Take Two for August 28, 2013

Sales data shows that Californians love their electric cars

Tesla Motors has outsold several luxury carmakers in California in 2013, on the strength of its Model S, seen here in the foreground. The Telsa Roadster is behind it.

James Lipman/Telsa

Tesla Motors has outsold several luxury carmakers in California in 2013, on the strength of its Model S, seen here in the foreground. The Telsa Roadster is behind it.

Look out BMW and Mercedes. Tesla's all-electric sedan, the S model, is nipping at the heels of long-established luxury brands.  

In the first half of this year, Tesla outsold Porsche, Lincoln and even Cadillac to become the third best-selling luxury car in California, according to the New Car Dealers Association of California.

As much as we're enamored with the Tesla S, Californians remain head-over-heals for the Toyota hybrid, the Prius. We bought almost 34,000 of them in the first six months of the year.

Fully a third of all battery electric vehicles sold in the United States were bought by people living in two California cities – Los Angeles and San Francisco. Considering the population, San Francisco is EV crazy.  One of every five electric cars sold in this country went to a buyer from the city by the Bay.

Pure electric cars, or BEV's (battery electric vehicles), still make up a tiny sliver of overall automobile sales, but manufacturers are trimming prices to spur buyers.  There are now lease deals at around $200 a month for electrics such as Nissan's Leaf, the Chevy Spark, and (if you can find one) Fiat's electric version of the 500 model.

And leasing may be the smart way to go.  So far, at least, depreciation on electric cars has been much steeper than that for conventional automobiles.  One study found the resale price of a Leaf falling 50 percent in a single year.  Plus, auto buffs note, the technology is improving very quickly, so newer models will have longer range and more features.  They say a lease might be a smart way to avoid getting left behind in the electric car evolution.

As sexy and alluring as it is, the Tesla S, with its $70,000 price tag (and that's for the base model) remains outside the realm of possibility for most California drivers.  But, there is an option.  A stretch maybe, but an option.

Toyota is pushing an under $300 a month lease for the electric version of its crossover SUV, the RAV-4.  The company says this deal will only last until Labor Day, but here's the kicker: The RAV-4 EV features a battery pack and motor manufactured by Telsa.  So, even though it doesn't have the sleek, sexy body, and even though it says Toyota on the outside, you can tell your friends it's a Tesla.

Under the hood, anyway.


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