The results.

Big BlueThe day has finally arrived. The leasing company is coming by to examine my first Volt, in preparation for its return to them. I am surprised at the nagging background feeling of sadness that I have. This car changed my life! Seriously. I am now working at a Chevy dealership because of this car. We downsized our home and moved to a relatively undeveloped area, because of this car. I have had public speaking engagements, been interviewed on radio, TV and in newspapers, because of this car. I’ve become active with local government and civic groups, because of this car. But I thought that my excitement over getting a newly redesigned Volt would make me immune to this car’s charms, but like my first girlfriend, I think this one will live on in my mind for a very long time. My blue Volt’s final stats:Final StatsI ended up being 83% electric, over the entire time I’ve had my Volt. Since my original estimate was 75%, I’m pleased with this. That means I used about 208 gallons of gasoline during the last three years/45,027 miles. In my previous car, (a Lexus ES300 that got 22MPG, which is the average MPG for new cars, in the U.S., today) I would have used 2,047 gallons! The Volt saved me from buying 1,839 gallons which, at the average price for gas over the last three years of $3.00 per gallon, represents a cost of $624.40 (or a savings of $5,516.00!!!). But what about the price of electricity? Yes, that must be taken into account. At 8.3¢ per kWh, 12.8 kWh for a full charge and about 40 miles per charge, that’s an additional cost of $991.38. So my total cost to go 45,027 miles was $1,615.78. That 2,047 gallons I would have bought in my previous vehicle would have cost $6,141. I saved $4,525.22 in fuel cost. Since I started working at the dealership, almost two years ago, I have been allowed to charge for free. This shifted a large portion of that $991.38 in electricity cost to my employer. Since not everyone can charge at work, we’ll pretend I paid for all electricity and go with the $4,525.22 savings.

What about maintenance savings? My previous car would have had at least nine oil changes over a three year period. My Volt needed only one oil change. At 35K miles, although the remaining oil life display was 60%, I freaked out and had an oil change. According to the remaining oil life display (97% remaining), I could have easily gone the full three years without an oil change. That’s about $360 in maintenance cost, raising the amount saved to $4,885.22.

What’s priceless to me is that, for 37,326 miles, I drove a zero emissions vehicle.

Fare well, Serenity. May you be as great a car for the next lucky owner as you were for me. I’ll never forget you.


A person who examines returned lease vehicles for U.S. Bank just examined my Volt. I was wondering how this would go. He advised me to remove the stickers from my hatchback window, which I did (to save the $40 removal fee). He also said everything else looked like normal wear and tear, so there are no charges, other than the $390 inspection fee originally set up, when I leased the Volt. Even the tires were in great shape! This was the last concern I had about leasing, and at least with U.S. Bank, it was relatively painless.

Our next Volt lease return will be in late December (just in time for the 2016’s arrival). That lease was with Ally Bank. I’ll let you know how that return goes when it’s done.

June 2015 Sales Numbers

Gas prices rise. EV sales drop. Wait? What?!?!?

In June 2015, the plug-in market gave up a portion of last month’s gains. So far, every plug-in except the BMW i8 showed a drop in sales, albeit not so much as to return to April’s numbers. One exception to that, was the BMW i8, which had a loss of one vehicle, compared to April (137 vs. 138). Here’s how it all shook out:

  • Chevy Volt: DOWN 24% (1,225 vs. 1,618)
  • Nissan Leaf: DOWN 1% (2,074 vs. 2,104)
  • Plug-in Toyota Prius: DOWN 36% (464 vs. 727)
  • Cadillac ELR: DOWN 47% (62 vs. 116)
  • BMW i3: DOWN 33% (551 vs. 818)
  • BMW i8: UP 17% (137 vs. 117)
  • Ford Fusion Energi: DOWN 26% (727 vs. 986)
  • Ford C-Max Energi: DOWN 7% (715 vs. 553)

