Saturday, March 18, 2017

#6 - No One Buys a Tesla to Save on Gas…



Let’s be clear, no one buys a $100,000 car solely to save on the cost of fuel.  In my case, it was the fifth of five reasons I cited here when I bought my Tesla.  But I wanted to figure out how much electricity my Tesla was using and if that was a measurable savings on the gas I would have been paying for to run my old car.

Where I live in Canada electricity costs have been rising steadily for the last few years, and that will continue.  The incremental (or highest) cost I pay is $0.124 per KWh.  That was the easy part.  Figuring out how many Kilowatt Hours of electricity my cars uses was a little tougher.  I checked a number of Tesla forums (there are way too many of them) and found other owners were trying to figure out the same thing.  Everyone, it seemed, was coming at the problem from a different angle but eventually I figured out an equation that gave me an answer.  I don’t keep a log of how many KWh of electricity I use every time I drive the car and if I started doing that it wouldn’t help me with the first 18 months I have owned the car so I needed my own approach.
Happily, Tesla’s capture plenty of data on energy consumption including the average Watt Hours per Kilometer driven over the last 10km, 25km or 50km.  With that number (an average of approximately 200 Watt Hours of electricity per km) at $0.124 per Kilowatt Hour over the 26,000Km the car has logged since purchase works out to:


I tend to own cars for long periods of time (10 yrs is not unusual and to that end I still own the car I bought in 2001) so that will work out to around $25,000 over the 10 yrs I expect to own my Tesla which is much more than I expected.

Now, if you are considering buying an electric vehicle (and “EV”) a few other options exist that are considerably cheaper than a Tesla Model S or X.  The highly anticipated Tesla Model 3 is rumoured to be in Beta production currently with a few cars expected to roll off the assembly line later this year.  And at a starting price of US$35,000 (around $50,000 in Canada) it will fit many more car-buying budgets.  The Chevy Bolt is getting rave reviews, even from an existing Tesla Model S driver and is priced the same as the Model 3.  However, since the Bolt is available in some US states today and the Model 3 is still a news release rather than a reality most consumers are left to choose amongst the Prius Highbrid or one of the existing EVs like the Nissan Leaf or the Honda Insight.  The Nissan Leaf is the clear leader in that category and despite its limited range I see many of them on the road (as well as parked at local EV Charging stations).



Until recently I hadn’t thought of the economics of owning an EV, and even when I looked at it in detail before buying my Tesla I found it was more about the savings in maintenance that really made the difference in my decision (partly because the alternative to a Tesla Model S for me was a used Porsche 911 – not exactly comparable cars but that was all part of my decision making process).  The other day I met a young man who works several jobs and just bought a new Nissan Leaf.  One of those jobs was as a Pizza delivery guy (I did this job in my youth as a direct means to pay for the gas, insurance and maintenance on my first used cars).  This guy told me he previously drove a used Chevy Geo (a 3-cylinder sub-compact car from the 90’s that any objective observer would describe as a crappy car) and where this was primarily (but not entirely) used for his job delivering pizza it cost him $400/month in gas to run.  Plus maintenance.  He proudly pointed out that the all-in lease cost on his new Nissan Leaf was $400/month.  And his gas costs were now zero (with essentially no maintenance).

 Now, electricity is not free as I calculated above, but this guy lives in an apartment so has to park his car at the grocery store across the street where they have a couple of spots with an EV charger.  In my province the monopoly provider of electricity cost is the only entity permitted to do that so others can charge for parking but not for the electricity.  In this case, where the parking is free so is are the electrons.  And the simple matter of smoothing over relations with the night manager who say this same car parked every night was expertly managed with a couple of large pizzas.  Not a bad little story especially when he added that in addition to the $5,000 incentive he got from the government to buy an EV he also got $6,000 from another government program designed to provide an incentive to get old cars off the road.  He paid $500 for his old piece of crap and got $6,000 to take it off the road…



What both the Model 3 and the Bolt have that sets them apart from any other affordable EV available today is a substantially larger battery pack.  That helps with “range anxiety” and makes feasible longer trips or linking together several short trips that don’t revolve around chargers.  The chargers themselves are getting better as well, such as the growing presence of CHAdeMO chargers that can fill an EV with 120km of range in less than half an hour.  One of the main problems I can see with the proliferation of smaller “economy” EVs is how to charge them.  I have a garage and installed a 220V connection to charge my Tesla but I grew up in a house with no garage where we parked on the street out front.  Houses without garages where the occupants park on the street and apartments or condos make up a large proportion of the living situations for much of Tesla’s Model 3 market or most people in the market for smaller “economy” EVs.  To charge an EV parked on the street in front of a house would mean running a long extension cord out across the lawn which is totally impractical.  And many apartment buildings only install one or two EV charging stations in their garages so even if you can charge your car you still have to move it to your regular parking space after an allotted amount of time.




