Readers of this blog will know I’m a fan of Tesla. I bought the stock back in 2012 on a silly whim and it became a super-rare, super-lucky, super-unicorn purchase. Some of my shares are up 15,000%.
I expect Tesla’s future to be bright as the world moves to electric vehicles (EVs) and renewables, so I continue to hold the stock.
But this post is not about Tesla. It’s about my experience trying to buy an electric vehicle.
Our two daily drivers have almost 200,000 miles on them. And since we’ll soon have another driver in the household, I decided it was time to start looking for another vehicle. Since EVs are the future and I have solar panels (free fuel), I’m not considering anything but an EV. This may not be the best idea at the moment…
Teslas are expensive, but since I like the company, I decided to start my search there.
I called Tesla to ask if I could take a test drive. The representative told me that currently Tesla is selling every car they make and there were none available to drive. This was slightly annoying, but since I’ve driven them before, it wasn’t a big deal.
Next, I stopped by a Tesla store to ask some questions. I won’t bore you with all of the details, but I have concerns about build quality and asked about it:
- Me: I’ve seen Teslas with some pretty bad body gap inconsistencies. Will Tesla fix them if I order one and it shows up like that?
- Tesla dude: Well, the robots assemble the cars and sometimes they aren’t perfect. If it’s a really bad issue, we’ll fix it, but generally no.
- Me <with some snark>: Are the robots drinking on the job? What’s going on there?
- Tesla dude: Haha.
- Me: This car costs $70,000 and I should accept build issues? Even my cheapo Mazda and Honda have consistent body gaps.
- Tesla dude: Well, the issue is that if we move a panel or door, it will create other issues.
The Model Y Long Range is premium priced, costing more than twice as much as its potentially better-built fuel-burning equivalents (RAV4 or CRV) and I should accept quality issues? Hmmm.
With that said, everyone I know who has a Tesla loves it to death. I also know that build issues are getting better.
The next car I considered was the Chevy Bolt. I know a couple of friends who one them and they like the car. But, all was is not well with GM…
Dealing with Chevrolet was 10x more infuriating than Tesla. The salespeople were horrible:
- They know little about the product.
- They communicate very poorly.
- They’re vague on the pricing except for ominous hints of adjusting the price upward because of market conditions (the dealers that had them available wanted $5,000 to $10,000 over the sticker price).
- All dealers had silly add-ons to further gouge the customer. One egregious example was a “$199 nitrogen tire fill.” Even worse was a $750 protective coating. What bullsh*t.
So, I sent an email to Mary Barra, the CEO of GM. Here is most of what I wrote:
…while I have issues with Tesla’s quality, their direct-to-consumer/one-price purchase model is pretty great. Dealing with Chevrolet dealerships has been incredibly painful. I’ve been in contact with 5 different local dealerships:
- Salespeople won’t return phone calls or emails.
- They forget the model I was asking about.
- They won’t give me pricing.
- They know little about the product they’re selling.
I’ve only owned Japanese cars and I really looked forward to buying a Chevy for the first time, but this experience is making me look at Hyundai, Kia, and Nissan EVs.
Shortly after this email, I received a call from Chris on the Executive Resolution Team:
- Chris: Can you tell me about your experiences with our dealers?
- Me: They don’t communicate, they’re not honest, and the pricing is nuts.
- Chris: The Bolt is in demand and the dealerships are independent, so we have no control over them. We tell them that price gouging isn’t in their long-term interest as it doesn’t create a loyal customer. We also tell them that if we hear complaints, we may reduce their future allocation of cars. If I were you, I’d wait until the fall when we expect demand to have lessened.
- Me: I don’t share your enthusiasm about decreasing demand. You have a well-priced vehicle and with the upcoming EV incentive, I think they’ll be even harder to buy soon.
- Chris. Uh-huh. Yeah, yeah, sounds great.
It was clear that Chris wasn’t listening, so I impolitely said Bye and hung up the phone.
While Chris had said that they punish dealers by giving them less allocation, he never asked me which dealers I had these issues with. It was clear that Chris didn’t really care. It was all for show. Sigh. I’ll probably never buy a GM product.
Kias, Hyundais, And Mazdas! Oh My!
My friend K has an EV6, so I went to check it out. The EV6 had a minor body gap issue, but otherwise is a great car. However, there aren’t any available near me. Also, my friend K got a little screwed by the Kia dealership when they added a $1,000 “protective coating” and secretly buried the cost in the paperwork.
The Hyundai Ioniq 5 is super weird looking, but it’s supposed to be a great car. Again, good luck buying one. This is from the Hyundai website:
Our Mazda 5 (The Mindyvan) has been the best car we’ve ever owned. It has 198,000 miles on the clock and it’s never been in for a repair. So, my next thought was that I should look to see if Mazda had an EV offering. It turns out that Mazda does offer one, but it has horrible specs (100 miles of range?!??) and is also sold out.
- Dealers are HORRIBLE, EVIL, and NASTY entities: I haven’t shopped for a car in 13 years. Not much has changed. Salespeople are dishonest and smarmy. The dealership model is flawed. Why put an antagonistic person between the product and the consumer? This is a very, very bad idea. Tesla does this part of its business perfectly.
- EVs are the real deal: EVs still command a premium price (batteries are hard to make), but economies of scale will soon triumph and this will no longer be the case. Also, consider that EVs are way cheaper to maintain and fuel. The upcoming tax credit will only make demand issues worse in the short term.
- Some traditional automakers will die this decade: Moving to EVs is not easy. Batteries are painful to produce and/or source. Also, dealers make most of their money servicing cars. How does a dealership make money when they sell a car that barely requires service?
At this point, I was confused, defeated, beaten down, and somewhat delirious. In my weakened state, I navigated over to the Tesla website and ordered a Model Y. It’s supposed to show up in January:
After the tax credit, the car will be $69,000. This is a LOT of money. The two cars Mindy and I bought new were both under $20,000 (2003 Honda Element and 2010 Mazda 5). The most expensive car I ever bought was an Acura NSX ($45,000):
It feels somewhat ridiculous that I paid $45,000 for my ultimate dream car and now I’m about to pay $69,000 for a nerd-mobile family hauler. What?!??
I’m not sure that I’ll actually buy the Tesla. If I cancel my order, I’d be out $250 and no more. Perhaps I’ll be able to figure out something else before that. Or…
Mazda 5 (The Mindyvan) FTW?!??
Our 2010 Mazda 5 Mindyvan has been a great car. The sliding doors don’t cooperate in the extreme cold. It has a rust spot. It’s noisy. It’s not pretty. But, it always starts and has never had an issue. I change the oil, rotate the tires, and put new sparkplugs in it. That’s it. Way to go Mazda!
The Element has received a new radiator and exhaust manifold, but has been great otherwise.
Since the Element and 5 are still doing OK, perhaps I’ll punt my EV dreams down the road for a while. Older Daughter won’t like the decision:
I don’t want to learn to drive a stick shift!!!-Angry Older Daughter
But, she can just wait.
More EVs will be on the market soon. Manufacturers will ramp up their production volumes. Teslas will decrease in price as more competition shows up.
Perhaps the Mindyvan has a couple more years left in her?
What do you think? Do you own an EV? If so, which one and how do you like it?
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