where I bought my Model S, hoping to reserve a new, smaller Tesla, and put down $1,000 as a vote of confidence in the company's future.

But pulling up shortly before 10 a.m., I was shocked to see a long line with about 150 people, and a jammed parking lot.

Prospective buyers of the Model 3, which won't go on sale until the end of 2017, clearly are excited about owning a smaller, less expensive version of the best car in the world.

I didn't wait on the growing line today, but plan to reserve a Model 3 online.

Envied by others

I've already enjoyed nearly a year of owning a Model S 60, the entry level when I took delivery in mid-April 2015.

I've enjoyed exclusivity, and have been the envy of every other driver, especially those who fell for the antiquated technology peddled by the German automakers.

In fact, I am hoping to sell my Tesla, and lease a faster dual-motor Model S 70. 

The Model 3 is to be unveiled live tonight in California (11:30 p.m. on the East Coast), which is when you can place a $1,000 reservation online here: 

Reserve online during unveiling


This morning at the Tesla store, owners of lesser cars parked almost anywhere, above and below.


Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Show how much you really love your car with a luxury service that comes to you

On a mild day in February, Always Clean Mobile Car Wash sent Hernard to my home in North Jersey to wash my Tesla Model S and clean the interior, using less than a gallon of water.

Editor's note: Always Clean Mobile Car Wash is offering $20 off the basic in-and-out cleaning for new customers.

By VICTOR E. SASSON
EDITOR

I've paid as little as $12 or $13 for a hand car wash in North Jersey, but have always left dissatisfied.

I'm willing to pay more, just as long as I don't have to wait on line or for two or three other car owners to have their cars washed before me.

Yet getting an appointment at a brick-and-mortar car wash is nearly impossible.

Comes to you

That's where Always Clean has you covered.

Always Clean is mobile, bringing "luxury car wash and detailing services" to "your parked vehicle."

I first saw Always Clean in action at Garden State Plaza in Paramus, where two employees were cleaning Model S demonstrators for the Tesla store in the mall.

I've used them twice, once to have my Model S washed in my driveway, and again to have about a dozen exterior chips touched up.

As you'd imagine, Always Clean isn't cheap, but if are busy, want to drive a clean car and can't find the time to go to a traditional car wash, this mobile service might be for you.

New rates

The best deal is to schedule a weekly exterior and interior cleaning for a total of $40 (sedan and coupes), and up to $60 for bigger vehicles.

That same service costs a minimum of $50, if scheduled every two weeks, and $60 on call.

Detailing packages start at $350.

Details

Always Clean Mobile Car Wash (Bergen and Hudson counties, and part of Essex County)

Web site: By hand. Convenient. On-Site

Call or text owner Felix Lin: 1-201-982-8678


Sunday, March 27, 2016

New York Auto Show: We'll be choking on most of these cars for many years to come

BETTER PLUG-IN: For green-car enthusiasts, tree-huggers and other lovers of the environment, Toyota on Wednesday unveiled the 2017 Prius Prime. The plug-in gas-electric hybrid, above, gets 120 or more MPGe (miles per gallon equivalent); and travels 22 miles and up to 84 mph in electric mode.

EV FROM KOREA: Meanwhile, Korean automaker Hyundai debuted its Ioniq line -- a gas-electric hybrid, a plug-in hybrid and a fully electric sedan, above, all with conventional styling and interiors. Prices weren't given.


By VICTOR E. SASSON
EDITOR

Automakers use the media at big shows in New York and other world capitals to distract consumers from an over reliance on the antiquated internal-combustion engine to snare big profits.

On Wednesday, I walked the floor of the New York International Auto Show in Manhattan for about 5 hours, only to find a couple of new green cars that will go on sale soon.

Instead, Mercedes-Benz, BMW, Audi, Nissan, Maserati and other automakers pitched their cars as the fastest, best-performing on earth -- and to hell with air pollution and climate change.

And the media -- desperate for ad revenue from oil companies, automakers and their legions of greedy dealers -- go along for the ride.


Media negativity

Since Toyota imported its first gas-electric hybrid in 2000, the number of negative, even hostile articles in the enthusiast and general press have numbered in the hundreds.

As they did in 2000, the media continue to virtually ignore the environmental benefit of green cars. 

Even green-car leader Toyota has begun to run Prius ads emphasizing performance, not fuel savings; and certainly never reductions in air pollution, disease and death. 