The charging issues are a small hurdle to EV ownership and likely less of a concern for the drivers as long as the benefits of owning that type of car outweigh the costs by a significant enough margin.  With 400,000 Tesla Model 3s on pre-order, the reduced cost of fuel and maintenance appear to be outweighing the hassle factor.  At least in theory…

Sunday, January 8, 2017

#5 - Buying a Car from a Dinosaur

How Tesla has improved the process of buying any car

I bought my Tesla in 2015 and I only half-joke that it is my largest online purchase ever.  I did everything other than take delivery of the car online.  While I did get on the phone and ask a series of technical questions, like “How long will the battery last?” and I did meet with Tesla sales people in their showroom, that was nothing but research.  I did also complete a well documented test drive (here), but the final decisions regarding options, color and purchase vs. lease were all done online, not to mention putting down a deposit and frankly, managing my ownership of that same car through my profile on the website ever since taking delivery.  No visit to a dealership required.  You cannot do that with any other vehicle that I am aware of.


This comparison arises because my wife and I just went through the process of buying her a new car.  A GMC truck. It seems, however, the experience we had, and have repeated a few times with other new car purchases in the past, is virtually the same regardless of the make of car.  These days, all automakers (in North America at least) have a website where you can “Build your vehicle”.  It is straightforward; pick the model, color, drivetrain, interior, wheels, options, etc.  When you have done all that, you get handed over to a Dealer.  Why?  Because consumers never actually buy a car from GM, Ford or any other automaker.  By law, we can only purchase cars from dealerships.  That is what Tesla has eliminated with their new sales model and why you could not buy a Tesla in New Jersey, Arizona, Michigan, Maryland and Texas initially because those states maintained laws that prohibited consumers from buying cars direct from automakers. 

It seems a little crazy that consumers are prohibited by law from buying a car direct from the automaker but it is not nearly as bizarre as the arcane system dealerships have trapped themselves and their customers in for the purchase of a vehicle.  While it may start on a website these days, it always ends in a dealership and with a multi-step process that is so inefficient, painful and disjointed that it makes Soviet era Russia seem modern.  

First, we start with the salesperson.  The smile, the pitch, the useful information about each model, perhaps even the white shoes with white belt.  All of it designed to hone in on the “right car for you”.  You may already have done that on the website so next is the Test Drive. 

The test drive is an obligatory process and one even purchasers in Tesla’s new sales model of car buying want to do.  Some dealers will even bring the car to your home at an appointed time, as Tesla will do, to make this second step as seamless and as fun as it should be. 

The third step is the price negotiation; options, color, interior, etc.  Didn’t we already do this on the website?  Perhaps, and that may speed things along except for the fact that in the dealership model the cars in inventory are the ones the dealer wants to sell you.  As a result, the sales person engages in this annoying process of matching what they have to sell you with what you actually want.  Okay, but why can’t you just make what I want like Tesla does?

The fourth step (or is it step 3b) where the sales person searches for the car you are looking for.  Where Tesla simply builds the car you have designed, dealers actually own the cars on their lots so the salesperson will direct you to a vehicle as similar as possible to the one you want on their lot or on another dealer’s lot elsewhere.  If you choose a factory order, it seems that all price negotiation goes out the window.  The “customization” within the dealership model appears to be the salesperson selling final add-ons like undercoating (famous for being something that provides un-needed protection at some cost to the consumer and a tidy profit for the dealer), theft protection, Sirius XM radio or other after-market products and services.