The price of gasoline continued to rise for another month, from an average of $2.69 in May to $2.78 in June (another 8% increase). Although the Chevy Volt’s sales dropped in June, from the previous month, sales remained in the 1,000+ volume level. The Nissan Leaf once again was top dog, remaining above 2,000 units for the second month in a row. June sales volume was only 1% lower than in May. June’s sales figures pushed the Leaf even further in front of the Volt, for all-time sales since inception. The Leaf now leads the Volt by 3,430 units, or 4%. The Plug-in Prius saw a huge drop of 36%, down to a monthly total of 464. The Cadillac, suffered the largest percentage drop, but in its 19th month of availability, its sales numbers have never been above 200 in a single month. The BMW i3 had a significant decrease from the previous month: 33%! Ford’s numbers on the Fusion Energi and the C-Max Energi were both down. In the lower graph (adoption rate), I believe we’re seeing the public’s enlightenment. Of the five vehicles with adoption rates below the Nissan Leaf (at a very bad time for Leaf adoption): The C-Max Energi, Fusion Energi, the ELR, the plug-in Prius and the i8, I believe we’ll never see long-term success of any of these, except for the i8. As a statement of what can be done with plug-in electric vehicles, the i8 serves its purpose. It shows BMW knows how to make a uncompromising plug-in vehicle. The others, in my opinion, are doomed by insufficient battery pack size and the inability of the vehicle to run purely electrically, in a manner like the Volt.June 2015 Sales Numbers

Sales, compared to the same month a year ago, looked like this:

  • Chevy Volt: DOWN 31% (1,225 vs. 1,777) *the 2016 Volt cannot get here soon enough for me!
  • Nissan Leaf: DOWN 12% (2,074 vs. 2,347)
  • Plug-in Toyota Prius: DOWN 70% (464 vs. 1,571)
  • Cadillac ELR: DOWN 36% (62 vs. 97)
  • BMW i3: UP 54% (551 vs. 358)
  • BMW i8: (did not exist a year ago)
  • Ford Fusion Energi: DOWN 63% (727 vs. 1,939)
  • Ford C-Max Energi: DOWN 32% (667 vs. 988)

The end is near **UPDATED!!!**

The End Is NearI’ve mentioned the coming end of the Texas’ Light-Duty Motor Vehicle Purchase or Lease Incentive (LDPLI) Program before. With only one week left in the program, I was interviewed by Texas Public Radio in order to inform the public about the program’s demise. The interview may be heard here.


Texas has extended the rebate program until July 8th!!!Extension!

The evidence

Earlier today, it was quite an exciting and disappointing day. If you read the post, you know the story. Now, the evidence.

The person claiming to be selling the Tesla gave the name “Major Audreanna Batts.” Her address was given as 13901 Walney Lane, Chantilly, VA 20151, which is a real address (I checked Google Maps). Using Street View, I could tell that the street was paved like the one in the car photos, but I could not locate the house in the photo. I also Googled the seller’s name and got NO results, which seemed odd to me.

As mentioned in the email dialog yesterday, the seller was handing me off to eBay Motors to complete the transaction. I started getting eBay branded emails with instructions.1st email

One odd thing I noticed about the email was the address: The domain appeared to be incorrect. Shouldn’t it end in or email

Also, the attached invoice was unlike any invoice I’d ever seen, but I’ve only seen General Motors invoices. (I did find the fine print at the end somewhat convincing.)Invoice

I replied to one of the emails asking about tax, title & license fees. They responded with:ebay03

Again, it seemed like a normal Customer Service interaction, except for the last question. That seemed sort of pushy and made me uneasy. Then I received the wiring instructions for the money. This is when things really started looking wrong. Who the hell am I wiring money to???ebay04Right about then Steve, a Facebook friend, commented on several things he’d noticed on the provided “eBay” materials that conflicted with information on the eBay site. Specifically, he mentioned if it isn’t listed on eBay, it’s not ON eBay. You cannot just hire eBay to ship the vehicle and handle the cash transfer. Thanks, Steve!Steve's comments

Based on Steve’s comments on Facebook and the suspicions that were building up inside me, I went to eBay Motor’s website and found a contact phone number and called them. They confirmed they have no knowledge of the vehicle and they NEVER use wire transfers.

