Automakers Paid Me To Show They Lag Tesla

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Example of form I took to a dealer.

Last holiday weekend, my brother in law (who also loves to test drive cars) suggested I drive 6 cars and get $265 in gift cards. I thought, “I get to drive cars, I get gift cards, and its a great story idea” (well, I guess you the reader will be the judge of that). What is the downside? Well, dealers calling me for the next month and asking if I want to buy the car I drove. Luckily, I’m willing to take one for the team and make that small sacrifice for the benefit of the rest of you. Spoiler alert: Although there were some cars I liked better than others, none of them hold a candle to the Model 3 or Model Y. I even did a family outing and 4 of us went out to do this (we didn’t go all at once, but planned our trips together).

Do I consider this unethical? Me just taking their money with no intention of buying a car? No, I am in the market for a car since my son took one of mine and I plan to get a Model Y next year. If any of these cars impress me, I will get it instead of the Model Y. [Editor’s note: hahahahaha 😀 ] I can’t help it they make nothing even close to that car. Others may disagree or may not feel comfortable doing this. I was honest with each dealer and said I am in the market for a car in the future, but not this summer. I hadn’t test driven cars at dealers in a while and wanted to see what they had to offer. All of that is true.

If you want to do this, google “best test drive offers July 2019” and several blogs give all the instructions on how to print out the coupons you need to get the gift cards. I recommend you do that before you drive to the dealers because the dealers show that paper to 5 people before they figure out who knows how to process the offer. If you just go in asking about a test drive offer, they might tell you it expired last week or some other misinformation. My coupon shows it is good till July 13, so I avoided that issue. Below, I list the 6 dealers I went to:

  1. Hyundai
  2. Nissan
  3. Jeep
  4. Honda
  5. Subaru
  6. Volvo


Photo from Hyundai press kit

I test drove the Ioniq Hybrid first. I wanted to drive the plug-in hybrid or the electric, but since I live in Florida, we don’t get either of those.

The car I drove was priced at about $28,000, and although that is much less than the $48,000 the Model Y starts at, the total cost of ownership would be only slightly higher for the Tesla when you figure in the reduced fuel costs, maintenance, and expected depreciation of the two vehicles.

The acceleration is 8.9 seconds from 0 to 60, vs. 5.5 seconds in the slowest Model Y now offered. The seating was adequate for 5, while the Model Y will hold 7. I did liked the controls, and lane keeping assist was not bad at all. The main issue is you can’t upgrade it, so it won’t get better over time.

They really aren’t trying to compete with the Model Y, so it isn’t a fair comparison, but it is the most fuel efficient car Hyundai had, so I wanted to see how it performed. It became quickly obvious that if you aren’t buying a Tesla, you can pick performance or economy, but never both.

I should say that I own a Hyundai and have been following the company since 1984. It is one of my favorite car companies (along with Tesla and Honda).

My young (under 25) salesperson was very interested in my Tesla Model 3.


Photo by Zach Shahan | CleanTechnica

I was eager to test drive the new, much faster Nissan Leaf Plus. I called the dealer and they had some used Leafs but no new ones at all. Since I owned a Leaf for 7 years, I didn’t need to test drive an old one. So, I said I’d drive a Pathfinder, since that is the smallest 3 row SUV they have.

They asked if I was interested in buying that day. I said no. They said they were busy and would just send me the gift card without the test drive. I said that was fine since I really wanted to test drive the new Leaf Plus.

I give Nissan a fail for the marketing of its new Leaf. This is a car that could potentially be competitive with the Model 3 for some people who want more cargo room and who don’t care about the Supercharging network (I have a friend that just bought one), but you can’t sell a car that different without having them available to test drive. The Model 3 was an exception — thousands ordered it without driving it (more than 100,000 actually pre-ordered it without seeing it, and then at least tens of thousands actually bought the car without test driving it) — but the Model S had been such an incredible car that Tesla got away with that.


Image captured from Jeep build configurator.

I next went to the Jeep dealer, and they totally confused me. They asked it I wanted a Wrangler. I told them I wanted a small 3 row crossover. They didn’t have that, as they only had huge SUVs with 3 rows. I knew I didn’t want that, so I just drove a nice loaded Jeep Cherokee with a V6. It was priced at about $30,000 and would cost about the same to own as a Model Y.