Tesla's Model S has been on sale since 2012, but the California-based company doesn't advertise.

Nor is it showing its swift and silent all-electric, zero-emissions hatchback at the New York show or crowing about its nationwide network of free-for-life Superchargers.

Instead, Tesla Motors relies on word of mouth, and sells its luxurious four-door hatchback directly to consumers.

That pisses off dealers, publishers, editors, auto writers and bloggers, who enjoy free loans of the cars they are writing about, junkets, and wining and dining at invitation-only events.


BIG QUESTION: General Motors says the 2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV will offer a range of about 200 miles on a full charge when it goes on sale at the end of the year. At the auto show on Wednesday, no executive was available to say whether Bolt buyers will get free charging for life, as do buyers of Tesla's Model S and the new, smaller Model 3, which is to go on sale in California at the end of 2017.

ONE-PEDAL OPERATION: BMW's all-electric i3 got a big head start on General Motors, but has a range of only 81 miles on a full charge. The i3 has been on sale since 2014, and its strong regenerative braking can bring the car to a full stop without use of the brake pedal.


Tesla tops EV sales

Despite media hysteria over how "expensive" a Tesla is, the Model S was the best-selling EV in the United States in 2015 and the first two months of 2016, according to Automotive News.

Its New York Auto Show Preview listed sales for the Nissan Leaf, Tesla Model S (estimates), BMW i3, Fiat 500e, Smart ForTwo EV, and VW e-Golf.

In 2014, the Leaf led the Model S -- 30,200 to 16,550. The i3 sold 6,092 units; 500e, 6,029; and Smart EV, 2,594.

In 2015, the Model S outsold the Leaf, 26,400 to 17, 269. The i3 sold 11,024 units; 500 e, 4,409; and e-Golf, 4,232.

In the first two months of 2016, Model S sales are estimated at 3,200, compared to the Leaf, 1,685; eGolf, 526; i3, 430; and 500e, 412.

Low gasoline prices were cited, but the price per gallon is beginning to rise again. 

See:

Maserati's irresponsible 164-mph SUV

First drive of hydrogen fuel-call car


FOR SPEED FREAKS: Ars Technica dubs the 2017 Nissan GT-R as "Godzilla Redux." Of course, we need this "faster ... supercar slayer" like we need a hole in the ozone layer.


GLOBAL WARMER: Ditto the Ford GT, which will be raced at Le Mans in June after disappointing finishes at Daytona and Sebring. A production model will be limited to 500 units.

TOP-DOWN POLLUTION: Porsche showed a new 718 Boxster that looks a lot like the old Boxster. Imagine how much fun it will be inching up to the tollbooth at the Lincoln Tunnel.

DISTRACTED DRIVING: Yet another new Mercedes-Benz is likely to drive owners crazy with interior controls from hell --dashboard, doors, steering wheel and console jammed with wheels, switches, buttons, a touch screen and even a rear-view camera you can turn off for some insane reason.

JAPAN v. ITALY: A new Mazda MX-5, including one with a targa-style top, is getting some competition from Fiat, below.

FIX IT AGAIN TONY: A performance version of the Fiat 124 Spider, above and below.


BIGGER IS BIGGER: Buick Avista concept.

ROLLING BEDROOM: If this monstrosity from Lincoln ever reaches production, the doors will be conventional, but the three steps will be standard so owners can climb into the land barge. One possible option is a 100-gallon gas tank.

BEST IN BLACK: Look for the new Lincoln Continental in Manhattan's black-car-for-hire fleets and as limousines at an airport near you.

TOYOTA EV: The three-wheel i-Road is a fully electric urban vehicle for two that leans on curves and at corners like a motorcycle, above and below. Toyota hasn't announced production plans.

TWO TO A SPOT: Two i-Roads can be parked side-by-side in a single parking space.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

With new 164-mph SUV, Maserati is latest to say 'vaffanculo' to climate regulators

Hundreds of people attended the press preview of the 2017 Subaru Impreza in Manhattan on Wednesday, but as soon as an executive invited them to approach the stage and take a closer look at the new cars, many turned around and rushed for box lunches that had been concealed under a large black tablecloth, above and below.



I enjoyed my hummus-and-feta-cheese wrap on the trunk of a Subaru WRX, which was on display during the first press day of the New York International Auto Show at the Jacob Javits Center.


