Foot in mouth: Tesla edition

Conversation after a neighborhood tennis game….

  • Dave: Whose Tesla X was that parked in your driveway yesterday?
  • Me: Why it was [John; also part of our tennis circle]’s of course! How many sanctimonious douchebags can there be in one town?
  • Dave: I just bought a Tesla X.

(“John” is not sanctimonious or a douchebag, incidentally. He is rich enough to buy a Tesla for fun/curiosity/novelty and doesn’t have to justify the cost with a planet-saving vision.)

Readers: How is Tesla doing now, both financially and as far as dominating the market is concerned? What are the redesigned 2020 cars that are worth looking at? We still need a new family sedan. The Hyundai Sonata is all new for 2020. Also the Subaru Legacy, which has AWD for our New England winters (NYT predictions of a Florida-style climate for Boston have so far not panned out). We will probably do a three-year lease since cars seem to be advancing at a rapid pace and we don’t want to spend a lot because we don’t have anyone to impress (nobody over the age of 5 anyway).

33 thoughts on “Foot in mouth: Tesla edition

  1. AWD, because you drive off road on your way to the airport so much… The winter driving excuse is ridiculous beyond measure. I wonder how most Scandinavians (including Finland here) manage to drive regular cars on iced roads? Or how most of us in the Alpine countries do just fine in our winters? Who’s the douchebag?

    • 1. Boston is a lot colder and snowier than Scandinavia.

      2. Subarus are principally popular in most of the USA among lesbians with large dogs that fit in the wagon space in the back seats. But in the state of Colorado, the highest and snowiest part of America, they’re very common and considered eminently practical by the locals.

    • J: The Honda minivan is FWD and does well in the snow, but it is heavier than a mid-sized sedan. And it is true that we have only about 7 days per year, statistically, when the snow in the city of Boston is deep enough to plow. But labor is expensive in the U.S., so people seem to prefer to pay a bit more to the factory for AWD than pay tire shops to swap out summer and winter tires twice/year (real estate is also crazy . Also, winter tires probably are not optimum in the Boston winter because 97 percent of the time the road does not have any snow or ice on it. Usually the AWD is for getting in and out of a driveway that isn’t plowed and salted as well as the public road. Would it actually make more sense to use a two-wheel drive car and winter tires?

      (US GDP per capita is about 33 percent higher than Finland’s so it makes sense that the capital (AWD) versus labor (change tires twice/year) tradeoff might be different. See )

    • Winter tires are not primarily for driving in snow. They have rubber compounds that are optimized for lower temperatures and thus give better traction on dry pavement in cold weather. Also, a fwd car with snow tires will perform better in snowy conditions than any AWD car.

    • Boston colder/snowier than Scandinavia??! You must be confusing it with benelux countries. Although global warming has been convincing some drivers in (southern/coastal) scandinavia to ditch studded for non-studded winter tyres. Helps with fuel consumption and particulate matter thus making them feel they’re helping the environment 🙂 In my experience that strategy only works in cities such as Oslo/Bergen/Helsinki… where roads are sort of cleared and not constantly iced over. But there have been several times I whipped out chains to get over the shortest incline in the Norwegian mountains.

      Phil: yes, a FWD/RWD with winter tyres will be vastly superior to an AWD on regular tyres on anything but a dry road. And even then winter tyres are likely to have a shorter stopping distance in temperatures below freezing. You solve your cost problem by having two sets of wheels mounted then spend 15min 2x a year to swap them yourself. You’re likely selling the car before you wear out either set.

    • J: It will be a three-year lease. So if we did buy an extra set of wheels/tires we’d then have to figure out how to sell them after three years. And we don’t have any space in our house/garage to store this extra stuff (a house large enough where you wouldn’t notice a stack of tires would cost about $500,000 more than this one here among the Millionaires for Obama).

      But have we answered the real question: does it make sense to drive for six months on winter tires when almost all roads are free of snow/ice almost all the time? AWD has the advantage that you can use tires optimized for smooth/quiet ride, dry/wet braking, dry/wet cornering, etc., but also get through a badly plowed driveway or break out of a suburban side road that hasn’t been plowed yet.

    • Phil: if you get snow and subzero (celsius) temps for more than a few days per winter, you get winter tyres. That simple. Alternatively you might consider all season/weather tyres such as Michelin Crossclimate or Nokian Weatherproof that you can use all year round.

      BTW winter tyres come in many flavors. From artic studded & non studded down to “mostly just cold and wet climate” winter tyres. And of course the in betweens such as those mentioned above which are especially popular in UK (wet snow 1-2x a year for a day or two and hardly ever below freezing).

      And any of them will be better than AWD on summer tyres. So yes, worth it.