I thought it would have power, but it was still pretty slow and laggy. It did drive nicely and I liked the interior. The specs are just killed by the Model Y. It seats 7 instead of 5. It goes from 0–60 mph in 5.5 seconds instead of 7.0. It will get over 100 MPGe vs 21 MPG for the V6 I drove. The cargo area is similar to the Model Y. The car had blind spot monitors and a warning if you are leaving your lane, but nothing like the Autopilot that Tesla has had for 2 years.

The story is always the same — I can’t get self driving, performance, or economy in any of these cars. They have nice interiors and drive fine, but they just can’t match what I’m used to.


Photo from Honda press kit

Similar to the story at Nissan, I wanted to drive either an electric Clarity or at least their plug-in hybrid Clarity, but they didn’t have either. I settled for the Honda Accord Hybrid Touring. The car was smooth and with a 0 to 60 time of 6.7 seconds comparable but slightly slower than a Model 3 or Y.  I like that the car uses the electric motor most of the time as a serial hybrid and has a simple one-speed transmission. That is where I got the idea that manufactures can stop putting big money into transmissions.

Fuel economy is a decent 48 MPG in the city and 49 MPG on the highway, and the price is about $35,000. Its safety features are quite advanced and only significantly lose to Tesla’s because they can’t be improved after you buy the car. It’s a nice car and probably the car I would buy if the Tesla Model 3 wasn’t available.

Once again, I have to knock the dealership for not having a Clarity available to buy or drive. Manufacturers can make the best cars in the world, but if dealers sabotage them by pushing inferior gas cars, they won’t make the transition. I don’t know if dealers downplay electric options out of ignorance or to save their service departments (note that they make most of their money on service, not selling cars), but it really doesn’t matter — either way it will destroy the auto manufacturers that fail to convert to electric vehicles in time.

My (under 25) salesperson said he is trying to talk his dad into buying a Tesla. I thought that was great!

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Picture of the Subaru Dealership in Tampa, by Paul Fosse | CleanTechnica

At this dealership, I tried the sporty 4 door sedan WRX (I think the red one above is an WRX). It was a 6 speed manual that listed for about $31,000. I used to enjoy shifting for myself, but I no longer do. I noticed the car made a lot of noise for its 268 horsepower.

Its acceleration is comparable to a Model 3, at 5.5 seconds 0 to 60, but between the turbo lag and the need to downshift to have any power at all, it seemed annoying to get any performance out of the car. Call me spoiled by the Model 3’s instant and effortless torque.

The model I drove didn’t have any advanced safety or self-driving features. Subaru constantly advertises that it is such a safe car and it does well on the crash test (of course not as well as Tesla), but the vehicle is way behind on the active safety features.

It’s not really fair to compare interior space to the Model Y since this isn’t a crossover, but I can’t see any reason to buy this over an entry-level Model 3 (unless you can’t understand cost of ownership).


Picture of the new Volvo dealership in Tampa, by Paul Fosse | CleanTechnica

One of my favorites was the Volvo XC90 Plug In Hybrid. I got to try the self-parking feature and it was similar to Tesla’s autopark today, except you have to keep shifting from reverse to forward as it maneuvers into a parking space, whereas Tesla shifts for you automatically. Of course, Tesla will get better as it gets new updates, whereas the functions in the $105,000 XC90 T8 are fixed for the life of the car.

This car did give me ample luggage room, 7 passenger seating, acceleration, and 19 miles of all electric range (at half the efficiency of the Model Y when on electricity, a quarter the efficiency of the Model Y when on gas).

It still misses on price ($105,000 vs. $60,000 for a comparable Model Y), handling, and full self driving capability (after a software update, and nobody knows for sure when it is coming of course).


As I foreshadowed in the intro, there was no competitor that had anything close to a Tesla Model Y. If you want the acceleration, seating, and cargo room of a Model Y, somewhat comparable gas vehicles cost a fortune and get poor economy. If you want a vehicle with compatible running costs, it transports fewer passengers and less cargo, and it’s is slower and handles worse. No Tesla Killers found today.

Use my Tesla referral link to get 1,000 miles of free Supercharging on a Tesla Model S, Model X, or Model 3, here’s the link: (but if someone else helped you, please use their link).

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Paul Fosse

I have been a software engineer for over 30 years, first developing EDI software, then developing data warehouse systems. Along the way, I've also had the chance to help start a software consulting firm and do portfolio management. In 2010, I took an interest in electric cars because gas was getting expensive. In 2015, I started reading CleanTechnica and took an interest in solar, mainly because it was a threat to my oil and gas investments. Follow me on Twitter @atj721 Tesla investor. Tesla referral code:

Paul Fosse has 232 posts and counting. See all posts by Paul Fosse