Don’t Miss The Wheel Bearings Podcast!

img_20161109_153334_processed-01-1024x1024In case you missed it, Dan Roth and I have launched a new podcast called Wheel Bearings where we talk about the cars we’re driving and the news and topics that we think are important in the world of transportation and mobility. We’ll have guests and interviews with experts and interesting people too. You can find the show at http://wheelbearings.media/

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Who Stands To Benefit From Tesla’s Stock Price?

As I read this Bloomberg story this morning about Elon Musk closing in on the goals required to get 5.27 million stock options granted to him in 2012, a thought occurred to me. We all know the financial system is absolutely rigged. That much is no secret. 
 
At the current share price of Tesla stock those options are worth about $1.4 billion. Despite many on Wall St acknowledging that the value of the company has nothing to do with its current business fundamentals, they keep pushing the price up based on “future potential.”
What rarely gets talked about is that every time Tesla goes back to the markets to sell shares in order to keep the lights on, Elon himself buys up a big chunk of those shares. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that and demonstrates Musk’s own confidence in his company while also ensuring that his own substantial stake in the company (currently at more than 22 percent of outstanding shares) isn’t diluted. Again nothing wrong with any of this.
However, keep in mind that relatively little  Musk’s net worth which is well over $10 billion is in cash. Like most billionaires that don’t want to give up their stakes in companies he borrows money against those investments. When he wants to buy more Tesla shares, he goes to his bankers, including Morgan Stanley for a loan. As of March 2017, Elon owes more than $624 million
The banks that are owed money by Elon Musk have a financial incentive to maximize the value of the company and help it reach the lofty goals set by the board of directors when they granted those options in 2012. If Tesla fails to reach those goals, especially the market capitalization, Musk won’t get those shares and may not be able to pay back those loans. On top of that, many of the same banks also own a lot of Tesla shares directly, including Morgan Stanley with 3.7 million shares.
To the best of my knowledge (I’m neither a lawyer or financial expert) none of this is illegal. But it’s worth having some context when listening to any arguments pro or against the value of a company, including my own. For the record, I don’t own any stocks in any company directly aside from funds in my retirement accounts.

2017 Chevrolet Cruze Diesel – The Answer For VW TDI Refugees?

With the Volkswagen diesel buyback now in full-force here in the United States, up to half a million drivers will be looking for new cars in the coming months. A significant chunk of that group has declared that they want to keep their cars despite the emissions cheating while others including at least one friend of mine are lining up to buy the leftover unsold 2015 models now that a fix has been approved by the EPA. There is clearly still some demand for affordable diesel cars in America and Chevrolet wants a piece of it with the new 2017 Cruze diesel.

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2017 Ford Focus RS – A Hot Hatch With Extra Spice

2017 Ford Focus RS

It’s been just over four decades since the modern hot hatch was born with debut of the original Volkswagen Golf GTI. In the intervening years, most other automakers have produced higher performance versions of their compact cars but since the turn of the century a new class of even quicker machines has evolved. Until recently, with the exception of the Volkswagen Golf R, these machines have been forbidden fruit on American shores. Fortunately for enthusiasts, Ford finally homologated its legendary Focus RS and American Honda dealers will soon start delivering the latest edition of the Civic Type-R.

Read the full review at Forbes

 


2017 Acura MDX Advance SH-AWD – Better But Still Unclear In Its Mission

 

Cadillac -The Standard of the World. Built Ford Tough. Mercedes-Benz -The Best or Nothing. BMW – The Ultimate Driving Machine. Audi – Truth in Engineering. Well maybe not so much on that last one, but you get my point. Successful automotive brands have an image associated with them that may or may not be entirely accurate, but that’s what marketing is all about. Honda’s premium Acura brand has always struggled with trying to determine what it’s image should be, no matter how good its products have been and they have typically been very good. The latest stab at remaking the brand image image is the 2017 MDX SUV which I just spent a week with.

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2017 Volvo S90 T6 Inscription AWD – Taking the Fight to the Germans

2017 Volvo S90 T6 Inscription

Given the current market trends and consumer favor for SUVs, Volvo probably made the right call in coming out of the gate with the big XC90 for the first complete reboot of its product lineup after separating from Ford. Fortunately, for those of us less enamored with driving utilities on a daily basis, they’ve quickly followed that up with the S90 sedan and soon the V90 wagon. I recently spent a week with the S90 and found that unsurprisingly it shares most of the same strengths and foibles as its higher riding sibling but in a much sleeker package. (more…)


Leave The Brake Pedal, Take The Bolt – Driving Chevrolet’s New EV

It’s been more than eight years since I first drove one of BMW’s MINI E electric prototypes around downtown Los Angeles. One of the first characteristics I noticed about that car was the extremely aggressive regenerative braking that enabled driving virtually without touching the brake pedal. While BMW has persisted with that strategy as the only control mode on the production i3, other automakers have provided similar abilities only when shifting the transmission to Low mode. After driving the new Chevrolet Bolt EV from Tesla’s Silicon Valley backyard into the heart of San Francisco, I think all Bolt drivers should consider driving this way all the time.

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2017 GMC Acadia All-Terrain – Right-Sizing GMC’s Bigger Crossover

2017 GMC Acadia All-Terrain

It’s been a decade since General Motors finally gave up on trying to stake out a claim in the minivan market and then trying to recast its vans as pseudo-SUVs. In 2006, GM launched an all-new platform for full-size crossover utilities that was known internally as Lambda and ultimately spawned four nameplates, Buick Enclave, Chevrolet Traverse, GMC Acadia and the now-defunct Saturn Outlook. Having achieved some notable success with the platform with steadily growing sales of more than 200,000 units annually since 2010, an all-new second-generation Lambda is now ready and hit the streets in 2016 under a redesigned version of the Acadia.

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2017 Volvo XC90 T8 – The Big Swede Gets Plugged In

The launch of the second-generation XC90 marked the beginning of a new era for Volvo a couple of years ago. The XC90 is the first model to ride on the company’s all-new scalable product architecture (SPA), the first all-new platform to come from Gothenburg since Ford sold the Swedish brand to China’s Geely in 2010. After initially being available only with boosted four-cylinder engines, the XC90 is now the first regular production plug-in model Volvo is offering in America and I recently spent a week driving one.

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2017 Audi A4 2.0T Quattro – Autobahn Born and Bred

2017 Audi A4 2.0T Quattro

2017 Audi A4 2.0T Quattro

Cars, like the people that create them have distinct characters. Some of that comes down to the individuals responsible for the design and development and the corporate culture they work in. Other aspects of automotive ethnicity come the places where they were created. Despite the differences between the various German brands, they all share some common DNA, in particular, the way they behave at elevated speeds on highways like the Autobahn. Such is the case for the latest generation Audi A4 that arrived on American shores earlier this year.

Read the rest of my review on Forbes

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