Auto blogTue, 15 Apr 2014
Saleen has been dropping breadcrumbs about its plans to develop a modified version of the Tesla Model S for a while now, and has finally released the first renderings that show off its changes to the electric sedan.
The four renderings indicate a comprehensive makeover for Saleen's Tesla. The front bumper is completely different with the absence of a grille and new louvered air intakes at the corners. The turn signals on the quarter panel appear to be open now, and the hood has new creases angled toward the center. One of the renderings promises an additional carbon fiber rear diffuser, carbon-ceramic brakes and carbon fiber deckled trim. The rear also has a larger spoiler and more aggressive rear bumper with brake cooling ducts at the corners. The interior appears relatively untouched, but the seats and much of the upholstery has been covered in a mix of leather and Alcantara.
Previously, Saleen promised to amp up the Model S' performance even farther, but it still hasn't gone into detail about what it's changing or how much it is going to cost. "I fully intend to produce one of the most compelling Tesla's to ever hit the roadway," said Steve Saleen, company founder and CEO in an earlier statement. We have contacted Saleen for more details about its plans for the Model S, and we'll update this story when we hear back.
The folks Newport Convertible Engineering have made a specialty out of taking coupes and sedans and converting them into convertibles. Sometimes this results in absolutely weird creations like a Range Rover droptop, but its latest project is significantly greener. The company has developed hard and soft top conversions for the Tesla Model S, and they are already quite popular too. An investor in China has ordered 100 of them.
NCE has been working on creating the two versions of the convertible Model S for the last six months, and it involves a lot more than just cutting the roof off. "Some sections needed restructured," said Al Zadeh, the company's CEO, to Autoblog about the changes made to maintain rigidity. A soft-top conversion costs $29,000 and a hard-top $49,000. In addition to these prices, buyers must supply a donor vehicle. Production is due to start in July in California, Dubai, and Barcelona, Spain.
This might be just the beginning for NCE's convertible Model S. Zadeh says that the company has made an inquiry with Tesla about whether it could supply 5,000 cars for conversion to satisfy predicted demand. He will release more details on the project "when the time is right." Scroll down for NCE's official announcement of the 100-car order.
Bill O'Reilly is a fan of Tesla. Calling the California car company "the one concrete thing that all responsible people should be rooting for," the popular Fox Network host is asking everyone to ignore the green lobby, the politics of global warming and dim opinions of alternative energy, declaring, "If Tesla can make a clean car, the entire automotive industry can. Therefore the air would be cleaner everywhere, and our wallets thicker. So let's get on it, people."
O'Reilly's Tesla-backing Talking Points Commentary came after 60 Minutes' recent piece on the electric car maker, but was occasioned by a new UN report on global warming. As usual, he isn't shy about sharing his real feelings, and you'll find a lot more of them where that came from in the two-minute video below.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration passed a law yesterday forcing new cars in the US to come with standard backup cameras by May 2018, and if Tesla has its way, this could be just the beginning of changing how motorists see out of their vehicles. The electric car manufacturer has teamed up with the 12-member Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers lobbying group (which represents major companies like General Motors, Toyota and Volkswagen) and filed a petition on Monday asking NHTSA for permission to replace sideview mirrors with cameras.
Currently, side mirrors are required on cars in the US, and they can't legally be replaced by camera technologies filling a similar role. The petitioners' chief argument is that sideview mirrors add drag and decrease fuel economy. According to Automotive News, Tesla founder Elon Musk has been lobbying for laws that allow automakers to use sideview camera systems exclusively for the last two years, but claims it's nearly impossible for a single person to change the regulations.
Sideview cameras have been on concept cars for decades, but augmenting external visibility with cameras and sensors has been a growing trend in production automotive technology over the last five years or so. Nissan uses its Around View Monitor to supplement mirrors with a bird's eye composite view of the vehicle during tight maneuvers, and the LaneWatch system from Honda displays a rear-facing passenger-side view to eliminate blind spots during lane changes. Tesla's early Model X concept (pictured above) had small pods on the side with cameras mounted in them, but more recent versions have switched to conventional mirrors.
As more and more technology gets crammed into our automobiles, replacing once simple mechanical systems with electronics and other such wizardry, hackers and people much smarter than ourselves are finding more and more ways to exploit them. The latest such case comes from a man named Nitesh Dhanjani, who has reportedly managed to send wireless codes over the internet to the Tesla Model S that can unlock the car's doors.
According to an article from Reuters, the six-digit passcode required to gain entry into Tesla's electric sedan isn't the only flaw in the car's security Dhanjani - himself a Tesla Model S owner - has found. That said, the car's electronic key fob is still required to start and drive the vehicle, meaning thieves would only have the ability to steal things left inside the car and wouldn't actually be able to operate it or drive it away.
"It's a big issue where a $100,000 car should be relying on a six-character static password," said Dhanjani, who has shared his findings with Tesla.