By VICTOR E. SASSON
EDITOR

It's an annual spectacle few members of the public ever see.

First, the world's automakers ship their newest models and wildest concepts to Manhattan, where they are displayed in a show sponsored by the region's auto dealers.

All are hoping to win glowing reports, millions of dollars of free publicity and a spring sales boost from hundreds of members of the media during a two-day schmooze-and-booze preview.

On Wednesday, the first of two press days, I sipped bourbon, sake and champagne, and stopped for free lattes (with almond milk) at espresso bars set up by the automakers on the show floor of the cavernous Jacob Javits Center.

I started the day in the North Hall with a box lunch after Subaru showed its all-new 2017 Impreza, and returned there at 5 p.m. for a cocktail party for members of the New York-based International Motor Press Association.

The sponsors freely poured wine, beer and other alcohol, and served such hors d'ouvres as sliders and rare ahi-tuna sushi.


At the New York International Auto Show, this artwork was on display at a cocktail party the industry threw for members of the International Motor Press Association. Is the artist saying the media are in bed with the automakers?
The Maserati Levante SUV will be available with a Ferrari-built engine producing 345 horsepower ($72,000) or 424 horsepower ($83,000). They have top speeds of 156 mph and 164 mph, respectively, just what we need when Governor Christie closes the George Washington Bridge again. 

Multi-media events

Most of the domestic and foreign automakers stage elaborate, multi-media events to announce new vehicles, such as the Maserati Levante, a 424-horsepower SUV that is even louder than the Italian automaker's annoying Quattroporte.

As with Levante, the world could do without 99% of the cars shown.

On Wednesday afternoon, the media saw a Maserati film made on the cobblestone streets of Bologna, at the famous Monza racetrack; and, presumably, on an autostrada, showing a Levante roaring along at what could have been its top speed of 164 mph.

An executive with a thick Italian accent ignored a shouted question about gas mileage.

When the Levante goes on sale, it will eclipse the Range Rover, Porsche Cayenne and Cadillac Escalade as the most environmentally irresponsible vehicle on the planet.

Levante refers to "a warm wind," though some observers might think of its tailpipe emissions as similar to the kind of huge fart you'd experience after a bowl of pasta e fagioli (pasta and beans).

A rumor circulating on Wednesday had a large family in Sicily placing an initial order for 250 Levantes.

See: First drive in Toyota Mirai


You could wander from one display to another, and sip fine bourbon, above.

Three sakes also were available for sampling.

Leave it to a German carmaker, BMW, to serve a pale, unappetizing pork sausage, above, with pretzels, below. Other automakers held invitation-only cocktail parties and lunches.


Mercedes-Benz served cups of a salad made with quinoa, and wine glasses filled with cut fruit.
I live in northern New Jersey and have become sick and tired of seeing BMWs, Audis and Mercedes-Benzes. At the auto show, those German carmakers have some of the biggest displays, above and below.

Mercedes introduced three more cars the world doesn't need. Even those outrageously expensive AMG versions are no match for the fastest Tesla Model S. The California-based upstart isn't taking part in the show.

Lexus, Toyota's luxury division, showed a production model of a gas-electric hybrid sports coupe, LC 500h, above and below.


Meanwhile, Audi unveiled a hardtop R8 V-10 Plus, which is probably noisier than earlier models.

Getting there

The auto show opens to the public on Friday. Web site: 

Largest auto show in North America

This year, I was able to take an NJ Transit bus to the midtown Port Authority Bus Terminal in Manhattan, and walk underground to connect to the No. 7 subway.

That line has been extended one stop to 34th Street-Hudson Yards, and the station is about a half-block
from the Jacob Javits Center on 11th Avenue and 34th Street.

In the past, the trip was far more expensive:

I drove to Port Imperial in Weehawken, parked and took the NY Waterway ferry, then walked a long two blocks to the convention center entrance.


The 34th Street-Hudson Yards subway station in Manhattan opened last September.

First drive of Toyota Mirai: Too noisy for an electric car, screams Prius and Camry

MIRAI SEEMS OLD: The interior of Toyota's revolutionary, hydrogen-powered Mirai reminds you too much of the Prius and Camry, and the driving experience is disappointing for a car that runs on electricity, below. Mirai, which means "future" in Japanese, is available only in California for a starting MSRP of $57,500.

