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Chelsea Sexton has been accelerating electric transportation since cutting her teeth in the mid-1990s on the General Motors EV1 program. Her diverse adventures since have included co-founding Plug In America and directing an automotive XPRIZE to encourage development of compelling, highly efficient vehicles. Chelsea was featured in the Sony Pictures Classics documentary, Who Killed the Electric Car? and still works as an advisor, speaker, and friendly co-conspirator worldwide to make the movement of people and goods cleaner, safer, and more accessible. Visit Chelsea’s website:
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I wan na thank you for coming and talking with me, thank you for having me. I didn't crash your party yeah. No i've been i've been a fan of yours for a while now uh. As you know, we're turned into this thing by the that movie by the movie right who killed the the electric car uh, and i didn't you don't because you're you're i mean you were part of that thing exactly now.

You didn't kill it, but we yeah. That is a such a pivotal point in our journeys. I think as uh i don't know. What are we uh? I think i'm like kind of like an evangelist uh.

I don't know like it's harder to pinpoint what i do, but i basically preach evs all day. Uh you know on my channel and so many people have bought evs because of me uh, some teslas. I haven't bought tesla till recently, so but it's a crazy thing and it all kind of started watching that movie um. You know, while doing research and stuff.

I came up with that. I came, you know, buy that movie and uh. You were part of that, so why don't you tell us how that journey started for you, because you go well before that yeah you i mean i would say that you're you're, responsible uh, for you have play a part in being responsible for the modern um production. Electric car right because cars have been around forever but the modern production electric car started at one point and you played a role in that right.

So very small, one, yes yeah! Certainly, electric car has been around for a hundred years, and i mean we all sort of know some of that history. But the ev1 was considered and still is considered sort of the first modern electric car, and it was actually announced in january of 1990 at the la auto show just a concept car at the time, but california had already had the er. Every sources board was established. The clean air act was already years along and california had really terrible smog problems, and here there's this car company showing a non-polluting at the tailpipe, at least electric car and carb kind of went.

Oh, my god. This is very, very cool and then a few months later on earth day, the chair, then chairman of general motors, announced that they were going to actually put it into production and then carve got very excited and said well gosh. If you guys can do it, then there's no reason your competitors can't and gm ironically inspired the zero mission vehicle mandate that followed that ended up being passed in 1990 didn't take effect until 1998, really and in the meantime, gm launched the ev1 at the end of 1996. - and so i had been - i - i started out at the age of 17 selling saturn's in a showroom to put myself through college.

I graduated a little early. I was highly self-sufficient still am wanted a way to pay pay for my studies, and so i thought figured i'd, sell cars and lots of downtime for homework and pretty decent money at that age. And so i was in the saturn side of the business and a few years in ev-1 started to come along and while it started to be a cadillac, ultimately, gm decided to give the ev1 to saturn, because the demographic, the buyers were kind of like buyers. It was middle-aged white guys with money, but saturn was really known for great customer service, introducing new product and new ideas to the public.

Things like that, and so they kind of figured saturn and all their touchy-feely community stuff will actually be better at this, and so i moved over after a few years of selling cars into the ev-1 program drove one for the first time on the back roads of Tennessee decided i liked torque more than anyone rightfully should i i was initially gravitated to initially drawn to it because of of geek. You know efficiency and things like that engineering, but it turns out. I am a car person when there's torque involved more than i ever was before. So i fell in love and basically never left and that program continued for several years and it was fits and starts, and you know sometimes jim was very into it and sometimes they weren't, but ultimately they decided that they were going to end.

That program and the rest of the auto manufacturers at the time did too it was the big six honda toyota, nissan gm ford and chrysler were the ones that were participating. There were more actual pickup trucks and suvs that were electric back then than since, and so we've been kind of coming full circle towards those bigger vehicles again and all of them banded together to sue the state of california and get rid of that mandate. And ultimately, you know we started trying to save different cars when they were getting ready to crush them. Things like that, and so a group of activists had gone after ford, because a few of them had bought their pickup trucks and they did the successful campaign of trying to save the ones that were left.

Those that that wanted to buy them should be allowed to and they were successful and we kind of had this debate. You know who next and at the time it was going to be toyota, but we knew these little 78 cars in burbank. These ev wands that were left and would be crushed soon, but were sort of the last remaining vigil visual of that car, and so we ended up setting up this 24 7 vigil for a month trying to save these cars. I mean it was a total stunt to get the story, told we're just out there on the sidewalk, these dorky little eevee people in our umbrellas, because it was rainy february and two weeks into it.