A lack of technological foresight and changing economic conditions may bring dramatic consolidation to the auto industry in the next 15 to 20 years. Industry analyst Adam Jonas at Morgan Stanley believes that the number of major automakers could go from around 30 today to as few as 6 in that time. However, a catastrophe is avoidable.
Jonas' argument is that the world has more automakers than it can sustain. He contends that too many of them are more focused on next year's models than attempting to adapt to technological change. Without looking forward, they won't survive.
Tesla might be the lighthouse leading automakers away from the rocks. While still quite small, it has disrupted the status quo and shown that there's more than one way to prepare for new innovations. "With proper execution, Detroit may thank Tesla Motors for being that stiff board in the back of the head right when they needed it," said Jonas to The Detroit News.
In a world where electric cars are far from the norm, it seems odd to us laypeople that you can't buy a share of Tesla stock (ticker symbol TSLA) for less than $230. But a research note issued Monday from Goldman Sach's respected team of auto industry analysts (seen in PDF form in our gallery) has added fuel to the irrational exuberance fire, guaranteeing that Tesla's stocks should hover at these seemingly unreasonable prices for some time.
Goldman Sachs analyst Patrick Archambault compared Tesla CEO Elon Musk to Apple's Steve Jobs, saying the Model S is a lot like the iPhone. The major difference is that it will take a lot longer for Tesla's electric cars to make a sizable dent in the auto industry, Archambault said, than it took for the iPhone to take over the smart phone world. If Tesla rolls out a non-luxury car in the next few years as is rumored, Archambault predicts the company could be selling 500,000 electric cars a year by 2022 or 2023. Based on those projections, the Goldman Sachs analysts says a fair price for Tesla's stock right now is about $200 a share.
Which, in the upside-down world of Wall Street, means the current share price of around $238 is nearly $40 overvalued. But that hasn't stopped traders from pushing up the price of Tesla's stock today between $3 and $4 a share. Over at Oilprice.com (subscription), contributor Martin Tiller on Friday was already sounding the alarm bells, saying Tesla share's are overpriced, despite the promising technology.
Need another sign that Tesla is growing into a force to be reckoned with? Bloomberg reports it has just snagged high-profile communications boss Simon Sproule from Renault-Nissan to become the EV maker's vice president of communications and marketing.
Sproule is an industry veteran, having spent 20 years at Nissan (where he grew to become CEO Carlos Ghosn's right-hand man). In addition, he logged stints at Ford, Jaguar (when it was still a Blue Oval-owned brand) and Microsoft. Despite all that experience, Sproule is still young, at just 45 years of age, as Bloomberg points out, yet he's held positions in the US, Japan and France over the years.
This is all good news for Tesla, which is in need of a strong spokesman outside of company CEO Elon Musk. It's been battling with the state of New Jersey and its governor, Chris Christie, over direct sales in the Garden State.
Thanks to skyrocketing share prices, yesterday was a very big payday for Tesla founder Elon Musk. The already wealthy businessman added another $1.1 billion, ten percent of his net worth, to his overflowing wallet yesterday after Tesla's shares hit $248. This time last year, TSLA was trading at roughly $34 per share.
Tesla's latest jump in a year that has already seen share prices climb 65 percent is thanks to positive reports from Consumer Reports on the company's Model S electric sedan, and some kind words from Morgan Stanley about the brand's plans for a battery factory.
Despite all the good news for Tesla yesterday, not all of the $1.1 billion Musk earned came from his automotive pursuits. SolarCity, which Musk is also the largest shareholder in, saw its share prices jump 3.1 percent, as part of a 43-percent jump in 2014.
Like it or not, the age of the self-driving autonomous automobile is just around the corner. But what form will a car's cabin take when the emphasis is taken off of human operation? That's the question that Rinspeed aims to answer with the XchangE concept. Previewed two months ago, Rinspeed has now revealed details, photos and even video footage of the self-driving electric vehicle. This year's concept car from the self-styled "Swiss idea factory" takes a Tesla Model S and modifies it for autonomous operation, freeing up the driver to sit back and enjoy the ride.
The redesigned cockpit includes a pair of highly adjustable front seats that can tilt, swivel and recline to make for a business class-like cabin space for driver and passenger. The drive-by-wire steering wheel slides out of the way when not in use. The dashboard displays all manner of data on four screens through a scalable infotainment package controlled by gestures, based on HTML5 and developed by Harman. The vehicle is fully networked with car-to-car communications and integrated LTE connectivity furnished by Deutsche Telekom. Access to the calming cabin space is granted by RFID technology, there's an LED plexiglass roof panel and a Carl F. Bucherer timepiece mounted in a watch winder on the dashboard.
It all comes across as a rather innovative take on the automobile from a design firm known for doing exactly that with its annual Geneva show cars. There's plenty more to digest in the press release, so check it out along with the video footage below and scope out the hundred-plus high-resolution images in the gallery above.