Sunday, November 10, 2013

Tesla's Real Advantage

Going to Japan!! wooo hooo!! can't wait!  Will be awesome to see what *might* be coming down the road in a few years at the Tokyo Motor Show. But like all car shows; it will be more concepts and fantasies than products and release dates.

The best I can hope for is getting a glimpse of where auto manufacturers are headed in the future and get a sense of where their heads are at.  Right now the main chant in the EV community is "More Range!" and they got it half right. It really should be "More Choices!".  The LEAF should not change significantly no matter what.  There will ALWAYS be a market for an 80 mile EV. Continuous improvement on the platform should be concentrated on extending battery life and lowering the price to bring in more potential customers.

One thing that the LEAF could use is a range extender and if done right; can kill two birds (no wait...not PC) address two of the biggest needs for EV adoption.  WE all want a bit more range but the LEAF really doesn't have a lot of room for more batteries and cramming them in there could be a mistake (See the C-Max Energi's rear hatch if you need an example) especially if one only wants the extra range occasionally (I really only need it a few times a month AT THE MOST).  But what if you only had to sacrifice the storage space only when you wanted to? Granted in some cases the storage is vital for luggage, etc. but I think I would rather have the option; Storage or an extra 60 miles of range! (choices are cool :) )

EVs have gained a lot of traction (and sales) in the past 3 years but still have a long way to go. A lot of people have strong interests in them but still need just a bit more to get them over the top and it can be done but there needs to be a concerted effort at all levels to insure that transition and that is where most of the current EV industry is failing.

 EVs are not what the dealer ordered. Most dealers paid a lot of money to become certified to sell EVs and its a vehicle that needs minimal maintenance so after the sale, the revenue stream stops. Many dealers rely on their service center for a large part of their profits which means double incentives to sell regular gasoline vehicles.

I worked for a dealer selling cars; Fords to be exact. Now was the owner of the dealership loyal to Ford? Ya, as long as they paid well! His loyalty was strong and could you blame him? He actually had 7 dealerships selling 6 different brands of cars. So he had a LOT of loyalty!  The other thing to keep in mind is that nearly everyone at a dealership works on commission. Even mechanics do. They actually are paid an hourly rate but those hours are not "clock" hours, they are shop hours.  So if a job is billed at 2 hours; that is what he gets for that job. His hourly rate times 2. Whether it takes him 20 mins or 2 weeks; he gets 2 hours of pay.  So he either worked fast and efficiently (and did it right because if it wasn't done right the first time, he did it again and no, the customer does not pay twice!) or he did not make much money. The dealership would not cover his wages other than whatever minimum rates the state mandated.  Salesmen worked the same way. They made commission on each car they sold or they got minimum wage based on the hours they worked (If the dealership could get away with not paying minimum wage, they would!) IOW; if there is not a clear view of a revenue stream tied to a product; do not expect the dealership to be on board with it! EVs may make money for the salesmen but the service department is left out in the cold with an empty cup!

So we have the owners, manufacturer, dealerships, and people at the dealerships just trying to make a living, so what if?...

Leasing battery pack range extenders on a short term basis? per day, week, or month.   Packs must be installed by dealership. This makes the mechanic happy because it will probably have more shop time assigned than actual time needed for the install since some reprogramming will have to be done.  These "types" of jobs are easy. They are very predictable, clean, straightforward but involves a lot of  "wait" time which means the mechanic can be doing another job simultaneously  essentially doubling their income. This makes mechanics happy which makes service advisers happy which will make anyone visiting the service center happy as well!

Have the leasing program run by Nissan Corporate. This will reduce the cost of the program, level the playing field among different regions and solidify customer expectations. Nissan needs to make sure dealerships are fairly compensated for the time.  At the same time (and this is vital) Nissan must introduce another EV model that has a battery with the extended capacity.  Now where they go with that is up to them. A smallish SUV or maybe something similar in platform to the Prius v or a larger sedan sized between the Volt and Tesla S, etc. Whatever! it does not matter.

What is important is that this new model will obviously be more money and that money will be hard to justify UNLESS, one could "try out" that extra range for the weekend by renting it for their LEAF!

Ok; so by now, you are thinking what has all this got to do with Tesla? Easy! they figured all this out a long time ago but NOT HAVING DEALERSHIPS!!

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