    • # of miles driven by average daily driver in US and Europe are not comparable. In US many drivers pass more than one weather patterns on their way to work. As a rule AWD vehicle has elevated ride and balanced higher ground clearance and the feature is very helpful in heavy rain and high wind conditions. Did any winter tires on a two wheel drive car proponent try to brave a snowy hill in front or rear wheel drive sedan? I both drove for 30 miles in 3 inches of wet snow in a compact front-wheel drive car and drove up snowy hills in 4WD trucks . Compact front-wheel drive car just can not get uphill in snow and although it is possible to drive two will drive cur in few inches of snow on a flat road through snowstorm it is not very pleasant.

  2. The Tesla might liven up the blog. There could be some reviews about the impact of Teslas on domestic partnerships & general aviation, an angle we haven’t seen in the thousands of other Tesla reviews.

  3. I’ll try to liven up the blog. If you mean by “dominating the market” hastening the exit of the family sedan from the product lines of Fiat/Chrysler, Ford, and GM, then Tesla Model 3 family sedan (with help from Honda & Toyota), has accomplished this, based on published sales figures. Possibly more domination later – no guarantees.

    For your stated requirements, I suggest the Subaru, or possibly the Honda Passport. I understand Honda put the volume knob back. Both these brands are great products and values.

    You’re just teasing us about buying a Tesla – even though a 2019 Model S AWD gets 370 miles between charges, it still does not win a purchase price point comparison with similar ICE vehicles.

    I wish Tesla shares paid a dividend ….

  4. Porsche’s new electric Taycan (all the good names were already “taken”?) is about to go on sale, and the press seems to love it since it has almost the same performance as Telsa but with much better build quality + design.

    > We still need a new family sedan
    Charger Hellcat is the clear anti-Tesla

    > AWD for our New England winters
    Grand Cherokee TrackHawk covers all the bases

  5. WaPo, 09/15/19 – Union votes to strike at General Motors’ US plants

    “The United Auto Workers union announced Sunday that its roughly 49,000 workers at General Motors plants in the U.S. would go on strike just before midnight because contentious talks on a new contract had broken down…”

  6. In our family we have a Subaru Outback and Honda Odyssey. The Outback is fine but not nice. I’ve appreciated it’s charm in not having very many bells and whistles (it’s a 2010 model). Technology wife it is the opposite of the Odyssey. While the car should “last” forever, the Subaru version of longevity includes looking really shabby. Cloth seats are not holding up to kid use at all.

    The Odyssey was wrecked recently and totaled. Forum buzz says the 2018/19, that Phil lambasted for all touch screen controls, also has problems with the entertainment system spacing out and transmission. There was a different transmission from the 18 to the 19 and yet another transmission coming for the 2020. Even the transmission in our 14 Odyssey was making more off noises than I think was proper. It seems to be a weak point for larger Honda vehicles. All things considered we’re looking for a rare gently-used last generation Odyssey after insurance is settled.

    • We’ve had the 2018 Odyssey for 1.5 years now and it is awesome. The reduced interior noise compared to the 2014 is worth the price of admission. No issues with quality or failures. Some of the Infotainment software could be improved, but that is not core to the driving or riding experience.

      For comparison, we purchased a $2,500 KitchenAid refrigerator a month ago. It failed after three weeks (temp set to 37; actual fridge temp 50+ and food spoiling, which is what had motivated us to purchase a new fridge to replace the fairly young GE). It is too bad that Honda does not make kitchen appliances! (though I guess Samsung and LG do; unfortunately there wasn’t a great dimensional fit for a Samsung or LG fridge)

    • I also have a 2018 Odyssey and a 2010 Outback (the 6 cyl.). The Outback is falling apart mechanically, and it has always burned way more oil than any other modern car. It does do well in the occasional blizzard here on the Colorado Front range.

      (And yes the 2018 Odyssey is great, even the HondaVac is awesome to have)

      I am in the same boat as Phil, wondering whether awd is really worth it. Maybe the new Toyota rav4 hybrid? It has a credible electric motor for awd in the rear of the car and also gets really excellent gas mileage.

  7. A couple of years ago, I bought an ’08 Honda Ridgline 4WD w/ 45K miles on it for $14,000. It’s been an ok truck but last year the ABS module went out and all the idiot lights came on and stayed on. The dealer wanted $1600 to install a new ABS module. I ended up buying a used module off ebay and the dealer installed it for $160. All the idiot lights went out except for the VTM-4 light (Variable Torque Management).

  8. Maybe I’m an old timer, but as a teenager growing up in the 1980’s in MA, most cars were RWD and somehow we survived the NE weather. Sure, I know the days when some of us had snow chains [1] around the tires and added extra wight to the trunk (tires, stones, breaks, etc) to increase friction. And yes, I got stuck on steep roads going uphill where I had to turn around and start over or take another road, but overall NE’s weather condition isn’t that bad to demand an AWD vehicle. In fact, I would say that having an AWD can make it less safe because the driver thinks they are safe and thus be more aggressive on snowy roads or take the risk of driving in a blizzard when they shouldn’t.


  9. We looked at Subarus several times a few years ago. The choice was between something seriously underpowered or a “turbo” version with enough power but terrible gas milage. Meanwhile, Honda was getting 40+ MPG for a Civic sedan with enough power.

