Thursday, August 25, 2011

Aarg, the ambivalence is killing me!

So, I don't know know if I can get Justin to actually have Nissan of Chantilly to take the loss on the $850 Destination Charge or the $4xx (dang it, every time someone tells me the exact amount I totally forget it!) Processing Fee.  In fact, I spoke to Justin earlier this week and he was pretty set on the Processing Fee but I decided this is not the time to push.  But with all my other calculations I really am thinking bugger it, it's just not worth it when I could just keep socking away about $1,137 a month in my savings account and finance the rest for a Tesla or 2013 LEAF.  It especially turns me off that I've help so much to attract business for them and I would never, ever feel that a car dealership didn't deserve a profit on a vehicle but given my legwork $1,582 pure profit at my expense seems a bit to much.

My main mark against Tesla apart from its outrageous price and dodgy delivery record is simply that I do believe in efficiency and honestly, if I only need 125 mi (200 km) a day range 95% of the time, what's the point of a 300 mi (483 km) range car.  I know I could get the base model which has 160 mi (257 km) range would therefor save me about $20,000 and better suit my needs, but I've a fast EVSE and I love the idea of using it to go far.  Bad American!  Bad me and my wanderlust instinct!

I often make fun of the difficulty people have getting their $5,000 deposit back from Tesla if they change their mind about the car, but I guess reading the terms of reservation agreement, clause 2 pretty much says you can.

  1. Nature of Agreement; Non-Binding Reservation Payment The Reservation Payment is fully refundable by us to you at any time (for example, if you choose to abandon your reservation, or if we decline to maintain you as a reservation holder). This Agreement does not constitute an agreement for the sale of a Model S and does not lock in pricing, a production slot, or an estimated delivery date. You are under no obligation to purchase a Model S from us, and we are under no obligation to supply you with a Model S or any other vehicle. If and when we notify you of the availability of a Model S and you wish to proceed with the purchase of a Model S, such sale and purchase will be governed by a separate and legally binding Purchase Agreement between you and us or between you and another authorized Tesla dealer (Tesla).

So I won't fault Tesla that though I still have my reservations that the reservation can be easily refunded.

I also seriously consider leasing one of the team 500 Smart EDs.  My main knock there was that I do mostly highway driving and 60 mph (97 kmph) on the capital beltway (I495), not that I ever go over 55 mph (89 kmph), when most traffic is going almost 70 mph (113 kmph), in that pokey, little Smart, is just a traffic hazard in this neighborhood.  But now there's a new Smart on the way that's boasting a 75 mph (120 kmph) top speed (any faster and your facing a Class 1 Misdemeanor her in the Commonwealth of Virginia) and a 87 mi (140 km) range.  Of course, that's cutting it very close given my 37 mile each way commute and doesn't leave much slack for traffic or bad weather and road conditions.  But it's definitely looking up and that spells an EV I really could love.

As for the 2013 LEAF, by the time that comes out, I'd guess the order process could be refined and become more traditional so the dealer can be more involved and negotiations may finally benefit the consumer since there should no longer be this quota system.  On the one hand, this benefits the dealer because he or she now has more control, but it also benefits the savvy consumer such as myself who knows what the car is really worth.

Anyway, I just don't know.  Some days I feel like I may as well allow my dealer that lovely profit and suffer the butt-ugly monster loan despite my avid savings.  And others, I say forget it, no need to keep my current car, trade it in and get a Tesla Model S and finance about 40% of the $77,000 cost.


If only the 2012 was more value-added than the 2011.  If only you could get it in Green or with Leather Seats and especially the coveted 6.6kW Charger.  If only…

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Nissan LEAF Destination Charge

A friend of mine recently asked me why I was so worried about the Destination charge when my dealership representative promised me not to charge it.  As the issue is complicated I feel it only proper that I explain it here for all to see that it's not a knock against any dealership or Justin Maynard, who I can't recommend more!