The first newspaper kind of finally caught on and we ended up getting some press and gm got very frustrated along the way they kind of went. Okay, fine, we thought we'd, wait them out, but these guys are stubborn, they're not leaving. What do we do and ultimately they sent tow trucks and a couple of us chased them to the desert we followed them. I have now been detained for stalking for stopping because i am very threatening.

Let me tell you yes, so yes me and my little saturn followed us an 18-wheeler to arizona and full of ev1's. So, yes, we had some adventures along the way and chris payne, who had been one of my ev1 drivers, had a camera and sort of had been playing with the notion of making a film we'd held the funeral for the car by then. Our current mayor of los angeles gave eulogy to it sort of interesting when he decides to run for president one day and someone digs that out um, but we thought we'd just try to tell the story, and so that's how that started was five years of running Around chris and his camera, and just trying to piece it together on the premise of even if you think we're the crazy ones, someone will be interested in the story and pbs frontline hasn't shown up stuff like that, so he decided he'd just do it himself and Luckily, a few of the other ev1 drivers were fairly well connected. Dean devlin ended up getting it to sony pictures, and so they ended up buying it, and then it got into sundance and we all showed up this excited little pilgrimage of people to watch it.

For the first time, my husband's sitting next to me going - oh, my god, your head is so big and he's in it too, but somehow he likes making fun of me for it yeah. Well, it was very, very powerful film, uh yeah. You guys did a good job uh telling that story, because yeah, i think it it moved a lot of us right going like what the hell happened here. You know um, and definitely you were so you you were pinpointed out of the the group of activists because you were like an insider right person right, yeah, hi, there's this former employee, that's out on the front lines of the picket sign yeah a little bit wow.

It's not just crazies at this point: it's like oh people, even within cells. You know they're uh they're having trouble with this um did you know? Obviously you know that um francis ford coppola had one also yes yeah and he just made it disappear. He was like i'm not giving back or something right. He didn't yeah, no, that's lore! Well, i mean he said that, oh no, i know toward the end of the program about 40 or so were gutted and donated to museums and universities.

His car collection is technically a 501c3, it's a museum, okay, okay, and so he got to keep his. It was dismantled like the others that it was officially donated. It's a non-runner. Oh he didn't say that yeah, and so there have.

There are a few that have been since made running in some form. I i know for sure that for a while, he was wanting to do that because i was contacted to help okay, so i don't know if he ultimately succeeded or not. There are four or five uh universities that have rebuilt theirs into various running conditions, including the one that we all see the picture of the dusty one. Yes, that one has not been rebuilt that one needs a better home, yes yeah, and it keeps popping up every once in a while right.

Every couple years it resurfaces with a thicker layer of dust. They're like come on who's going to save this one. I know. Well - and i very much want to relocate it, and occasionally i get a little bit of of promise within general motors of receptiveness to that notion.

I think there could be a very cool community oriented project there, but not surprisingly, they also have special feelings about that. Car yeah so fast lights towards like oh, that could be kind of cool too. Oh, my god, can we please stop hearing about the ev1? Yes, so the yeah there's a little sore about that right because they i mean obviously there's a movie that went kind of viral. It went crazy right uh, i mean a lot of people have seen that movie right.

It's a very well uh yeah! I'm surprised how many people are still finding it. I get a couple notes a week still, which is lovely it's now, 14 years old. Yes, it's very well done. I mean you know chris did a great job.

Yes, was he a professional filmmaker or what he's read a few things before um? It was one of his first bigger projects: dean devlin, our executive producer is known for small things like independence day and godzilla, and the patriot games. Okay, so we had a little film experience on our side. Okay, it was a great film, i mean it had everything and it had the story. It had the struggle right, it had the the the bad guy had seven, we had seven suspects, it was a murder, mystery, yes and yeah.

Definitely i could see where gm would still be sore about that, because, obviously and i've i kind of seen stuff where you have you kind of stick up for them after a while you're like listen right, you you're trying to sort of that phone out that they're, Like come on just let them be now they're doing other cars like let's yeah i mean i, i carry the hatchet here yeah and i mean it's funny to watch um. You know, volkswagen dieselgate is sort of a similar paradigm yeah. But my premise on ev1 is it's now a 20 year old decision and the people involved generally speaking, except for a few engineers who have the engineers have always been on our side. The engineers have always loved these technologies, like we do so.

The executives that made those decisions are not the executives now they're gone yeah, even the ceo right. Wasn't it the ceo at that time was uh. Well, it was jack smith boy. There were several but jack smith was the ceo when the initial death started to happen.

Okay, um roger smith, was the one that announced it in the first place and there were a few more in between and after, but but yeah and so generally speaking, the folks that were involved are no longer there and regardless of what i or you or anybody Else thinks of that choice back then judge them for the things they do now. I completely understand the people that say to me. You know i hate the fact that they sided with the epa and the trump administration over the air resources board and therefore i don't feel good buying a gm car. Fine, whether or not i agree with your reasoning.

