by Timothy Lutts
Last night, my oldest child’s car wouldn’t start. She’d been visiting my wife and me with her husband, and when it came time to leave, instead of vroom, vroom, all she got from her old Volkswagen Passat was click, click.
Called to assist, I used my lifelong experience as an owner of cars and diagnosed the problem. The starter sounded like it was trying to work, so I figured the battery charge was low, which meant (since it’s summer) that the problem was probably the alternator and not an old weak battery. Solution, connect jumpers from my car, wait a while, and try again. It worked! And she drove off to her friendly Volkswagen mechanic to get it fixed.
But very soon, I won’t be able to help her like that, because very soon, I’ll be driving a car that doesn’t have a 12-volt battery. Instead, it will have 6,831 lithium ion batteries made by Panasonic, and it won’t have an engine.
It also won’t have a starter, an alternator, a gas tank, an oil tank, a radiator, an exhaust system, belts, pulleys and myriad other parts that make today’s cars so complicated.
I’ll just plug it in every night in my garage, the same way I plug in my cell phone. I’ll never pump gas again (well, maybe for my wife’s car). And every day I’ll have nearly 300 miles of range on tap. I’ll be buying a Tesla.
It’s a Tesla Model S, the car that recently received a near-perfect score of 99 from Consumer Reports, a score that has only been given once before, to a Lexus. The Tesla Model S is not cheap. Prices start at $63,570.
But one reason I can afford it is that I first recommended Tesla stock (TSLA) to my Cabot Stock of the Month Report subscribers back in December of 2011, and since then the stock is up 424%.
And I think there’s far more upside ahead—in the long run—because company founder Elon Musk’s goal is not simply to sell lots of electric cars (though he’s doing it really well, and without advertising); his plan is to change the world, by supplanting the old gasoline-centric automotive world with a new electric-centric automotive world.
So after the Model S will come the Model X crossover SUV. And after that will come a small, mid-priced sedan that’s expected to directly challenge the BMW 3-Series on price and surpass it in performance. I think Tesla will sell a ton of them, because its cars are so much fun to drive.
Plus, over time, the cars save money, because they can be refueled using solar power and they require almost no maintenance!
Now, other car companies aren’t sitting still why Tesla forges ahead. But no one else makes a car that’s even close. The Chevy Volt and Nissan Leaf are OK, (I actually drove an early Leaf), but driving them is no fun at all. Plus, Chevy and Nissan are NOT trying to change the world; their bread-and-butter is still gasoline-powered cars. So they’re not really motivated the way folks at Tesla are.
Furthermore, Tesla is not just changing the driving experience, it’s also changing the refueling experience, by building a network of Superchargers where Tesla owners can recharge for free, for life. Plus, it’s changing the BUYING experience. You don’t buy a Tesla from a salesman, spend hours haggling about price and then leave fearing you’ve been cheated. Instead, you buy it the way you buy an iPhone. The car’s price is fixed, period. And currently, because there is no Model S inventory, you order a car with the exact color and options you want, and they build it for you, just the way you want it. Mine will be red, with a grey interior and the premium sound system. I can’t wait.