Now, it would seem somebody can take the wiring instructions and start to trace back to the scammers…

I ended up emailing the seller one last time to say that eBay Motors had told me they had no such vehicle in their system. As of yet, there’s been no response, but I’m not really expecting there to be one.

Live, learn and practice due diligence!

I have to admit, I thought about just deleting the earlier post and saving face, but I thought it better to spread the word. Now, if someone Googles the name or VIN (5YJSA1AC4DFP10644), they’ll find this and avoid getting ripped off. The VIN, as I stated earlier, is a real Tesla Model S. Just because you’re looking at a car with that VIN doesn’t mean it’s the scam.

Lucky or naive? We shall see…

It all started with thoughts of my next plug-in car. As you may know, we have three Volts, two 2012s (leased) and one 2014 (purchased). The leases expire in August of this year and January of next year. The 2016 Volt will not arrive in Texas in time to replace our first Volt (which is mine), so our plan has been for me to drive my daughter’s Volt (she hasn’t gotten her driver’s license yet, until the new Volt arrived. Then Bonnie, my wife, said she should really get the new Volt, because her commute is longer and I never run out of electricity.

Okay. I see the logic in that. (grrrrrrr…..)

So, if I’m not getting the next Volt, my options have opened up a bit. I really enjoyed the Cadillac ELR, when we reviewed it and I’ve heard Cadillac dealers are aggressively marking down 2014 ELRs. It would have to be aggressive indeed, for me to afford one. The features I want usually come with an MSRP of $77K-$81K. Yes, I am an employee of a General Motors dealership, but the employee discount still can’t help me get an ELR without other significant discounts. So I started hunting online…

Unfortunately, I just could not find a new ELR in my price range. I don’t even know why I did it, but I then searched for a used Tesla Model S. I found one at a dealer that has the 40 kWh battery, no Supercharger capability, and priced at $30K.

No way.

I entered the VIN in our system at work and found the VIN is, in fact, a 2013 Tesla Model S.

I clicked on the contact link provided on the dealer site, entered my information and waited. The next morning I received the following email:

website hacked don’t have this vehicle

In my gut, it seemed too good to be true, so I accepted the news and forgot about it.

Then I received another email from a different party:


Thank you for your interest in my car. This is a 2013 Tesla Model S.
Clear title, no lien, never been involved in an accident. Runs and drives excellent. It has been extremely well maintained with a full service history, only 28,000 miles!

It has no leaks or drips and does not smoke at all, slightly used in 100% working and looking conditions with a clear title free of encumbrances and liens.
I have dropped my price to $29,000 (purchase price) since this is an Urgent Sale! and I need to sell it before June 20 when I will be deployed in Afghanistan with my platoon replacing the troops scheduled to come home. If you are really interested,please e-mail me back.

Hope to hear from you soon!


Of course, I emailed asking for more details, VIN, car’s location, etc. The car was located in Virginia. The owner, was at a military base, preparing to leave. The car had already been transferred to eBay Motors, who would handle the transaction. I went to eBay Motors’ website to see the car’s listing, but it was not there. I’m not sure, but I think the seller just contracted them to handle paperwork and shipping.

I was raised on the maxim: “If it seems too good to be true, it probably is.” I was very suspicious, but the possibility of getting a Model S was a very strong force pulling me back to the car. What if this were for real???

The owner also sent pics:Driver Side View Front Driver View TouchscreenNow what??? Well, of course I had to talk to Bonnie. I sent her the info and called her at work to discuss it. Let me just say this: I have a fabulous wife. She has always had faith in me and allowed me to try new, risky adventures. For instance, we once invested $20K in a Halloween haunted house at The Movie Studios of Las Colinas that included the 1937 Frankenstein laboratory set from the movie!!! The return on investment wasn’t that great financially, but the whole family chipped in and worked the haunted house through the month of October 1997 and it was a great memory for us all. When I was considering becoming a car salesperson, ignored to spread the word about the Volt, she was behind the idea 100%. Like I said, a great woman.