At least it's a fairly current bit of reasoning. It's the folks that go this one thing that happened 20 years ago and the boycott them forever yeah, i don't think boycotts are all that advisable to begin with, because if you tell a company i will never ever buy what you make, no matter what you do, What is their incentive to make something? Better yeah, it's like okay, yeah. In the case of all like nissan toyota, honda they all crushed their cars too. It's not like jim was the only one.

It just was the most popular car in that group and it got the most attention, but their behavior was not that much different, except for their their veneer. Was nobody really wanted them, whereas honda kind of said we're doing this because we have to someone says we have to and when we, when we're done, we're done we're not going to pretend otherwise. And so yes, there was a difference in the storytelling around it and that it was the cover-up. It's always it's not the case, yeah, that's.

What would hurt gm in the end was the cover-up, but otherwise it's all basically the same thing, but it's also old news and i get on gm. Just the same of you guys got to figure out how to talk about this program in a way that is not so defensive and shameful. You guys engineered this really cool car that had a lot of really leading features that every other ev is using. Now you deserve to have some pride in that your business decisions at the time weren't the greatest, but that doesn't change the fact that you engineered a really cool car that people were willing to get arrested for and 20 years later, people show up on my facebook Feed chiming in about how much they love their car even to the president of gm who, to his credit, also chimes in now and then and wishes we'd all get over it.

So there's a balance there of talking about it with respect, that's not the same as rehashing yeah. Well, i i think they missed the point that this car meant so much for a lot of people right. It meant change in maine, like uh fixing a real issue problem right, like uh looking into the future kind of thing, and so you it's not just the car. I mean it stands for a symbol and that's why i guess people look at it in some ways and it was cool like yeah.

Cars are an emotional purchase yeah, and this was no different. Yes, it was a nerdier car and sure fine. It was enviro, but that's not why anyone ever has bought electric cars. Environmentalism has been the least of it, it was cool, it was well, i don't know i'd say maybe uh prius is there were the they were the cool car to have, because you were the we buy emotionally.

We justify rationally yeah sure. So the wokeness is the emotional component, yes, and we justify it with all this rationalism around. You know, i feel smart and i save money and whatever. But it's really, i want to be seen as cool environmental, but that's not really why i bought the car and the same thing is true for all of the evs then and since, and the part that a few people within gm recognize, but not pervasively enough is That what they really lost was the community passion.

Yeah ev-1 drivers were tesla drivers before they were teslas yeah. They were just as passionate would show up at the regulatory meetings. If they had a problem with their car in the freeway, they would limp off the highway before they call a tow truck, because they didn't want the public to see an image of an ev1 on a tow truck. They formed clubs.

They went in and taught dealers how to be better, all sorts of various things that we see tesla drivers today doing exactly the same thing and it's assumed that tesla originated that, but there's a fair amount of it. That is a fundamental ed thing, because ev drivers of all stripes believe that they're helping to co-create the success of the technology, whether it's a fiat or a tesla or a nissan leaf, but there's an additional layer that is brand specific and tesla gets credit for that. But all of these things are stuff that gm once had and it's stable and completely let it dissipate yeah they didn't value it. They just destroyed it and, to some degree to their credit.

They rebuilt a fair amount of it in the run-up to volt and then ever since volt launch they've kind of just let all of that go yeah. You know i was one of those right like i i mean i was a tesla, a tesloid. I guess at the beginning, but i just can't afford one, and so i had to make my own. I made my bus right and so then uh, i kind of like then after a while i was like well, we got ta get one of these cars that i got ta figure out a way to like this is kind of like an experiment.

Right, i drive it it's about the world's most dangerous car and i drive it. I'm fine because i don't drive much, but i'm like for my wife. I want something: that's safe, something that's modern, something that's got airbags and stuff right, and so i was one of these people that never would never buy any american cause. I never i thought of myself as never ever again well, actually ever buying an american car because they were all trash in the 90s in the you know, late 80s or whatever, and so i was i was a toyota guy.

I was i owned several toyotas and stuff, but then, when the when chevy came out with the vault right, which was the the hybrid one um we went to the auto show and we saw it and i'm like well. This is amazing yeah. This is an amazing car, like you could drive it electric or you could just forget to charge it and just put some gas in it and it's seamless and you can go anywhere and it looks nice and it's kind of you know fancy inside i'm like i'm Sold, i'm like i don't care that they killed the electric car, i'm like i'm buying one yeah and i had to. I actually didn't buy it because i thought the system was so you know i was looking at it from my engineering side and i thought this is so complex.