The next step is when the sales manager is brought in to “finalize” the sale.  This always seems to me like the salesperson you have just been dealing with for the last hour is not authorized to close the deal.  Like they are in training or something, so they need to bring in the manager to finish it all off.  That can get a little sticky but once you are through that step you can press on… 

If you are leasing the vehicle you next go to the finance or leasing department, something you would have to do even if you were leasing a Tesla, but it is yet another step, it involves yet another person in another office and it can take an hour itself as you comb through the most confounding mathematical exercise ever conceived.  I have spent my entire 26 year career in finance, and consider myself fairly sophisticated in understand quite complex financing structures, but the leasing department takes the prize for most complicated and opaque.  Even after an hour of checking and re-checking certain figures to ensure I understood roughly how they were being calculated, there remained portions of the calculation I simply had to take their word for how it was being done.  Most consumers, I believe, simply focus on the bottom line which is the monthly payment.  And frankly that is how most cars in North America get sold – it is almost entirely a function of the monthly payment. In our purchase, we were now on to the sixth step but it was dark by now, and I was feeling defeated by the army of dealership soldiers I was working my way through. 

The sixth step was insurance.  On to another office within the dealership, yet another person involved in the process (we are at four so far, not including the receptionist).  Auto insurance is a necessity but now it is approaching 10pm and we are hours into the process.  The sun has long set and I have to leave to pick up one of our kids so my wife presses on with the actual delivery of the car.  Are we at step seven?  I lost track.  A brief explanation of the many features of the new car, a fifth person to affix the license plate, insurance sticker to ensure this hulk is roadworthy and we are finally done.  Any remaining explanation is left for another time because the purchaser has long since run out of interest in the process.  Phew, can I go home now?

As it turns out, the dealerships, and the car companies for that matter, don’t make much money selling cars.  All the profit for the dealer is in the optional extras sold at the end and the follow on service of the vehicle.  And in the lease.  I recall seeing a brilliant comment by a research analyst covering the auto sector that truly captured the essence of the auto business: in this case it was Ford being described a money-losing manufacturer of cars with a profitable bank on the side (referring to the fact that they made all their money leasing cars, not selling them).

How does it work when you buy a Tesla?  Well, when you make the decision a bright light appears, angels sing and and the car appears in your driveway.  Well, not exactly but it sure seemed like a close description compared to buying a car from a dinosaur dealer.  


As I stated above, I consider my Tesla to be my largest ever online purchase.  Once I had configured the car on their website, put down a $2,500 deposit with my credit card, I got a message:  “Thank you for your purchase.  We will hold your deposit for 10 days before starting the build process.  You are able to make any changes to the vehicle whatsoever during these 10 days.  At the end of the 10 days we will send you another email notifying you that we have taken your deposit are about to start building your car to your specifications.  You can still make changes but some changes may result in an additional $500 charge and/or a change in the delivery date.”  Presumably you can change something like the wheels anytime prior to when they are put on the car but changing the color after it has been painted would result in a charge and a change in the delivery time.  A little less than two weeks after the deposit was taken I got a VIN number and a couple of weeks after that the car was made and I was selecting a delivery date.  Now that was simple, transparent and it felt custom made.  But not exactly rocket science, and I still had to take delivery.

When it came time to pick up the car it was such a completely different experience from the GM dealer.  The same obligatory details needed to be completed such as lease details if that is your choice, and insurance, but at Tesla they are all handled by the same person.  One person.  Not multiple departments.  And all while I was seated in the same chair.  The vast majority of time I spent at the dealer receiving the car I had bought was all spent learning how it works, basic features and simple setup (like how to charge it, connecting to Bluetooth or where the windshield wiper fluid is refilled).  All the awkward steps involving multiple people, separate departments and individual offices each run by a specific manager had all been taken care of online.  Why?  Because I was buying the car from Tesla, not from a dinosaur that already had an inventory of cars they needed to move.  My car was factory ordered, made in three weeks and delivered in another three weeks.  The price was the price and the only haggling arises if you are factoring in the value of a trade-in.

The best part is, this way of buying a car is not proprietary to Tesla.  Anyone can do it.  The traditional auto makers, however, would have to unwind their entire dealership network in order to do what Tesla does so it is not likely to happen with them anytime soon.  Hopefully, the moment one auto maker adopts Tesla’s online configuration and the direct purchase model, the others will be forced to follow.  And then, the painful, exhausting and unnecessarily complex process of buying a car will be replaced with something more akin to a purchase on Amazon.

Monday, May 16, 2016

#4 - Getting Around in a Giant iPad


It is a little hard to claim that you are a “car guy” when it is true that in the ‘70’s your Dad drove a green Ford Pinto (that took me and my sisters on an epic journey to Disneyland) and your Mum drove an AMC Pacer (with a 3-speed manual transmission) in the ‘80’s.  But I do claim the title and I have even done some fairly advanced car maintenance on the old junkers I owned.  But the cars I owned back then were simple mechanical engines with no computer controls, no Bluetooth and certainly no 17” flatscreen in the center of the dashboard.