Technically, the dealer doesn't charge the destination fee, NNA (That's a link to the Nissan North America private dealer website) charges it and generally the dealers pass that on to the consumers.  I don't know if I've made this clear but I really like Justin Maynard, who wrote up my offer, and I would buy from him again in a heartbeat.  In fact, I have great respect for Mohamed, Carlos, Sharron, Bruce, Chris, Brian, J.D. and any other LEAF specialist I've spoken with in the area and hope to be posting my reasons for the agonizing decision I made to choose Nissan of Chantilly someday soon!  In fact, it's my sworn promise if I don't take possession of the LEAF I ordered that I will make absolutely sure Justin is able to sell it for a tidy profit in my stead.  And I'm sure just as orphaned Chevy Volts have been selling within 36 hours, any area LEAFs will do just as well.

Now, I'm sad to say many dealers don't know that the destination charge is not part of the price quote or MSRP.  I don't consider this their fault.  This is a fairly new process and mistakes, if made, are never done as a means to pull the wool over the customer's eyes.  Much as car dealers may be maligned for some reputed antics, remember they are human beings and are doing their best not just to sell you a car but to make you a satisfied customer so that you will come back again and again.  Be thankful that we have so much choice of dealership here in the Mid-Atlantic region; it's this competition that contributes to keeping most dealerships honest.

Now, we don't know the Invoices for the 2012 Nissan LEAF but as estimated on the My Nissan LEAF website, We know the profit margin on the vehicle itself is about 4.24% for a total of $1,582, which matches what Bruce at Herb Gordon Nissan quoted me last month.  Contrast that with the Accessories, also known as Port Options, which have about a 20% profit margin over MSRP.  For example, my car order, with fully-loaded options, comes to about $282 profit for the accessories in addition to the $1,582 profit for the vehicle for a total of $1,864 net profit.  The dealer doesn't get a penny of the Destination charge, however, and so any reduction in the remaining $850 cost comes directly out of their profits.  It won't eliminate the profit, but it will reduce it to $1,014, still a tidy sum.

Now, as I said, the Dealer can't control the Destination charge, which is why, when you order your car, on the Nissan Customer Dashboard, you see this disclaimer:

MSRP excludes tax, title, license and $850 destination charge.

Again, this isn't from your dealer, this is directly from Nissan North America; don't blame your sales person!  Tax, title and license, obviously, will vary from state to state so it's not fair to include that in the price.  You did expect to pay sales tax and registration fees, didn't you?  So Destination is yet another charge on top of this, which your dashboard has listed since the time you ordered as a warning to you.  The value of the Destination Charge may vary from state to state, but Nissan can calculate that and report it on your Order Details page just fine.  It's quite reasonable for them to charge it — after all, they're shipping the car all the way from Japan — but despite having said all this, I don't have to like it.

Now, when Justin and I discussed the quote he was going to send me, we agreed no extra charges, that Transportation, Destination and everything else would be covered under MSRP.  And I honestly think he truly believed that at the time.  I of course noted MSRP would still not include Taxes, Title and Licensing, as it never should, and we agreed there too.  This is why whether I take the car or not, I am happy to offer him and his wife dinner for 2 on me to say thinks for being such a good sport in this process.  But that still begs the question, will I take the car?

Well, I've listed some reasons against the 2012 LEAF vs. the potential for the 2013 LEAF here before and so part of my hesitation to take possession stems from that discussion.  In the end, as I calculated in the My Nissan LEAF forums, my car's take-home cost should come to 1 of 2 costs:

  • $39,848.39 (Destination Charge rolled into MSRP Profit)
  • $40,723.89 (Price includes $850 Destination Fee)

Both prices include tax, title and registration; license plates aren't included since I will try to order my plates through the DMV separately.  I do have a plate in mind but because named plates are so competitive in Virginia, I'm not going to post it here, but I will say it's related to one of my other blogs.

In any case, I wanna keep my car cost under the dreaded $40,000 mark.  And that's why I may just walk away.  My current car is a 2001 Toyota Avalon (now an 11 year old car with over 180K miles on it) and although fuel efficient for it's class at the time, it's no hybrid, never mind electric.  I'm itching for a change but I've waited this long, I can wait a bit longer, especially when faced with a $1,062.53 annual property tax bill.  But at the time I paid around $35,000 for the vehicle, very near to MSRP since I did my research tough I gave a little back on the port options like a glass breakage sensor.  In my book, that was an expensive car, but it had leather seats, a 6-disc CD changer (which has been broken for about half the life of the vehicle thus far), heated seats, sleek design and a quiet, smooth ride.  All in all, it's a nice car and I got what I paid for.