I can't even explain how the system works. It's bound to probably be kind of unreliable, so i'm not going to buy this car i'll, just lease it, and so i leased two of them and they were the greatest. Cars ever never gave us any trouble and they just went and they're still one of the best. If someone was looking for a used car still one of the best most solid options you could come across in the ev world, plug-in world yeah, yeah and and 10 years later, still the most electrified plug-in hybrid ever built.

I mean it's it's one of those cars that everyone kind of looked at and went. Oh, my god, that's a chevy and some people gave them crap for not doing an ev out of the gate and part of the reason i did give them credit and still give them. Credit is who killed came out in june of 20 2006., and we were doing the press tour when somebody a reporter called us up when we were in minneapolis and said. What do you think about the fact that jim's doing another electric car - and i basically told this poor woman she needed to lay off the crack? It's like there's no way, but they a few months later they announced a plug-in hybrid saturn at the ellie auto show, and then they watched the press.

I'll call us for comments. What do you think about that? And they went? Oh, my god, you know we're not going to get rid of these people in their little movie, and so they called us up and said if you think that was cool, we have this thing come into detroit in january that you want to know about. So you should come to that auto show and we kind of went yeah. No, we don't trust you we're not showing up on your word, and so they actually flew us.

Chris payne and i the director, flew us out to washington dc and we met at like a mccormick and schmix or something some smokey room, but like the proverbial dc corner smokey room, it was one of those kind of settings of like eight vps around a table And chris and i and a laptop - and they showed us the vault for the first time the month before the auto, show and said: no really we're serious. You should come to this show, and so we did and we're like we're, not making another movie, but we'll bring a camera just in case, and that became the first shoot for the second movie for the second movie yeah yeah and for months it was like uh. We're sure we're not going to do another one, but we'll just track a few things, because why not not get yourself into a corner? And that became the start of the second one. But you know it was a half dozen months after they had just gotten killed in this movie yeah.

They were the first of the fray back in with something with a plug, and it wasn't a pv, but it was really respectable range yeah for a plug-in hybrid and it was. It was the perfect transitional vehicle. It was good and i kind of got it on with that timing. They had they considered a pure ev, but i also understand that if they had done a pure ev at that time and it went well, then it would have been c all the more evidence he shouldn't have killed the vv1 and if they did appear ev and It didn't go well, then it would have been.

You killed a second car. There was kind of no winning for gm at the time, in my opinion, with a pure ev. Well, there was no infrastructure, no fast charging, so then it would, it would have been set for failure, because you know you couldn't put more than 150 miles of range in that car right uh at the time that would have been. I mean the ev-1 ended on 150 to 70 miles of range, so any i mean it was funny to watch leaf and everything else launch years later, with half the range that we had in gen, 2 ev1 yeah, i mean they would have been roughly the same And it would have been all of those criticisms and with i mean the the biggest challenge to all of these companies is that most the incumbents most of them, don't believe in this.

Yet they don't believe they can be successful. They don't necessarily know how even those that want to are really uncomfy with it, and so, even if they were willing at the time to put themselves out there to have done so without a product they were comfy with in a way they were willing to market. It and support it robustly would have been a disaster and even volt they they started was way too arrogant. They launched this thing and - and i had gm people yelling at me from across the auto, show floor of like you're gon na love.

This thing it was like um yeah. No, i don't trust you yet, and they learned really quickly that we all just sort of went you're gon na, have to prove this and they spent a couple years. It became a joke of like when they would polish a door handle they'd, put out a press release, but that's kind of what it took at the time to convince the world they were well. Once again, did you get to see the actual production version, or was it the prototype one? Well, that was the concept of original concept, which i liked better yeah.

It would look like a cool car right. It was a cool car yeah. That was the first one and then of course it evolved, but in that time, since they had to evolve their approach as well, and so they ended up to their credit, doing a lot of very deep engagement with a lot of the advocates and community members and Goofy things like eventually they'd call me up and go okay, we're coming out to the ted conference when it was still in long beach. We're gon na have two volts call up 10 of your.

You pick them. You call it 10 to 15 of your your buddies. Your ev people, you you bring them, and so i would - and i would always include a few like i will never buy a gm car again guys and you know former ev1 drivers and folks and just like i'm not going to serve this up on a platter. You can engage sincerely with the mix and they did really well with that, because the the drivers kind of went.

Oh yeah. No, i love talking to the engineers and what i saw there was that's not the gm that killed my ev1. That's the gm that built it in the first place, yeah and it's stuff that people like me have known all along the dr. The market, we're in we're still early adopter the market we're in wants to know the faces and the people behind the brand.