    • Interest rates are pretty low right now so the loan part of the lease isn’t expensive. Car technology seems to be progressing at a rapid rate so I actually do want to get rid of the car after three years. The lease puts the risk that the car will be devalued by tech progress onto the leasing company (what if self-driving cars suddenly became practical/legal/safe? What would that do to the value of cars that required human effort? What if Toyota came out with a good electric car for $20,000?).

      Owning stuff means being responsible for it. I’m sitting at home now waiting for GE to show up to fix the wall oven. We bought a $2,600 KitchenAid fridge in August to replace the GE that was failing to cool. The KitchenAid failed three weeks into its life. The company won’t even come by to look at it until October. If I had leased a refrigerator from KitchenAid I could at least stop paying them and tell them to pick up their non-functioning fridge. Instead I am stuck with this thing and also the task of being the maintenance manager for it.

    • The article that you cite doesn’t take into account how long you’re expecting to keep the car. I’m sure that it makes sense to buy if the goal is to drive it for 10 years.

      Business usage is another place where leasing may make sense. The cost of the lease is a simple deduction. If you buy a car and want to deduct it, you are depreciating a capital asset and there are limitations on how much can be deducted each year (it would take 50 years to depreciate a high-end luxury car!). See

      For married Americans, there is a 50 percent chance that one partner will file a divorce lawsuit against the other. In that case, a lease simplifies matters because there is no asset to be argued over by lawyers and ultimately divided by a judge. (Same deal with renting an apartment; there won’t be $200,000 in legal costs to decide who gets the apartment and what percentage of the apartment’s value since the apartment is owned by the landlord and not one of the litigants.)

    • Actually, leasing might make sense even if you are planning on keeping it for 10 years, Ultimately, you are paying the depreciation either way – but the lease is an option where the lease company is projecting what the value will be in 3 years. If they are low, you can walk away and have them eat the difference. If they are high, you get a deal at the end. (Besides, many manufacturers heavily subsidize leases to keep their inventory moving)

      The Dave Ramsey type anti leasing thing is really about the benefits of buying new cars, not the details of financing arrangements. The main problem with leases is that they let people buy more car than they really can afford, and keep rolling it along into a new one every 3 years – whereas buying an off-lease Toyota Corolla and keeping until it falls apart is really the best thing, financially. But most people don’t want to do that (which is why most people are poor)…

  10. I guess I am the person that plans on keeping my Honda until it stops running irrespective of what Toyota comes up with..But I also am the one who prefers the landlord to take care of the fridge, stove, plumbing and all other issues instead of wasting time and money myself. By the way, do not you have examples of amicable divorces to cite? It appears all about fighting and astronomical legal fees in 99% of the posts- kind of one sided..

    • Amicable divorces? About 17 percent of divorces in Massachusetts are settled without litigation (see for the percentage of “joint petitions” in the database). The percentage is higher in states where the laws leave less to the discretion of judges and therefore the parties have a better idea of what to expect.

      Most of the amicable divorces we heard about were ones in which there was nothing to get, e.g., neither party had any assets or a state law made it clear that there was no way for Party A to obtain anything significant from Party B. That’s consistent with (“America, Home of the Transactional Marriage”). And there are plenty of amicable divorces in European jurisdictions where children have limited cash value, e.g., $2,000/year in Sweden (same child could be worth $50,000 or $100,000/year in California; how often will someone voluntarily say “Oh, I’d love to become the secondary parent and pay $1+ milllion in after-tax money rather than be the primary parent and receive $1+ million in after-tax money”?).

    • Which variables were controlled for when calculating that women were 2.6 times more likely to sue? In most of the posts, it is positioned that women are gold-diggers trying to be parasites on men’s hard-earned fortunes. However, little is mentioned of potential violence, humiliation and cheating rather than money that may have caused the decision to sue. Also, the Middlesex county is the richest in the state, and probably one of the richest in the country, I am curious if the results hold elsewhere. A few of my divorced friends, both in MA and other states, hold a 50/50 custody .

    • A good starting point in the academic literature on the subject of who files a divorce lawsuit and why is the American Law and Economics Review paper “These Boots are Made for Walking: Why Most Divorce Filers are Women” (Brinig and Allen, 2000). This is available for free from'These_boots_are_made_for_walking'_why_most_divorce_filers_are_women

      Certainly women have no monopoly on seeking to cash in via the family court system. See for a local tale of a guy who figured out how to have sex with young women while having the discarded middle-aged former wife pay.

    • In addition to that story of the father seeking to profit via child support off a young Palin (works in only a handful of states where shared 50/50 parenting is the standard), the Palin family has also provided a recent example of men willing to follow the financial incentives presented to them. Sarah Palin, the 55-year-old spouse who earned all of the money (estimated at $12 million) is sued by the casually employed low-earning spouse and he is now free to use the money she earned to attract younger sex partners.

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