The Tesla is accurately described as “something like driving a giant iPad”.  The screen is a major distraction at first but it soon becomes what it is designed for which is the central point to control everything in the car.  Not unlike Steve Jobs’ approach to the iPod and iPhone where he insisted on eliminating all the buttons, including one that turned it on (and off), Tesla’s engineers (some of whom came from Apple) did exactly that.  The car is “turned on” by stepping on the brake once you get in.  Then it turns on the driver.  The steering wheel has the obligatory levers for turn signal, gear shift and a wand to adjust the cruise control (and AutoPilot) but every other button on the dash, save two, has been eliminated in favour of the screen.  The two buttons that remain are one to open the glove box and a second to control the Hazards, apparently a regulatory requirement for auto safety. 





Visually, the screen controls are a thing of beauty.  One screen has an image of the car from above, the same appears on the “dash” in front of the steering wheel which displays speed, etc. but always in the color of your car (red in my case, black, white or otherwise depending on your car).  It is animated as well, so when the driver’s door is open the car image shows this or when it is charging it shows the cable trailing away from the charging port.  Simple but great reinforcements of the driver’s experience.  To open the sunroof you simply touch the roof of the car image on the screen and drag your finger down as far as you want it open.  And of course the image animates this while the sunroof opens revealing the inside of the car as the sunroof slides back – full points for attention to detail.

This sort of thing is fairly easy to do with a software-driven interface which is also why Tesla’s engineers have buried a few Easter eggs in the system.  One is 007 mode where the driver enters 007 on a maintenance screen and the image of the car on certain screens changes to that of the Lotus Esprit from the James Bond movie The Spy Who Loved Me where his white Lotus blasts off a pier, lands in the ocean and then transforms into a submarine.  Apparently Elon Musk bought the original car a few years ago.  Another is the fact that the volume control goes to 11 – paying homage to one of my favourite movies “This is SpinalTap”.  There may even be a Mario Kart one buried in there but the point is these are easy things to do when the cares controls are all software that is regularly updated over the air with improvements, bug fixes and new features.  When I took delivery of my Tesla I had paid $2,800 for the AutoPilot option but the self-driving and self-parking didn’t come for several months afterward.  When they did, it was like getting a whole new car all over again.  Brilliant.  The updates are free for every Tesla owner and they will keep coming.




As a competitive advantage this is a feature unique to Tesla that is unmatched.  During 2015 several enterprising hackers got into the control system of a few modern cars in order to hijack the vehicle control system leaving the driver helpless.  In the case of Chrysler’s Jeep this resulted in a hasty and red-faced recall of 1.4 million vehicles where owners had to be contacted and the cars taken into dealerships for an upgrade.  The Tesla Model S was also hacked, of course, but Tesla wrote a patch and two days later every vehicle was updated overnight.  Problem solved.  You can just see Elon rolling his eyes while he thumbs his nose at the entire 100 year old auto industry.  What a bunch of boneheads.




The power of an operating system for your car that can be updated overnight like any iPhone is staggering.  No longer are cars tied to a model year where I have the 2015 Tesla Model S but in 2016 they introduced an Auto Parking feature but I didn’t get that – ‘Nuh uh.  If it is software, I get it.  That is why I have been lobbying Tesla for a small feature change.  You can help by using #teslateenmode which I believe is just a few lines of code that will not only put Tesla even further ahead of every other car maker but may even save a few lives.  Valet Mode already exist that limits the car’s top speed, locks out the Nav system and glove box as well as the front trunk (the frunk).  What Tesla Teen Mode would do is allow the vehicle owner to set the max speed and dial down the acceleration – say a 0-60mph time of 8 or 10 seconds instead of 5 seconds or less.  My 16 year old daughter has her L and is learning to drive with me.  Yes, it is truly a “First World Problem” that my car goes too fast for a young driver to manage, but I have told her she needs to enjoy the time she spends driving my car with me because as soon as she gets her N license there is no way in hell she’ll be driving that rocket ship without me in it.  