It's not just. I drive a tesla, it's elon, it's jb, it's george blankenship. It depends on your era of tesla, but the same thing is true for gm and the others. It's not just gm, it was tony pozowatz or whatever the case may be, and the more they could humanize themselves the better it went in the more recent years.

It's been less human yeah. Well i mean, as it scales up right rightly so, um was so gm. Obviously saw the value of that and that's why they let you guys shoot that second movie right, because i mean everyone wanted to be in our second one: yeah, our first yeah, okay, exactly because now you guys got uh, you guys have access now and by the Way who, if you're watching this you haven't seen who killed electric car, you guys need to go see who killed electric cars, probably on netflix right or something yeah. It's always on netflix, prime vimeo and they're all always on youtube, and then the second sequel is uh.

Revenge of the electric revenge of the electric car and then that one, you guys have full access. You guys go behind doors at this development of these other cars and not just them. But two big manufacturers raised nissan. It was nissan gm and tesla, so the tesla and even an independent one.

Yes, which is you know, very different movies, yeah. Well, no independent uh, um car maker builder, a diy guy gadget gadget right, which i i you know. That's that's my guy because i'm i'm him, but essentially you know, i'm a diy guy. I couldn't afford these cars.

I'm like this for rich people, i'm going to build my own, you know kind of thing ended up spending about same amount of money. It took me about the same amount that i would i you know have to wait to get a tesla, but i learned quite a bit and i became an activist as a result of that. So i'm like oh, it's, probably the better route that i took um. So that movie was it's great because yeah you have access, you get to go behind doors.

Uh! You get to see the development of this this car now the which car was it the the chevy one. Well, so the yeah, the revenge, ended up sort of following the attempts of gm uh, nissan and tesla, and gadget to bring electric cars back to the road, and so it was the chevy volt, the tesla roadster. It wasn't even model s yet the road and nissan leaf and the nissan leaf, and so yeah and and in part the hardest bit of footage in who killed the electric car to get and keep was a little cameo. At the end of that, first movie of the tesla roadster driving around and weirdly - and i had really i thought earlier - yeah it was yeah.

It was that okay, yeah and i'd gotten to know tesla. Actually, while we were still doing the the ev1 vigil. So i left that vigil for a day in march of 2005 and flew up to the bay area, to visit, martin and mark ever heard the founders of tesla, yes, okay and so, and of course, you know, we sparred from the start, which made us friends since Okay, at least for quite some time, and so that's when we got to know them and that's when we started to think about putting them in the film. But we along the way in order to convince them about five or six of our crew members, actually ended up having to order tesla roadsters, oh wow, a couple of our producers, a couple of our executive producers.

They're like we don't feel you're right, uh yeah. You feel weird: we bought a bunch of their cars, they felt better about it, okay and then for that bit of footage and who killed our producers actually went out and the frank is in a house right, yeah like in someone's house or something well, no, i Mean that second one was in the in the shop, but the first one is just sort of the rolling hills like driving around kind of footage. Okay and so they went out and they produced that for them they took the bit for the film and then they gave the rest to tesla to use in their showrooms. So, in the early years of their showrooms, all that footage of those cars driving around were actually shot and produced by the who killed.

Folks, oh okay, that's cool yeah, and then there was a bit of time for the festival season. They wanted us to take it out and then put it back in for theatrical release. It was. It was bizarre, but it was the hardest.

We worked for four seconds of anything in that first film, but having bought all those cars and things we had really great access for for the second film and then both um gm was certainly more receptive to the to the next one and nissan came about because I ended up at a conference in england in sort of 2009 or so and ran into the in a green room. The number two guy at nissan who most recently ran aston martin, andy palmer and he hadn't seen our first film at all. So he was interested in the topic and i said we're making another movie and he hadn't seen the first one. Yet so he wasn't yet biased, we'd really love to have nissan in it and he ended up getting nissan and carlos gum to be willing to be.

In the second one, well, they were making a huge investment in this program, so they were like. Well, let's a movie is a great advert. You know advertising for for a program like that right and so yeah. They were smart enough to do it and they were super supportive.

They sponsored lots of showings, and i mean why not because they're everybody was a hero in the second second film, so there were downsides there, yeah yeah, it definitely showed uh. You know it's funny because you get to see the chevy co. It was uh. What's his name, um bob lutz bob lutz which uh it's love by car people.

Right i mean this. Guy is iconic when it comes to yes carved culture right, and you see him going through the struggles of trying to run uh. You know general motors right and and then trying to come up with this new concept. The car and doubting themselves there's great footage there.