BEEN THERE, DONE THAT: When asked why Toyota didn't develop a battery and electric-motor powered car, a Toyota spokesman pitching the fuel-cell vehicle at the New York International Auto Show mentioned the RAV4 with a Tesla power train the company once sold only in California.


By VICTOR E. SASSON
EDITOR

What a letdown.

As the owner of four Prius gas-electric hybrids since 2004, I had hoped Toyota's revolutionary Mirai would transform the driving experience as much as the all-electric Tesla I've owned for nearly a year.

But the Mirai reminds you too much of Toyota's conventional models, and it's, well, noisy for a car that runs solely on electricity.

I got a chance to drive the fuel-cell vehicle in Manhattan on Wednesday, the first press-preview day for the New York International Auto Show at the Jacob Javits Center.

The Mirai was initially shown at the New York show about a year ago.


PRESS CARS: Outside the convention center on 11th Avenue in Manhattan, Range Rovers, Jaguars, Mercedes-Benzes and many other vehicles were pressed into service as media shuttles. That's where I got behind the wheel of a dark-colored Toyota Mirai fuel-cell vehicle that was doubled parked and left running. A Toyota employee was in the passenger seat.


Electricity from oxygen

Often called the ultimate green car, a fuel-cell vehicle generates electricity by forcing a fuel to react with oxygen.

In the case of the Mirai, that fuel is hydrogen, and limited hydrogen fueling stations are why Toyota is only selling the car in California now.

The Mirai also carries hybrid-like batteries and an electric motor.

Generating electricity produces no harmful emissions from the Mirai, but a button on the dash must be pushed periodically to purge "pure water" through a rear pipe.

How quaint.


Refueling at a hydrogen pump gives up to 300 miles per fill, which takes about 5 minutes. The power train is far more complex than in a car like the Nissan Leaf or a BMW i3 powered by a battery and electric motor (Photo credit: Popular Science).


Torque steer, noise

I drove the Mirai around the convention center in heavy traffic, but got a chance to punch it twice, if that's even possible in a car with the equivalent of about 150 horsepower.

Unlike Tesla's one-speed transmission, you can hear the Mirai's transmission shifting, and when you accelerate too hard, you also get torque steer and more noise.

The Tesla Model S is not only quiet. It has the heft of a luxury car and a well-cushioned ride, both missing in the Toyota, as well as incredible speed with little fuss or muss.

Those same qualities are expected in the smaller Tesla Model 3 that will be unveiled on March 31.

I also missed the regenerative braking that slows an electric car once you lift off of the gas pedal.

Free hydrogen?

At the auto show, Toyota said Mirai owners will get free hydrogen for three years, in contrast to Tesla's nationwide network of free-for-life super-fast electric chargers.

The No. 1 Japanese automaker may have no choice but to pitch the Mirai as the world's most environmentally responsible vehicle.

It certainly isn't the quietest, fastest or most enjoyable.

But focusing on its green credentials will be a hard sell, given how giddy consumers are rushing out to buy SUVs and pickup trucks to take advantage of low gasoline prices.

And with the media being kept afloat by advertising revenue from automakers and oil companies, writers will continue to ignore the terrible toll of the internal-combustion engine, including climate change, air pollution, disease and death.


Next: The world doesn't need 99% of the vehicles shown to the media on Wednesday, including a 164-mph Maserati SUV.


Thursday, March 17, 2016

In wake of VW diesel scandal, engine makers are trying to pull another fast one

Allen Schaeffer, executive director of an industry group called the Diesel Technology Forum, spoke at a gathering of automobile writers on Tuesday, claiming the Volkswagen cheating scandal represents only a "speed bump" in the future of the diesel engine. Below, one of the VW models involved in the continuing controversy. 
In February, U.S. sales of vehicles with diesel engines were less than a third of what they were a year earlier, Schaeffer told members of the International Motor Press Association at a lunch in Manhattan.


By VICTOR E. SASSON
EDITOR

Diesel rhymes with evil.

Think climate change, global warming, polluted air, disease, death and premeditated deception.

That's deception of both regulators and customers, as in the massive Volkswagen cheating scandal involving 11 million VWs and Audis with diesel engines.

Deception as in Mercedes-Benz USA, which was named in a federal lawsuit alleging that its so-called clean diesel engine reduces pollution far less than the company said in its marketing materials -- in an echo of the Volkswagen scandal.