She was as cautious about this as I, so she searched on the VIN and found a different auction in which it had been listed. (She also searched for Nissan Leaf information, when we were looking for our first plug-in and stopped me from making a mistake) In the case of the Model S, she was concerned about how fast the owner was selling the car after getting it and how low the price seemed, thinking something was really wrong with the car.

The next step (while I was figuring out what to do) was to see if I could get a loan. I went to my bank’s website and applied. Within a couple hours, I got the approval. With Bonnie in agreement, I emailed the owner to let them know I had secured funding and was interested in buying the car.

The owner responded in a way that made me think this is a real EV owner:

I’m glad we can do business. I received your shipping information and I already sent them to eBay. They will contact you through email and let you know all the details about how to end this transaction. I’m sure you will love this car and I hope you will take care of it because I loved it very much. (my emphasis)

Please keep me updated with any news from eBay.”

Now, I’ve never, ever bought something this expensive without seeing it in person. Never bought a car without driving it. This is scary, intimidating stuff. I knew I’d be blogging about this as part of my “Journey,” and didn’t want to come off as a fool to you.

I knew exactly how a mouse must feel, looking at that tasty, tasty cheese, sitting upon that strange contraption made of wood and metal…

To assure the owner that I would take good care of her baby, I sent her a link to my blog and explained about my three Volts.

Sleep was almost impossible that night.

The following morning (today) I received eBay Motors’ transaction instructions. In reading the document, it seemed there were plenty of safeguards to keep me from making an ass of myself (and a mess of my finances). Here, you’ll find the details, if you’re interested.

I’ve decided to go for it. While typing this blog post, a follow-up email from eBay Motors has arrived with the payment information.

I’m off to the bank.

**UPDATE**: Bank values the car at $68K.

**UPDATE** As part of my due diligence, I went to the eBay Motors site and found a contact phone number. I had already received numerous emails regarding the transaction from them. I gave the person on the phone my “Case ID” and was told their case IDs have a different format. They also said that it is not possible for someone to sell the vehicle outside eBay Motors and just pay to have the transfer done. They also do not accept wire transfers, as their preferred method is PayPal.

The verdict: Naive.

In other words, it appears to be a scam.

May 2015 Sales Numbers **UPDATED**

In May 2015, the plug-in market rebounded a bit. So far, every plug-in except the BMW i8 showed an increase, compared to the previous month. Here’s how it all shook out:

  • Chevy Volt: UP 79% (1,618 vs. 905)
  • Nissan Leaf: UP 35% (2,104 vs. 1,553)
  • Plug-in Toyota Prius: UP 70% (727 vs. 428)
  • Cadillac ELR: UP 12% (116 vs. 104)
  • BMW i3: UP 101% (818 vs. 406)
  • BMW i8: DOWN 15% (117 vs. 138)
  • Ford Fusion Energi: UP 39% (986 vs. 711)
  • Ford C-Max Energi: UP 29% (715 vs. 553)

The price of gasoline continued to rise for another month, from an average of $2.50 in April to $2.69 in May (an 8% increase). The Chevy Volt sold 79% more in May than April and return to 1,000+ volume levels for the first time in 2015, surpassing the December 2014 sales volume. To see higher monthly Volt sales, you have to go back to August 2014. The Nissan Leaf once again was top dog, selling 2,104 units and increasing sales by 35%. Like the Volt, May’s sales volume is at it’s highest point in 2015 so far. The Plug-in Prius saw a huge jump of 70% over the previous month’s sales. The Cadillac, still selling in the 90-150 per month range had a good increase of 12% to 116 units. The BMW i3 had the largest percentage increase over the previous month: 101%! Of course, as usual, we are awaiting Ford’s numbers on the Fusion Energi and the C-Max Energi.May 2015 Sales Numbers

Sales, compared to the same month a year ago, looked like this:

  • Chevy Volt: DOWN 4% (1,618 vs. 1,684)
  • Nissan Leaf: DOWN 32% (2,104 vs. 3,117)
  • Plug-in Toyota Prius: DOWN 73% (727 vs. 2,692)
  • Cadillac ELR: UP 123% (116 vs. 52)
  • BMW i3: UP 143% (818 vs. 336)
  • BMW i8: (did not exist a year ago)
  • Ford Fusion Energi: DOWN 27% (986 vs. 1,342)
  • Ford C-Max Energi: DOWN 9% (715 vs. 782)

How to screw up an incentive program: By the numbers

IRS logoA couple days ago, I decried the impending end of the State of Texas’ “Light-Duty Motor Vehicle Purchase or Lease Incentive Program,” which provided $2,500 for certain types of vehicles, including my faves, plug-in electric & electric/hybrid vehicles.