There's a lot of great dialogue in between them back and forth. Yeah you get you get to see like what what it, what it takes to run a big company. You know yeah the best parts were the premier nights at the tribeca film festival when each of those big shots saw the film for the first time sitting next to each other. Oh okay, okay, cheering what oh that's right, because they were on their own yeah yeah was there any of them that were like racing, their eyebrows a little bit, but at least it was a dark theater, but yeah.

It was very funny, as someone like in the row behind them. It was very fun to watch yes, yeah yeah. These are the big i mean these are big people now that you guys were covering uh in their efforts right to to to bring the electric car back and on you know, and i think they did great - i mean i love you know. Obviously i love that last scene where gadget drives this little porsche.

Yes down to i mean that was so iconic, it's it's a great scene, because that's that's just the dream! That's what i this we all dream about! It's like! Oh, we convert our own car. It's our own classic car, it's a huge market. I mean it's not huge, but it's a big market in california uh. There are businesses that you know sprung up from that and stuff and uh.

It's electrifying, our own classic cars, and he you guys visualize that perfect. You know it's like driving to the desert charging and then you know going into that little motel with extension, that was perfect yeah, that is yeah. That was as perfect as you can to get it yet well, and it's endemic of the of the eevee movement anyway, which you know the electric auto association, was sort of the original advocacy evangelist group, and it's been around since, like the 1960s and there's, you know, 60 or 70 chapters around the country and, generally speaking, they have always been these grassroots converters to the point that when ev1 and that generation came out, they looked down their noses at everybody who got one of like really, you just bought one. I made mine myself store-bought one yeah, totally that elitism going on, which was very funny, but this has always been it's the single example in the history of the automotive space that has been so community-led and so grassroots-led.

It is the only example where the industry has required demand to pre-date and continually exceed supply. We've been hearing executives for years going when we see demand for electric cars, then we'll think about building them, yeah every other automotive product and, frankly, all retail product on the planet. The model is we build something and then convince you that you want it. That's what happened with suvs or hybrids, or even hydrogen, there's no pre-existing market.

That goes. Give me a hydrogen car. It does the automaker's going yeah. We think that this is the path forward and some political shenanigans involved about electric cars, but that's the model is we.

We think we know better than you do. What you want. Evs are the only case in which that's been offered. Why do you think that is so, my so my theory of obviously not knowing how car make the whole inner workings of car manufacturers and stuff right? But i'm like there's a partnership that goes back 100 years with the oil industry.

You can't just turn their back. Like that, like you know, okay yeah, we could run we had to get around 100 years where now we're making electric cars, like that, that's a that's a thing that it's preventing them from wanting to make electric cars right. Am i right or is that just oversimplification of a much brighter much complex? I understand the inclination and, and certainly we can't discount the things that happen. You know among friends on golf courses, but i think that aspect is overblown.

I think from the automotive industry perspective. It's less, my oil company friends will be annoyed with me. I think it's more. This is the entrenched model.

This is what we're used to. This is what we're good at my bonus is not premised on building the future. It is premised on what i sell this quarter. It's things like that.

I think we, i think in some ways we give too much credit to the notion of conspiracy. I think it is much more basic and human and humans are afraid of change and they're about making rent this month and they're, worried about their retirement plans and they're, not thinking so hard about this whole other company on the other side of the world. But you know dealers would have more of an influence at this point than an oil company and they have their own entrenched issues, and so there's layers to all of this, that yeah and their business modulus on making money on on service. And so, therefore, if you're like wait, a minute, ev's have less service.

Oh, we don't want that like. Let's not push the evs yeah, i mean that's a that's a it's an interesting point. It's one we made in in who killed the electric car and, in fact i said my husband in it he's the technician. That's sitting there at the end of that film, showing all the parts that evs don't use.

So my family was deeply involved in making that particular point. It also gets a little too emphasized. I think, in 25 years of working on this, i have yet to meet a dealer that is sincerely concerned about that the vast majority of them sort of go. You know what i'm going to be retired by the time this takes off enough to affect my service revenue.

Maybe my kid will own the place, but i mean what feels very fast to us is actually still pretty slow in the automotive world and all of these cars are coming with significant warranties on them. So i i've known dealers that stayed afloat for an extra couple years on warranty dollars from their ev programs, because any new car, any new program will have infant things that happen and when those things happen under warranty, that's nice revenue for the store. So i have not encountered this whole. You know we we're going to lose our shirt on service thing.

There is a fair conversation around how to replace some of that revenue in the long term and how to pivot with different services. Certainly you know. Oil changes are no longer needed stuff, like that. I know stores that sell a decent number of vvs who put an electrician on staff to help put charges in homes, and things like that.

