I recently wrote an entry in which I ran the numbers for us on a $500 per month Tesla Model S lease. Unfortunately, it turns out that’s a phantom lease, one that’s reduced my respect for Tesla quite a bit. In fact, I’ve written dozens of articles and blog entries about Tesla in the past three years and never once written anything negative — until now.
Why am I so steamed?
Because I — and I bet I’m not the only one — naively thought, when I first read about the $500 Model S lease that I, and you, and everyone else, could actually get into a Model S and cut a check to Tesla for just $500 per month.
Bueller, it just ain’t so!
Doing the math And, yes, I’ll admit, if you stop and do the math for a second, it’s clear $500 per month, which = $18,000 across three years, simply ain’t going to be enough on a $60,000 car.
But why put into people’s heads the idea that they might be able to afford a Model S at all?
Why can’t Tesla just be up front and, on its entry page, advertise a figure that approaches the real figure for the check you’re actually going to have to cut to Tesla every month, which is going to be around $1,100 — or more.
Now, $1,100 per month might be “affordable” for some people — pretty much the same people who can already afford a Model S in the first place.
But it sure doesn’t put the car in the reasonable range for people like us.
A mortgage or a car payment? Sure, some can afford to put out $1,100 per month for a car and $1,100 for their mortgage/rent.
But they either make someting approaching at least twice what our household does, have no kids (we’ve got two) — okay, so we do send our kids to a private language immersion school so that they’ll end up being fluent in not just one language but two — or they think spending $1,100 on a monthly car payment + some of the legitimate savings (some of Tesla’s math is legitimate, some of it’s way out there) you get from driving electric will actually “save” you money.
Here’s betting if I plugged in Nissan LEAF, Focus Electric, Chevy Volt, etc. monthly lease figures — you know, in the amount you’re actually cutting a monthly check to Nissan, Ford or GM for — into Tesla’s Model S lease calculator, you’d probably come out with an insanely low $0 per month cost. Heck, according to the numbers Tesla’s using, maybe Nissan, Ford, or GM will pay you to lease their car!
No, driving a clunker car — we drive two of them — or a new economy car like a Nissan Versa for $99 per month, that’s real savings (to be fair, you could take things even further and ditch cars altogether for absolute “car” savings, something I’m certainly in support of for people for whom it works).
Bogus, bogus, bogus!
Nissan’s $0 per month LEAF lease? Here’s betting if I plugged in Nissan LEAF, Focus Electric, Chevy Volt, etc. monthly lease figures — you know, in the amount you’re actually cutting a monthly check to Nissan, Ford or GM for — into Tesla’s Model S lease calculator, you’d probably come out with an insanely low $0 per month cost. Heck, according to the numbers Tesla’s using, maybe Nissan, Ford, or GM will pay you to lease their car!
At the very least, Tesla needs to alter its entry page, which flashes the number $500, and change it to clearly read “True Cost of Ownership $500 Per Month Lease.” Then, most people are going to quickly recognize this isn’t really a $500 per month lease, but something else.
They’re less likely to feel miffed/pissed off either. That’s because there’s something to be said for truth in advertising — though, perhaps I’m the only one who finds the Model S lease bogus?
In fact, I found a recent Car & Driver column in which the author offers a critique similar to mine, an entry which clearly shows I’m not the only one who finds the Tesla Model S lease bogus, though those in the plug-in vehicle advocacy community seem to have been strangely silent on this issue.
Maybe Tesla thinks it’s worth it to reel people in with a phantom $500 lease that’s really at least $1,100. But what’s the point when the people reeled in can’t afford to cut Tesla a $1,100 per month check for a car — regardless of the other savings?
Now, it’s certainly true the American car buying public ought to be thinking about the long-term, all-around cost of vehicle ownership.
However, the way Tesla is ‘educating’ us is counter-productive. It appears to be less of an attempt to get people to re-think their previous thinking than to dupe them, albeit temporarily, into believing they actually could get into a Model S and cut a check of $500 per month to Tesla.