One of the coolest features of the Model S is AutoPilot.  Part of this is just a suitably advanced adaptive cruise control system that will maintain the speed set but also keep the car a designated number of car lengths behind the one in front, even if they are going slower.  But AutoPilot will also manage the steering.  Tesla calls this a Public Beta mostly because it is still being improved, and it is not fully autonomous driving when the system doesn’t recognize traffic lights or stop signs.  That's right – the car will just fly through an intersection on AutoPilot if the driver is not paying attention.  On the highway it steers a little like a nervous teenager but will maintain its lane through most curves and will even change lanes like an expert.  A few other luxury cars have these features, or something similar, but it seems that only Tesla has put all the goodies together in one gorgeous package. 





I wanted to try out a little highway driving so I seized the opportunity when I was asked to speak at an event in Seattle.  I figured this would be a mini road trip where I could test out the highway driving features and even use Tesla’s Super Charger network.  It took a little bit of advanced planning to line up a parking space for my overnight stay that had a charging station in it but Seattle, like most cities now, has plenty of options.  The SuperCharger locations tend to be on highways strategically located on the way to a destination rather than at the destination itself.  The public charge point I located happened to be one in a parking garage next door to my hotel that was operated by Blink.  To use it, I had to register online with a credit card to pay for the electricity.  That was in addition to the cost of parking but easily done.  And when I got there, like most EV charging stations, the parking spaces (painted bright green) are in position A right at the front.  I hold my Blink card up to the reader, it gives a soothing bloop, and I am ready to start charging.  The screen flashes up the cost per KWh and as I am walking away I pull out my phone and use the Tesla app to check how much charge the car needs so I can use that to do a quick calculation of what it will cost.  Then I do the calculation again, with a calculator.  That can’t be right, I am thinking $45 - $50 to charge the car (US$ too so I get to pay another 30% ontop of that).  That seems like a lot for less than a full “tank of fuel”.  Later I look up the charge on my credit card and discover I missed a decimal place.  It was $4.50, not $45.  Huh, now that’s cheap.  

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

#3 - Two Cars Towed in the Same Day

It all started with the idea that we would all go up to the Turkey Sale at Whistler to buy some of last year's ski gear on sale.  We did find a great deal on boots for my son and a pair of skis for me.  We even walked the dog in the pouring rain before heading back home in what was torrential rain. Just about then, the tire pressure indicator came on (says front right tire needed air) so we stopped at the last gas station before leaving Whistler to pump it up. Did so, and the warning light went out so everything seemed fine.


Stopped again in the next town about 50km from home to hit the Supercharger and get a coffee - Tesla seems to put the SuperCharger stations right next to Starbucks.  Very nice. When we got back on the road, the tire pressure light came on again and this time had an ominously red symbol (instead of the slightly less concerning yellow symbol before). Went straight to the nearest gas station and by then the wheel hub was almost on the ground. 



No problem - I had purchased a $35 tire inflation canister on the advice of the Tesla salespeople when I bought the car. Pulled that out and started to inflate the tire. But no joy. The tire inflated a bit but then all the air seemed to leak out so I moved the car (slowly) around to the air pump on the other side of the gas station and tried filling it with that. However, as quickly as the pump put air in I could actually hear it coming out of the tire. 

So, I called Tesla roadside assistance. Great service but an hour for a flatbed truck to come and get us.  I seemed to be developing an uncomfortably close relationship with flatbed tow trucks. The only problem was that I had my three kids and a wet dog with me - my wife was away on a trip in the UK.  So I had to call a taxi to take two of the kids (and the dog) 50km down to the city.  My youngest stayed with me.  That was $120, but worse, I was putting two of my kids in a cab with a driver I didn't know so he could go down a windy, notoriously dangerous road in the rain and at night.  I am definitely not happy about this but didn't see any alternative.  

We finally got the car onto the flatbed but as we were driving down I realize it is after 6pm on a Saturday night during a long weekend so there is nobody at the tire shop to let us in, and I didn't want to have to tow the car again three days later when the shop opened up. As luck would have it, the boyfriend of the dispatcher at the towing company, a very helpful woman, was the manager at the tire shop so he went over before we got there and opened the gate so we could put the car on their lot.  Fortuitous.  And very kind of him to do so.

Okay, so things are getting better now.  I even got a call from a friend with two tickets to the hockey game that night so as soon as we dropped the car at the tire shop the truck dropped us at home and I was able to take my 15yr old daughter downtown for the game.  In a rush, we get into my wife's car now but as soon as I start the engine the "out of gas" light comes on.  Great.  But, I have rationalized far worse - I declare out loud that "I am sure there is plenty of gas to get us downtown" to myself as much as to my daughter.  Besides, the game has already started.  