Didn’t know I was into EVs? You must be new here…

Anyway, I’ve been thinking about how both the federal income tax credit and the Texas rebate could have been much more effective.

Don’t panic: The federal income tax credit is NOT expiring anytime soon, unless legislation repeals it. In the case of the Volt, there have only been 76,136 sold so far in the U.S. Nissan Leafs have 78,231 cars out there. The federal incentive does not begin to go away, until 200,000 of each vehicle is sold. We’ve got a ways to go…

Of course, there have been debates about how appropriate it is for the government to promote these vehicles through an “entitlement.” I have voiced my opinion on this before. If we throw out the debate on appropriateness, we’re left with thinking about the effectiveness of these programs. Of course, I have a few opinions…

First of all, to be effective as a program, it has to become known. I am astounded every week, when a potential EV customer come in, who is unaware of these programs. As I mentioned, in the post about the Texas program ending, not only the potential buyers, but even the sales staffs at dealerships who sell plug-in vehicles are woefully uninformed. Thankfully, there are dealerships who want to lead in this new market, who do make sure information is presented to their sales staffs and consequently, to their customers. Unfortunately, these are in the VAST minority of dealerships. But what about billboards, public service announcements, etc? “Spread the word” does not seem to be understood by our government officials.

Next, linking the purchase of a plug-in to other benefits can help. In California, owners of these vehicles can get a sticker (albeit large and ugly) for their vehicle that entitles them to drive in high-occupancy vehicle lanes, reducing their commute time. That program has been a huge success and, as a result, California is an EV hotspot. I’ve seen frantic posts on-line asking if California’s program was ending, how many stickers were left and other methods of gnashing one’s teeth. These Californians cared deeply about those stickers and I guarantee you there are plug-in drivers in California that never would have thought about driving a plug-in vehicle, had it not been for the program. (apparently it was well publicized) Texas has not done this yet, but with all the new toll roads popping up, I think it could be a great attractor to plug-ins.

But here’s the real problem:

The Income Tax Credit and the Texas Rebate are after-purchase incentives. In other words, if you want a plug-in that costs $40K, you will finance the entire amount (minus trade-in value, manufacturer incentives and down payment). Then, about eight weeks after you file the paperwork for the $2,500 Texas rebate, it arrives. But your monthly car payment is unaffected. In January or February, after your plug-in purchase, you can finally claim the tax credit on your income taxes. Eight to twelve weeks after you file your taxes you get your $7,500 refund. But your monthly car payment is unaffected. Sure, you could refinance your vehicle, but now it’s considered a used vehicle, so the terms aren’t as favorable and the length of finance term isn’t as long, driving payment back up a little. You could pay part (or all) of your monthly payment each month, by keeping the incentive funds separate from other monies, in order to make sure you’re using them for reducing the cost of the vehicle. But that’s a lot of work. It takes discipline, especially if there’s a new Apple device or big screen TV that’s just come out! 😉

However, if the government paid the incentives directly to the dealership or manufacturer, they could be applied to the purchase price, reducing it by up to $10,000! Here’s why that’s important:

Using 2014 Income tax brackets, here’s how much income would be required to get all of the federal income tax credit of $7,500:

  • Filing as “Single”: $46,600
  • Filing as “Married filing jointly or widow(er)”: $56,300
  • Filing as “Married filing separately”: $46,700
  • Filing as “Head of household”: $52,500

