Tesla Announces Leasing Program
With lots of fine print.
Tesla has just announced a new finance program, making it easier than ever for prospective buyers to get into a new Model S with no money down and a smaller-than-expected monthly payment.
The program, a collaboration with U.S. Bank and Wells Fargo, works by having the banks pick up the Model S' 10-percent down payment. The down payment is covered by federal and state tax credits, which range from $7500 to as high was $15,000, if you live in West Virginia. Essentially, the banks are using as a down payment the tax credit Model S buyers would otherwise receive further down the line.
The buyer, who Tesla chief Elon Musk says must have excellent credit, then makes a monthly payment based on a 2.95-percent interest rate. According to Tesla's math, that could amount to about $500 per month for 66 months for a buyer of a 65 kWh Model S. That figure is all smoke and mirrors, though, as the automaker is taking into account intangibles like the time you save by using the carpool lane or avoiding the gas station.
For example, say you're a wealthy West Virginian business owner who's purchasing a new 65 kWh Model S, who drives 15,000 miles per year, and is getting out of a BMW 550i, which nets 20 mpg combined on the EPA test cycle. Right there, Tesla says you've netted $267 per month in energy savings if you figure the average price of premium gas over the next three years will be $5 a gallon. Drive your car for business? Deduct at least $200 per month off. Is your time worth $100 per hour? Then you've essentially saved $167 by cutting your commute by five minutes every day, using the carpool lane. Under all those conditions, according to Tesla, your monthly payment amounts to just $184 per month. Except it doesn't. This West Virginian businessman will actually be paying $1051 per month for his Model S. An 85 kWh Model S Performance, the quickest American four-door we've ever tested, would really cost $1421 per month, and the regular 85 kWh model goes for $1199 a month. It's worth noting that the costs of driving a $1400-per-month Model S will almost certainly be less than driving a comparable $1400 per month gas-powered car.
After three years of owning the Model S the owner will have the opportunity to sell the car back to Tesla, for at least the same residual value of an equivalent-year Mercedes-Benz S-Class. At the moment, that value is 43 percent, as long you drive less than 12,000 miles a year. For those concerned about the viability of Tesla in the long run, Elon Musk will pick up the tab in the unlikely case Tesla doesn't exist after those three years.
Ultimately, this program looks to be a win for Tesla and a way for those who might not otherwise be able to afford a Model S to get their hands on one of our favorite electric cars. As for what's next from Tesla, Musk promised the automaker would begin holding weekly phone conferences with the press, so stay tuned.
Play with Tesla's True Cost of Ownership Model S calculator here.