Yesterday’s Tesla “lease offer”, (which turned out to be Elon Musk’s “big announcement”) was a classic display of Tesla’s penchant for theatrics. On the surface, the move is a smart one; most customers in the large luxury sedan segment tend to lease their cars, so Tesla’s move is nothing out of the ordinary.
The 5 year lease program will allow customers to keep making payments on the car as a means of buying it outright, rather than the traditional balloon payment used by most auto makers. And, as Wired’s Damon Lavrinc notes, you could technically lease the car with nothing down.
Depending on where you live, the initial payment could be as low as … nothing. Tesla’s financial partners in the program, Wells Fargo and U.S. Bank, take the $7,500 federal tax credit offered to anyone who buys an electric vehicle, roll that into the state rebates and include it all as your down payment. In California, for example, that comes to $10,000.
Where it gets interesting is some of the numerical gymnastics that, according to Tesla’s True Cost To Own lease calculator, can leave you with a net lease cost of -$2,000. To find out how that happens, check out EV expert John Voelcker’s excellent take-down of Tesla’s leasing program. Rather than summarize and butcher it at TTAC, you might as well head straight to the source. It’s not to be missed. Especially if your time is worth $100/hour, as Musk thinks.