But here’s the kicker: These minimum income levels shown above are if the taxpayer has no other deductions (mortgage interest, property taxes, dependents, etc). Usually itemize deductions? Then you will have to have additional income, to make up for the other deductions. Otherwise, you won’t get the full $7,500 benefit. As an example, let’s say you are buying an average home ($191K) and the mortgage interest and property tax deductions add up to $12K. That would reduce your income by $12K and your income tax by about $3K, leaving you with only $4,500 of the incentive. (25% income tax bracket used). This is because you cannot roll over the unused amount of the tax credit from the program. If you’d been at the income level required to get the full $7,500 income tax credit, you’d have to earn an additional $12K to have the additional tax burden needed, to get the full benefit. This means wealthier buyers get more tax benefit than those with less income. In other words, those that would benefit the most are helped the least. Even if the program never becomes a time-of-purchase benefit, this rollover issue should be changed now, so as to give the same $7,500 to those with lower incomes, even if it is spread over several tax years. Also, saving on gasoline and vehicle maintenance has a much bigger impact on someone earning $30,000 per year, than it does to someone earning $200,000 per year. Yes, I understand that those with lower incomes may not have a place to plug-in a vehicle, but many, many do. By keeping the vehicle at an artificially higher price, the income requirement to purchase the plug-in vehicle is artificially high as well.

However, by making the incentives after-purchase, the income required to make the monthly payments is an issue. If I have to pay the full $40K, my payment would be $644.20 per month. However, if the incentives were able to be applied at time of purchase, I would finance only $30K, and my payment would be reduced to $483.15 per month. That’s a reduction of $161.05 per month! Would reducing monthly payment that much help? Of course it would! On top of the incentives, the savings on fuel and gas would make the vehicle seem that much less expensive per month. If the fictional buyer were to save $160 per month in fuel (as I am doing), the impact would be like having a gasoline-powered car that only cost $323.15 per month! That’s like getting 1/2 off the monthly payment! *(payments calculated on 6 year term, 5% interest and no trade or down payment)

Qualifying for the higher loan is an issue as well. Using the example above, where the buyer is also buying a $191K home, it can get quite daunting. If the maximum debt-to-income ratio used to qualify loans is 38%, and the monthly mortgage payment is $1,300 per month, to qualify for the loan for the $40K plug-in vehicle above, you’d have to have an annual income of at least $61K to even get the loan, NOT just the $46.6K income level to get all the income tax credit (filing Single on income tax).

Finally, there is the “depreciation issue” caused by the nature of the current incentives. In the U.S., the average car depreciation is about 15% per year, according to CarsDirect. If a person buys a car at $40K, even if they receive $10K after the purchase, they think of the car as a $40K purchase. So, after several years of enjoyment, it becomes time to sell that vehicle. The buyer is shocked to see the market value is only valued at $18K. They feel the vehicle depreciated 55% (or 18% per year), when in actuality, it only depreciated 40% (or 13% per year). Then they tell their friends how disappointed they are in their plug-in’s resale value, dissuading their friend from getting a plug-in. Here’s why the price seems to have dropped precipitously: A car buyer can get a brand new plug-in vehicle for which you paid $40K, minus the incentives, arriving at a price of $30K. At a $22K price difference ($40K perceived price vs. $18K), the buyer would be less inclined to buy the used vehicle, than if the price differential between new and used were only $12K ($30K vs. $18K). This makes the used plug-in difficult to sell and used car dealerships less inclined to buy, putting more downward pressure on the vehicle’s price. Another side effect of this depreciation ‘mirage’ is that leasing companies have reduced the residual value of leased plug-in vehicles. Reducing the residual value (the value of the leased vehicle at the end of the lease) means the person leasing the vehicle ends up with a higher monthly payment than those who leased just a few years ago. My original 2012 mid-level Volt leased for $330 per month with a $2,000 down payment. A similarly equipped Volt today would almost certainly lease at a significantly higher lease payment. Perhaps the used car market could benefit from an incentive that used the money left on the table by buyers who didn’t have a high enough income to get the full $7,500…

One note: all the info above is based on Texas, which has no state income tax and higher property and sales taxes than some other states.