The LEAF, by contrast, is a souped up compact with a lot of nice bells and whistles, like RFID entry and CARWINGS and lots of other features not available in 2001 that are now standard on even the smallest cars.  What you're paying for on the LEAF is a freedom from the pump — that and a really bad Yen to Dollars exchange rate.  You could save hundreds in fuel cost by charging at home vs. paying the ever-rising price of gasoline, but then knock a G off that for the Car Tax and how many years does it take to equalize the expense?  Well, I'll save that calculation for another post, but it will take some time even with the Federal Tax Credit of $7,500 which I can take advantage of early next year if I take possession of the LEAF in November.

So that's the calculus; and now you know.  So what do you think?  Should I take the car even if it cracks $40,000?  Should I walk away?  Should I wait for a Tesla Model S, which can take full advantage of my 19kW EVSE and get 300 mi (483 km) per charge?  Should I just take the LEAF and flip it in 18 months for a late-model-year 2013 LEAF with the 6.6kW charger option?  Or should I just convert it to a Lease for 3 years with a $500 or so annual premium on my 24K miles per year requirement?  What should I do?

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

My Initial Scheduled Delivery Date

for the Nissan LEAF has been posted to the Nissan LEAF Website.

Month of November 2011November, 2011

No big surprise there and still 1-2 months after the Dominion Virginia Power Electric Vehicle pilot program begins, though I assume there will still be slots available in that short period.  I stand by my no later than Thanksgiving assertion, and given how vague Month of November 2011 is, I wouldn't be too far a miss.

Now, whether I'll take delivery come November is still to be decided, so stay tuned…

Friday, August 5, 2011

Electric Vehicle Owners: Register your car in Loudoun County!

While looking into the option of reduced personal property tax rates for plug-in battery-electric vehicles (BEV), like the Nissan LEAF and Smart ED, I found something very promising for owners of these and other BEV.  Apparently, Loudoun County, Virginia has set their purely electric vehicle tax rate at a mere $2 per $100 assessed.

Compare this to the car tax rate in Fairfax County, Virginia, which borders Loudoun to the East, which currently taxes at $4.57 per $100.  In other words, register your 2012 Nissan LEAF SL in Fairfax County, your car tax for the first year will be $1,062.53.  This includes the 1998 Personal Property Tax Relieve Act rate reduction for the first $20,000 of the vehicle, which in Fairfax County is set to 30%.  That same car registered a few miles over would assess at $565 per year in Loudoun County, where the relief rate is currently set to 55%.

For reference, the standard vehicle personal property tax rate in Loudoun County for a non-electric vehicle is assessed at $4.20 per $100.  Thus, in Loudoun County, an equivalently priced vehicle that was not fully electric would run you $1,186.50 in the first year.

Now, for a car to be considered registered in Loudoun County, it must in fact be garaged there most of the time.  Historically, this has been an issue for states which border those with Vehicle Personal Property Taxes since in those cases the car owner could simply avoid paying the taxes entirely by registering the car in a new state, which most states are watching out for since that trick can be used by a lot of people.  In this case, where it's just going across county lines, and only with respect to BEVs, the trick would be less common and therefore less worth enforcing with spot-checks of garages to make sure the vehicle wasn't regularly spending the night at the home of the person claiming to register it in a state other than the one in which he resides.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Nissan opens up LEAF Reservations List Again

According to a post in the MyNissanLeaf forum, Nissan has again opened up the reservation list for ordering a 2012 Model Year LEAF.  Visit the Nissan LEAF website to sign up for your chance to be a part of history!

How will you wave to me in my LEAF?

Stephen Colbert and Nissan would like to know!

Simply visit the Nissan LEAF Facebook page and go to the It's time to vote for your favorite 'official' LEAF Wave! section to cast your vote (you must have a Facebook account to cast your ballot).

Now, I won't tell you how to vote… wait, of course I'm gonna tell you how to vote!  Vote for #8: Leaf in the Wind design by none other than yours truly!  Remember Zombie (and LEAFs) brain Spock so by the rules if Rock, Paper, Scissors, Lizard, Zombie, Spock and the Large Hadron Collider, I have to win, shouldn't I?