So yeah there's an opportunity to have a more creative conversation, but i think we get too shrill about the service when a lot of it is the same thing. It is more. Human people are not going to be great at selling something they're uncomfortable with. Generally speaking, the training that oems provide to dealers sucks it's short, it's superficial, it doesn't equip them to be comfy with the thing they're trying to sell you and therefore why would they it doesn't matter what it runs on and we've seen similar issues with other technologies And cars anymore, because the screens and things are advanced enough - that you kind of really need to understand them in order to be good at demonstrating them most people selling evs have never had a test drive longer than the one they're offering you.

They can't tell you what it's like to take one home and plug it in because they've never done it and so on and so forth. So a lot of this stuff is the proverbial not rocket science, but it requires thought and not assuming that all dealers are things like that and in some cases there is a revenue aspect. People will make less money selling electric cars. There are ways to handle that people in some cases make less money servicing electric cars.

There are ways to handle that all of these things are things that we have seen since ev1 and in many cases have learned how to deal with them. But it requires learning those lessons from the past and being open to the conversation, and i see so much defensiveness about the tesla model, but saturn had corporate owned stores too. There is nothing about the fact that elon signs those checks that keeps any other brand from providing the same kind of retail experience that tesla does its entire secret sauce is really well trained. Sales people who are passionate about their product in a low pressure sales, environment, yeah - that's basically it there's not much more to the tesla sales model than that anybody could offer that and some individual dealers do - and there are individual dealer chains that we can point to.

But across the board there is zero excuse for how bad the eevee buying experience is in most other brands. Yes versus tesla, yeah yeah. I think you're right yeah. I had a terrible fighting experience.

You know you know, i don't know if you remember those cars, they were really great, uh electric, but then as soon as they you had to run them on gas around the city on takeoff and startup. They were kind of terrible because they're rude, the engine wasn't connected. The powerband thing was weird: yes, the initial transition was pretty seamless, but those power bands in gen 1 was not. You would pull up to a red light and the engine was idling really high and then the light would turn green and then the engine turned off and then you would go right and you're like what is going on here.

You so both times i took test drives and the cars were completely dead because they were in charge because they don't know what the car did. The guy was like, oh an electric. I think we have one over in the back. You know it's like they bring it out and of course it's just not charging, so that's how they gave me the thing and obviously i knew everything about the car.

He knew nothing about the car both of the times. So i was like okay, just let's not talk, let's just drive it and it was mostly because my wife was gon na buy it, and you know she was gon na drive it. So i wanted her to get a feel for it before we signed the papers. Uh, but we knew we were there to buy that one and we were gon na, get it whether the guy knew it or cared about it or not.

Um, but yeah. I'm like oh yeah. I could see where people are actually genuinely trying to shop. They would do terrible here, yeah, but - and it's still the case even ten years in where, generally speaking, people already know what they want before they walk in, and that has helped to circumvent some of the attempt to cross-sell you into something else, and it's really fun.

When somebody looks like me walks in because you know girl what do we know about any of this, and so the number of times i've walked into a dealer to test drive something that's an eevee and been told? No, no, you really want the gas version which my husband always enjoys when that happens especially to a former car salesman. Yes, it goes so well yeah, so you have to be really staunch on what you want and what we will never be able to account for. Are the number of people who are talked out of getting an ev by this process and the only way to fix it is to not make it easier to sell a gas car, better training and possibly appropriate sales incentives? Yeah economics around it? So if they're, making more money selling the gas car they're always going to try to sell the gas car and, if they're unfamiliar with the electric car and they feel uncomfy talking about it, they're never going to be good at it. Regardless of any of these other things around service and stuff, except that, i know for sure that just like there's the car guys and bean counter model at the oem level, there is a sales and service rift at the dealer level.

So the best thing to do to sell electric cars is simply to understand that the sales people would love nothing more than piss off the service, guys so selling evs do that they'd sell them all day long. So this is not an issue of like sales, guys not selling evs, because they're afraid that there might be service revenue lost. That would be an easy win for them to take, because there's that kind of friendly rivalry. Oh, i see that everybody's on for their own huh they're like well, it's just a general.

You know everyone, each side kind of looks down on each other. There's teams in all things: yeah, okay, so then yeah! So then, let's talk about your uh relationship with tesla, because obviously i mean you know elon right from a long time ago, right from the beginning and stuff uh and you you like tesla's right, you like the cars, are great right. It's a great product um and you just i yeah. I think i agree with you like.

I feel like an outsider from the the tesla community, because again i was never. I could never afford one and i remember being so excited for the mission. For the thing you know at the beginning - and i would like go to like these events or whatever, where like then talk to people about teslas and they they all were like great, they were so accepting. They were like.

