Sub-prime financing is back! Is Tesla the new Volvo? on the John Batchelor radio show
What car company do you think of when you hear safety? To many of us, it is Volvo. To the new generation, it is Tesla. Ford Motor Company bought Volvo for its technological breakthroughs in safety, including rollover resistance in SUVs. Ford also bought many other companies and when times got tough sold them all off. Somewhere along the way, Volvo lost its cachet of being known as the car that produced cars that were some of the safest cars in the world, maybe because so many vehicles are so safe.
It’s not by accident that Tesla, in its press release, compared its safety rating with Volvo’s in a side pole intrusion test, “For the side pole intrusion test, considered one of the most difficult to pass, the Model S was the only car in the “good” category among the other top one percent of vehicles tested. Compared to the Volvo S60, which is also 5-star rated in all categories, the Model S preserved 63.5 percent of driver residual space vs. 7.8 percent for the Volvo. Tesla achieved this outcome by nesting multiple deep aluminum extrusions in the side rail of the car that absorb the impact energy (a similar approach was used by the Apollo Lunar Lander) and transfer the load to the rest of the vehicle. This causes the pole to be either sheared off or to stop the car before the pole hit’s an occupant.”
There are a lot of rumors floating as to what Tesla plans to do in the future, whether they will be bought or continue to go it alone. What does Elon Musk want to do? How long can he have these successes and still not make money?
Tesla’s press release:
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has awarded the Tesla Model S a 5-star safety rating, not just overall, but in every subcategory without exception. Approximately one percent of all cars tested by the federal government achieve 5 stars across the board. NHTSA does not publish a star rating above 5, however safety levels better than 5 stars are captured in the overall Vehicle Safety Score (VSS) provided to manufacturers, where the Model S achieved a new combined record of 5.4 stars.
Of all vehicles tested, including every major make and model approved for sale in the United States, the Model S set a new record for the lowest likelihood of injury to occupants. While the Model S is a sedan, it also exceeded the safety score of all SUVs and minivans. This score takes into account the probability of injury from front, side, rear and rollover accidents.
The Model S has the advantage in the front of not having a large gasoline engine block, thus creating a much longer crumple zone to absorb a high-speed impact. This is fundamentally a force over distance problem “ the longer the crumple zone, the more time there is to slow down occupants at g loads that do not cause injuries. Just like jumping into a pool of water from a tall height, it is better to have the pool be deep and not contain rocks. The Model S motor is only about a foot in diameter and is mounted close to the rear axle, and the front section that would normally contain a gasoline engine is used for a second trunk.
For the side pole intrusion test, considered one of the most difficult to pass, the Model S was the only car in the “good” category among the other top one percent of vehicles tested. Compared to the Volvo S60, which is also 5-star rated in all categories, the Model S preserved 63.5 percent of driver residual space vs. 7.8 percent for the Volvo. Tesla achieved this outcome by nesting multiple deep aluminum extrusions in the side rail of the car that absorb the impact energy (a similar approach was used by the Apollo Lunar Lander) and transfer load to the rest of the vehicle. This causes the pole to be either sheared off or to stop the car before the pole hit’s an occupant.
The rear crash testing was particularly important, given the optional third-row children’s seat. For this, the Tesla factory installs a double bumper if the third-row seat is ordered. This was needed in order to protect against a highway speed impact in the rear with no permanently disabling injury to the third-row occupants. The third row is already the safest location in the car for frontal or side injuries.
The Model S was also substantially better in rollover risk, with the other top vehicles being approximately 50 percent worse. During testing at an independent facility, the Model S refused to turn over via the normal methods and special means were needed to induce the car to roll. The reason for such a good outcome is that the battery pack is mounted below the floor pan, providing a very low center of gravity, which simultaneously ensures exceptional handling and safety.
Of note, during validation of Model S roof crush protection at an independent commercial facility, the testing machine failed at just above 4 g’s. While the exact number is uncertain due to Model S breaking the testing machine, what this means is that at least four additional fully loaded Model S vehicles could be placed on top of an owner’s car without the roof caving in. This is achieved primarily through a center (B) pillar reinforcement attached via aerospace grade bolts.
The above results do not tell the full story. It is possible to game the regulatory testing score to some degree by strengthening a car at the exact locations used by the regulatory testing machines. After verifying through internal testing that the Model S would achieve an NHTSA 5-star rating, Tesla then analyzed the Model S to determine the weakest points in the car and retested at those locations until the car achieved 5 stars no matter how the test equipment was configured.
The Model S lithium-ion battery did not catch fire at any time before, during or after the NHTSA testing. It is worth mentioning that no production Tesla lithium-ion battery has ever caught fire in the Model S or Roadster, despite several high-speed impacts. While this is statistically unlikely to remain the case long term, Tesla is unaware of any Model S or Roadster occupant fatalities in any car ever.
The graphic below shows the statistical Relative Risk Score (RRS) of Model S compared with all other vehicles tested against the exceptionally difficult NHTSA 2011 standards. In 2011, the standards were revised upward to make it more difficult to achieve a high safety rating.
Model S Five Star Safety Rating Chart:
Sub-prime financing is back!
Yahoo finance reported that “Experian says 35.2 percent of loans granted in the April-June period went to subprime buyers, or those with a Vantage credit score of 700 or lower.”
Experian’s press release actually reported that “Nonprime, subprime, and deep subprime loans account for 35.2 percent of all open vehicle loans in Q2 2013, up from 34.9 percent in Q2 2012.” The 35.2 percent is all open vehicle loans no matter how long ago the loan was created.
The Experian press release went on to say, “Additional findings from the report showed that 30-day delinquencies decreased by 5.6 percent year over year, going from 2.52 percent in Q2 2012 to 2.38 percent in Q2 2013. While slightly up from Q1 2013 (by two basis points), this decrease brings 30-day delinquencies to it’s the lowest level for the second quarter since 2006. Sixty-day delinquencies remain relatively flat year over year but still are extremely low at 0.58 percent. (Q2 2006 showed 60-day delinquencies slightly lower at 0.53 percent, but 2013 is the next-lowest Q2 point.)
“Repossession and delinquency rates have seen this quarter were lower than expected,” said Melinda Zabrit’ski, Experian’s senior director of Automotive Credit. “The seasonality of the market usually has the first quarter showing the lowest 30-day delinquency rates, but even with the total automotive loan portfolio growing, consumers in the second quarter have done an exceptional job of meeting their financial obligations to keep the market strong.”
The report also showed that the total balance of outstanding automotive loans grew from more than $682 billion in Q2 2012 to nearly $751 billion in Q2 2013. Banks increased their total dollar volume by $24 billion, followed by credit unions ($18 billion), finance companies ($16 billion) and captive finance companies ($11 billion).”
Listen to the podcast as John Batchelor and Lou Ann Hammond, CEO, www.drivingthenation.com talk about both subjects.