At this point, I turn to my daughter and only half jokingly say "When we get out of the car, make sure you hold my hand when we cross the street."  She gives me the same look you would expect a 15yr old girl to give her father when he says something odd like that so I explain, "I am just worried the gas light and everything else is a bad omen and we have to be careful we don't get run over or that we come out of the game and this car gets towed too".  She says, "Two tow trucks in one day - Haha, never gonna happen".  Uh oh.

We get downtown, listening to the game on the radio.  The score is 1-0 for Calgary and the first period ends.  We drive through two bloody parking garages that are both completely full.  Now the second period has started.  We come out of the second garage and find a spot to park on the street and find a spot with a parking meter between many other cars. Did I make that clear – many other cars were parked along the street where we were… We feed the meter and I note the street intersection before we both run to the stadium.  


Plenty of fun at the game.  Tied after three and it goes to overtime.  Very exciting. But when we get to the street where we parked the car, of course, it is not there.  My daughter is doubled over laughing.  Not helping my mood at all.  I looked for a No Parking sign, albeit in a rush, but now upon closer inspection I see there is a sign where we parked that is probably 10 feet off the ground and it says something like refer to some other sign to see if you can park here.  Seriously?!  The “some other sign” is way over there, down the block, and has a bunch of temporary stickers on it with a list of dates in tiny print on which you cannot park between 830pm and midnight.  There appears to be no pattern to the dates until I realize they are all the dates for the hockey team's home games.  Nice, now the mayor is out to get me.  None of this is on the permanent parking signs and all of it is in tiny print with temporary stickers added to the permanent signs.  Did I say it was in tiny print? With stickers.  And it was dark.  And we were late for the game.  Brutal. 

Anyway, the car was towed to a yard about 8 blocks away.  Traffic is gridlocked with cars coming out of the game so we have to walk.   Thankfully it is not raining anymore. Another $100 later (those discounted skis and boots are starting to get expensive) and a painful lineup to deal with but we then get the car back.  My wife's car back.  We get in the car and I turn the ignition and what is that warning light?  Oh yeah, out of gas.  Still.  

We sort out the gas and go find a restaurant because neither of us has eaten and it is now 1130pm.  We find a cool place with music and food and I am thinking, this is not so bad, hanging out with my 15yr old daughter after the hockey game.  And then it happens - my wife is in the UK which is 8 hours ahead so it is Sunday morning and she is on her way to the airport to catch her flight home.  Uh oh.  Texting with my daughter and what is that? "Mum wants to know why we are driving her car?"  

I'm like "Don't answer that text!  I need to get the story straight first..."  

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

#2 - The Test Drive

Okay, having made the decision not to buy a Porsche, or a replacement for my aging little convertible, I got on the Tesla website and booked a test drive.  Of course, I told them I wanted to drive the P85D with Insane mode.  Why not? 

The salesperson suggested a route along a nearby highway then up to the local ski area so the car would be able to show off its power and torque on the uphill as well as the regenerative braking on the way down.  Okay.  Who's going argue with that, let's go.  So up the mountain we went. 

Once we were off the highway, the road proceeds through a series of hairpin bends like switchbacks all the way up.  Not unfamiliar with this road, I was looking forward to it and as we came out of the first hairpin I opened up the throttle letting the car pull us out of the corner with surprising acceleration.  But as the car chewed up the road and we hit 80mph it stopped accelerating, even when I put the pedal right to the floor.  I turned to the salesperson in the passenger seat with a look like "WTF?  Is something wrong?".  Confused at first he then realized what it was and said "Ah, Valet Mode.  The car is in Valet Mode".

I'm like "What the hell is Valet Mode?".  Turns out it is a handy little feature that does a variety of things like lock out the glove box and front trunk, block the navigation system (specifically your Home location) and, of course, limits the car to 80mph.  Personally, I think this is a brilliant feature but remain skeptical that a Valet needs 80mph to park my car.

Anyway, now we are moving up the hill at a pace that feels like we are crawling since we are no longer accelerating.  Time to look around the cabin and take in some of the interior features I guess.  But just then, as we come over a rise in the road - BAM!  A speed trap.  Seriously?  At 3pm on a Wed afternoon with no one else on the road?  Brutal.










