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2018 North American Car of the Year: Tesla Model 3 only 'US' car in contention

2017-07-12 08:42

Image: Tesla

Detroit - Earlier in July, Elon Musk, CEO of electric car company Tesla, gave the world a look at a production-ready version of the automaker's latest electric car - the new Model 3. 

Musk tweeted an image of the EV, which could be sold in South Africa, on July 9 and since then it's garnered more than 20 000 retweets. The Model 3 could arrive locally in 2018 or 2019.

The Model 3 has been made the eligible vehicle list for the 2018 North American Car and Truck of the Year Awards, the only US vehicle to make the cut. Musk tweeted that the first 30 Model 3 customers will receive their new Teslas later in July 2017.

Tesla's latest EV will start at $35 000 (R468 387), making it the cheapest model in the line-up yet.

Germany, Japan dominates US award list

The list reveals that for the time in the award’s history, Detroit automakers won't have a car in the running. America will still be represented by California-based automaker Tesla with its new Model 3. In 2016, the Chevrolet Bolt received the US Car of the Year title.

Could another electric American-built car grabbed the 2018 title?

Japanese and German automakers dominate the Car of the Year list:

Meanwhile Tesla is expanding its service operations and hiring more than 1000 technicians to meet expected demand for its new Model 3 sedan.

The Model 3, cheaper than Tesla's existing cars, goes on sale this month and is expected to attract hundreds of thousands of new customers to the brand.

To accommodate them, the company is adding 100 new service centers worldwide over the next year, bringing its total number of service centers to 250. The new service centers will be in areas that have the most reservation-holders for the Model 3.

Elon Musk: New Tesla Model 3 is headed for SA

Tesla also is adding 350 vans to its mobile service fleet, mostly in the US. The vans go to owners' homes or offices and repair their cars. The vans are equipped with tools and replacement parts as well as an espresso machine, snacks and kids' toys.

Until now, Tesla had around 30 mobile repair vans, which were used mostly in cases where the owner lived too far from a service center. About six months ago, the company began deploying the vans in the San Francisco area in order to ease the burden on its service centers and see if they could help meet anticipated demand for the Model 3. Customers were happy with the new arrangement, so the company decided to roll out mobile service in more locations.

Tesla is hiring 1400 new service technicians this year to staff the service centers and mobile repair vans

At a starting price of $35 000, the Model 3 is about half the cost of Tesla's two other models. Tesla hasn't said how many people hold refundable, $1000 reservations for the car. It has said it expects to make 500 000 vehicles in 2018, up from 84 000 last year.

Like its stores, which are owned by the company and not by franchised dealers, Tesla's service model is unusual. Tesla CEO Elon Musk said several years ago that unlike traditional dealerships, Tesla didn't intend to make a profit on service and repairs, partly because electric cars don't need regular oil changes or other maintenance that gasoline-powered cars do. US dealers made $110-billion in service and parts sales last year, according to the National Automobile Dealers Association.

Remote repairs

Tesla said it's charging the same amount for non-warranty repairs whether they're done at service centres or through mobile vans. It hasn't released details on the warranty plan for the Model 3, so it's not yet clear if it will match Tesla's other vehicles. The Model S and Model X have a four-year, 80 000kms vehicle warranty and an eight-year battery warranty with unlimited miles.

While other luxury brands like Lincoln and Genesis will pick up vehicles from customers and take them to a service center, Tesla doesn't want cars to go to a service centre if repairs can be done remotely. The company says 80% of repairs to its cars, including replacing the tyres or fixing electronic glitches, can be done without a lift, which means it's just as easy to perform them out of a mobile repair van. That leaves service centers free to concentrate on more complicated repairs that require a lift, like motor or battery problems.

The system isn't perfect. In online owner forums, some Tesla drivers have complained of long waits for service and inability to use trusted local repair shops because they aren't certified by Tesla. Tesla certifies some repair shops to do body work when the outside of the car is damaged, but shops have to go through special training to get certified.

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