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Lighter Car News: Tesla price jump, Aston sale, VW tech we can't get

Our semiregular roundup of the latest automotive news and musings from around the Web.

By Clifford Atiyeh Nov 29, 2012 11:48AM

This week's edition of the Lighter Car News looks at lightened bank accounts, particularly those of Tesla and Aston Martin. Even cash-rich Volkswagen is holding back, at least when it comes to features we can't yet order in the U.S. Let's have a look.

Tesla raises Model S price by $2,500


Tesla Model S (© Tesla Motors, Inc.)


After Tesla said it would raise the base price on its new Model S sedan, we were picturing a big jump -- a "Matrix"-style leap from skyscraper to skyscraper. That kind of a jump. But no. The electric wonder car with the best performance and range in the industry now starts at $59,900 instead of $57,400.

Tesla is still unprofitable, with a cash flow that always seems to be in flux. Company accountants don't seem to know how much to charge, even four years after Tesla introduced the $109,000 Roadster. That Roadster, if anyone remembers, used to cost $92,000 in 2008 and then jumped overnight by $17,000 -- including for customers who were waiting on their deliveries. Tesla admitted to screwing up its cost estimates, and now, it's great to know they screwed up a whole lot less.

Current Model S customers with reservations -- those who have paid $5,000 deposits -- will not see the price increase. Only new customers who order a car on Jan. 1, 2013, or later will have to pay the higher price. While Tesla says the Model S carried "the same price set over three and a half years ago," the car hasn't even been in production for an entire year, nor are there many cars; fewer than 10,000 have been made. Year-over-year price increases are common for new and refreshed models -- this year alone, the industry average was about 2 percent -- but for Tesla, the increase lets it keep the lights on.

Aston Martin owners selling majority shares, for real this time

Aston Martin Vantage GTE (c) Aston Martin
I'm not sure how "people familiar with the situation" can leak pending financial transactions without having their fingers chopped off, especially when they're talking about a Kuwaiti investment firm. Investment Dar owns the majority stake in Aston Martin, but recent reports have indicated it wants to sell the British automaker -- which was once owned by Ford -- to offset the billions in loans it now has to pay after defaulting over an Islamic bond in 2009.

The latest insider blabbering from Bloomberg suggests that Mahindra, an Indian car company that tried and failed to enter the U.S. market last year, offered Investment Dar more than $400 million for its 40 percent stake. Another bidder, a London-based investment group called Investindustrial, went slightly lower.

At this point, it seems a sale is inevitable. If Mahindra wins, it will be the second Indian automaker to own a storied British luxury automaker since Tata Motors purchased Jaguar and Land Rover in 2008. Come to think of it, what British automaker is actually owned by the British?

No matter what happens, Aston Martin is intent on competing in "all of the major sports car racing series" in the U.S. The photo above is its new Vantage GTE, one of 10 cars headed to California-based racing team The Racers Group.

All the great things we can't get on the new Golf

Volkswagen Golf Mk7 (c) VW
The latest, seventh-generation Volkswagen Golf is now on sale in Europe with a host of innovative safety features we won't be able to buy when it goes on sale in the U.S. late next year.

Of them is the new standard Multicollision Brake, which automatically brakes the Golf after a collision to prevent it from crashing again into another car or obstacle. VW points out that secondary collisions are especially dangerous since a vehicle's airbags and seatbelt pre-tensioners go off only once and can't protect occupants from multiple impacts. No other automaker has offered such a feature, especially not on a car as affordable as the Golf.

Other optional features include lane-departure warning and assist, full auto-braking, adaptive cruise control and fatigue detection. Ford already offers all of these features on the European-spec Focus, but again, don't expect too many of them, if any, to come here. VW has already told us such features aren't likely to make it on U.S. Golf models because Americans don't like to spend as much on small cars as Europeans do. Importing expensive safety features that could reduce the already slim profit margins on a Golf, even if it's worthy technology, isn't something VW wants to risk.

Nov 29, 2012 5:18PM
Oh the irony of British Brands being bought up by Indian car companies. It wasn't that long ago when Britain owned all of India. Revenge must be sweet!
Dec 1, 2012 11:04PM
It is great to see that companies like TATA are putting money into English companies but are letting them be designed and run by English designers and (mostly) German business persons. If you look at the new Jaguar and Land Rover models they are amazing machines in true English fashion. To bad American car companies couldn't do the same (not including Ford). After GM bought SAAB it turned their cars into ugly re-bodied Vohxle's then sold them and they go out of business 2 years later. Hey TATA!! Buy SAAB and make it the brand it should have been. 
I would thing that VW would want to send all their new new safety equipment here. They are the only company that makes a hatchback here across the pond well...besides the Fiesta which lets face it is not that great.
Dec 1, 2012 7:05AM
VW AG is treating one of the largest car markets in the world as a second, or even third world country where people are so poor they cannot afford a decent car. After the scandal with a Jetta specifically engineered with a solid rear suspension to be cheap and sold only in North America, this company is starting to seriously disgust me. They are treating us like we are less worthy than the rest of the world. It is discrimination, is what that is.
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