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Friday, May 10, 2013

Tesla Charges Up Electric Car Market

Tesla's Model S.

Tesla’s Model S. 

Tesla, the electric car manufacturer in Silicon Valley, had two big wins this week: It posted a quarterly profit for the first time ever, and it tied for the highest ranking ever given to a car by Consumer Reports.

Paul Eisenstein of the automotive news source says that Consumer Reports praised almost everything about the Model S: It accelerates like a sports car. It has pinpoint handling. And it’s so fuel efficient that it’s like getting gas for $1.20 per gallon.

Tesla Motors is also taking steps to assure consumers that it stands behind this technology. For instance, they’ve introduced a no-fault warranty for the batteries, promising to replace any battery that fails, regardless of the reason. And Elon Musk, the multi-billionaire founder of Tesla, says that if the company goes bankrupt, he will use his own money to support the re-sale prices for Tesla cars.

What Tesla means for electric cars

This week’s big successes for Tesla don’t mean that the electric car industry is out of the woods. Several battery manufacturers are struggling, and the market for all-electric cars is still just a tiny portion of the automobile industry. Right now, Tesla is one of the few really making the electric car industry work.

“One of the things that Tesla has been working hard to do is to convince American motorists that you can really consider a Model S as an alternative to a gasoline vehicle without all the fears that a lot of people have,”  Eisenstein said.

Eisenstein says an example of this is Tesla’s new no-fault battery warranty. “The idea [is] ‘We don’t care, we’re warrantying this for such and such a time. And even if you do something stupid — short of firing bullets into the battery — we’re going to warranty it if it fails.'”

“You have to remember, they’re selling more at Tesla than they expected to, but those numbers are still barely an asterisk on the U.S. automotive sales charts,” Eisenstein said.


  • Paul Eisenstein, about the future for Tesla Motors and the electric car industry

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Robin Young and Jeremy Hobson host Here & Now, a live two-hour production of NPR and WBUR Boston.

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