Mercedes' "clean diesel" emits pollution at levels more than 65 times higher than the Environmental Protection Agency permits, the lawsuit charges.

An Illinois woman who owns a Mercedes ML 350 filed the suit last month, and asked for class-action status to represent others in a similar fix.


'Speed bump'

So, automobile writers who gathered for a free lunch paid for by an industry group -- including engine makers and their suppliers -- might have been surprised to hear the VW scandal called a "speed bump," a "detour" and a "short-term issue" in the future of the diesel engine.

Allen Schaeffer of the Diesel Technology Forum seemed to contradict himself when he said only 6,500 vehicles with diesel engines were sold nationwide in February, compared to 22,000 a year earlier.

Schaeffer, the forum's executive director, also raised eyebrows when he claimed some "clean diesel" engines are just as clean as a Toyota Prius hybrid.

And he actually dismissed all-electric vehicles, including those with gasoline-fueled range extenders, in just a few words.

No sale at IMPA

Even though lunch was free, members of the International Motor Press Association turned out in the fewest numbers I've seen.

Still, the media have been complicit in the past success of diesel, as you can see from a rave review of the 2016 Range Rover with a 6-cylinder turbo-diesel motor in The New York Times.

Tesla Motors' all-electric Model X, called the safest SUV in the world, is ample demonstration that Land Rover is still producing some of the world's most environmentally irresponsible vehicles on earth.


Not good enough

Of course, a diesel engine that is just as clean as a gas-electric hybrid isn't good enough.

If diesel engines were banned outright, that might spur the development of alternatives far faster than now, when the profit motive seems to rule.

Diesel engines, which are less complicated and cheaper to produce than gasoline engines, fatten automakers' bottom line while helping them meet increasingly stringent fuel-economy standards.

But that has come at a terrible price to the environment.

Saturday, March 5, 2016

Consumer Reports' 2016 Annual Auto Issue is running hot and cold on Tesla

The cover of Consumer Reports' 2016 Annual Auto Issue. Readers get mixed signals on the all-electric Tesla Model S.  


By VICTOR E. SASSON
EDITOR

The editors at Consumer Reports boast that "our 327-acre Auto Test Center in rural Connecticut" allows the magazine to "give you the most trusted ratings anywhere."

But the 2016 Annual Auto Issue delivered to subscribers sends mixed messages on the all-electric Tesla Model S.


Highs and lows

A graphic called Standouts and Stinkers From Our Road Tests shows the Tesla Model S P85D achieved a perfect score of 100, the first and only car ever to do so.

Another graphic, this one on owner satisfaction, says that Tesla Model S owners find their EV "most satisfying" among buyers of luxury midsized/large cars.

The Acura RLX and Cadillac XTS are listed as "least satisfying."

Still, the Tesla Model S earns an overall score of only 77 in a section called Profiles, which says "reliability has dropped to below average."

I recall earlier reports describing problems that I haven't seen in the 11 month I've owned a 2015 Tesla Model S 60, including failure of the flush-mounted door handles to extend on a car purchased by Consumer Reports.

Then, another graphic shows which Brands Make the Best Cars

Tesla isn't shown, because as a footnote says, "a brand must have at least two models with test and reliability data to be included," and Tesla lacks "sufficient data."

In a final insult, the Used Cars section of the 2016 Annual Auto Issue lists the 2012-13 and 2015 Tesla Model S among the Worst of The Worst.


Consumer Reports' 2016 Annual Auto Issue is missing any reporting on the Autopilot features of the Tesla Model S, including the driver's ability to "summon" the car and have it back out of the garage.


New car ratings

Eight pages of rating charts appear in the April issue, but the Tesla Model S isn't listed among Electric Cars and Plug-in Hybrids.

Instead, the EV appears under Ultraluxury Sedans, even though the BMW 750i, Lexus 460L and all the others listed are powered by an internal-combustion engine, which has quickened climate change.

In fact, Consumer Reports apparently gives no points to the Model S for being one of only a handful of cars with zero emissions.

Nor does the magazine report Tesla's claim that the Model S and Model X SUV are the safest vehicles made.

And upstart Tesla also isn't praised for being first with such technological advances as Autopilot -- automatic steering, speed, lane-changing and parking.