We pull over and the kind police officer asks for all my information which I provide to him once I tell him we are on a test drive and that I don't own the car.  The faint hope that our test drive status would result in just a warning faded completely when the policeman arrived back to inform me of the damage. 



At 80mph I was subject to a $378 fine because I was 40mph over the posted speed limit.  40mph over?  Weren't we just on a highway?  Apparently not.  And to rub salt in the wound, this route is popular with cyclists who blast down the hill on the same road.  Every one of them is exceeding the speed limit, but none are getting tickets.  I'm sure I can see them smirking as they buzz by at 70mph+.



Now, that was bad but it was not over.  After dropping that little bomb, the police officer pulls down his Eric Estrada sunglasses and proceeds to explain that at 40mph over the speed limit there is a mandatory 7-day impounding of the vehicle.  "So you two" he explains "need to get out of the car right now.  The flatbed is on its way to take the car."  WHAT?!



So there we were.  Two sad dopes, standing by the side of the road watching the car we were just driving - and which is still in perfect working order - be loaded onto a flatbed for a journey to who knows where.  Meanwhile, the salesperson is apologizing profusely.  I look at him puzzled.  "You know I was driving, right?  This is not your fault" I explain.

He sheepishly calls his boss down at the Tesla store to explain the situation and ask for another car to come pick us up.  Needless to say, I did not do the driving on the way down.








Monday, May 9, 2016

#1 - The Decision


I have always liked cars.  From my first ride in a go-kart at the outdoor Richmond Go-Kart track as a kid to the jalopy cars I owned in highschool, I have loved to buy, ride in, fix and customize cars.  Once I started working and was able to buy new cars I ended up owning some nice ones.  A factory order 2001 BMW X5 and BMW 323Ci Convertible that I still own.  But I always wanted a Porsche 911.  I even had the make, model, colour and features written down for over 10 years before eventually getting to the point I was able to buy it.

Then, finally, I was ready.  I went to autotrader and started looking at my dream car - a Porsche Carrera 4S Targa or Cabriolet.  I even set the year range so I could get Bluetooth.  The searches I set up sent me notifications almost every day and soon I had a spreadsheet of more than 80 cars that fit my criterion. 

Time to take the next step so I called a dealer to get a quote.  Well, I figured I may have to deal with some attitude but nothing prepared me for the pure, class-A pin-heads I had to speak to.   In almost every case the sales person I spoke to was not willing to set up a test drive "until they had a signed offer to buy the car".  Seriously?  So basically, that means they only want existing Porsche owners, or idiots, to come agree to buy the cars they have.  What an ass.




And if that was not bad enough, it got worse.  When I started to talk about a trade-in I was told my existing BMW 323Ci Convertible, which I had owned since I drove it off the lot, was only worth $6,000.  "Try selling it on Craig's List and you might get $8,000" says the Porsche pin-head.  It may have had over 125,000km on it but everything was original and I had taken care of it like it was one of my children.  I was not about to give it away for $6k.  That's it.  I'm keeping it.

Now, wait a minute.  That means I'll still have a convertible so I can look at some other kind of car.   How about I test drive that Tesla I have been reading so much about?  The next thing I know is I am on their website booking a test drive, reading more about the car (and the cost, of course) and I figure out why I am attracted to it.  Of the top five reasons I chose to buy a Tesla Model S, "no gas" was 5th.


  1. Performance: By far the most surprising thing about a Tesla is the pure, unrationed acceleration.  And to find that in what is a 5,000 lb beast of a car that carries 5 adults with luggage is truly unique
  2. All Wheel Drive:  I live in cold climate (at least during the winter) and I like to go skiing so all wheel drive has always been a priority - well, perhaps not when I bought the 2-wheel drive BMW 323, but ever since then
  3. Advanced Technology:  The car is loaded with technology, but like a giant iPad, it is all easily accessible, intuitive to navigate and completely contained in the giant central console screen
  4. Virtually Zero Maintenance: No oil to change, fluids to monitor (except the washer fluid and brake fluid) gears to worry about or moving parts to replace.
  5. No Gas:  I have almost forgotten how to fill a car with gas
And after owning the car for less than a year, I remain completely in love with it.  It is not enough that the thrilling ride means I now never (truly) complain about picking up and dropping off my kids for their many programs, every few months I get a completely free upgrade from Tesla.  It is like downloading a new operating system for your iPhone.  New features, a new look, and every once in a while a whole new thing - like Autopilot or Autoparking - comes through and it is like getting a new car all over again.