Oh, my god, it's great right until the point when they would find out that i didn't own, a tesla that i own a homemade car and then all of a sudden they're like. Oh, you have to make your own car. Oh my god. Okay, i'm gon na go talk to my friends over there.

You know my rich friends, you know i it happened so many times with me that i i felt so rejected by then. I'm like these people are weird. These are all a bunch of like rich people who think they're better than everyone. You know not, obviously not everyone.

Yeah we'd normally be invoking a german brand with this description. Yes, yeah a portion yeah uh, but um, so i always felt kind of like an outsider right and then obviously now you know i i'm doing better. I can afford tesla, but i'm like at this point. It almost doesn't make sense to be to buy a tesla because i'm kind of a diy guy.

Now i make electric cars i've made one several for me. I made several for for customers. You know i worked at ev west for a little while uh doing that stuff, and then you know it's like i'm, not it's almost like. It goes against my brand, oh just the store about tesla like if i get a tesla.

Maybe i have to do a things so like rich rebuilt it where, where you could buy one or that's cut in half and or you know, put put two together somehow and you know diy some thing out of it right. So i totally see your point. I see i see the tesla community uh and how they easily have swallowed that that pill right and they joined the cult kind of thing, and so i'm like uh yeah. I grew up in a super like traditional religious, you know upbringing and i've.

I've stepped away from that in my, in my you know, adult life. I see a lot of similarities. I i recognize those traits in the community from tesla and i'm like. Oh okay, yeah.

It's like elon can't do no wrong yeah, yeah for sure, and obviously like we talked about apple, saying my early apple fans and things like that. But yeah i mean so. Obviously i got to know tesla very, very early on, and i was i've always liked them. As a company and championed what they're doing - and i did a minute and a half of consulting for them way back in those early years - planning the roadster launch and have no - i mean jb - goes back to a startup in the 90s.

So they're they were. My people, especially when nobody else was building anything at all and at the time a buddy of mine, the cia director who's in the first film james woolsey. He called me up one day and said coming to the bay area come up and meet me, and i just take me around everything going on and he was involved with a venture capital firm that i later joined, and so of course i took him to tesla These were the days when i would just like walk through the door with somebody in tow somebody that i decided martin needed to know and wander through the building. Until i found somebody i knew, and so ultimately that led to vantage point becoming one of tesla's.

First, big investors from a venture capital standpoint: later my husband ended up working for tesla. He was um early service uh person on the western region, so helped set up ranger service and ran the la service store and everything basically from texas to hawaii was his and at night you know i would bake them cakes during the day and at night we'd Go take our rock band equipment and have rock band nights with the staff and the tvs in the showroom. And it was all very, very friendly. And at one point when in between martin and elon being ceos when one of the other guys in the middle was there, i very nearly ended up on tesla's board as part of vantage point and their representative there.

And i would pick up cars on the weekends and go run. Events for you know, work events and do media things and stuff where they didn't have the staff to do and so long time, tesla supporter in various ways, no access to grind at all. But neither do i tend to advertise all of these little things and and yeah i'm kind of sporadic on social media, but i'm not one of those people that post every single thing. I ever do that kind of thing.

So that's been the premise of tesla and later when the narrative started to change a lot, much more towards elon himself, doing all the things versus tesla doing all the things, but also, as i started, to see a lot of the customer service kind of slip. For a while and and lack of recognition that that the community really co-creates their success - and i mean i know lots of tesla drivers and most of them are very wonderful people. There are some that chime in on youtube or send me private notes to me. It was a joke for quite some time that the easiest way for me to get death threats was to say something about tesla that didn't suggest they were perfect or to say something remotely nice about gm.

Those are the two most trusted methods, wow, so yeah i mean, if that's your bar, you have to believe they're, perfect or you're a hater. Then yes, and of course all of this was pre-tesla q. I mean it all seems so quaint to me now of me going you know my basic yeah you could provide better service to your owners is somehow deemed a hater compared to that. What happens now, but that's kind of how that started, and it's i mean there's, there's tribes in all of this and there are other tribes with other companies, and so this is not unique.

But that's where i fall, and so i'm aware that, having that point of view about all the car companies, if i'm happy to talk about what they do right and what they do wrong and whatever none of them are perfect and none of them are evil. Like that's just not how i relate to any of these companies, i get that you try to have a balanced view. Yeah and i have friends in all of them and you know there's i don't pretend to be unbiased. I try to be fairly balanced, yeah and really somehow a bad thing in today's society.

I don't know how that's a bad thing, but a lot of people see that you know yeah wow, i didn't know you were that involved yeah. I knew that you knew him back then, and you were involved because i mean you were part of the the movement early in the days. Well, for a minute and a half i i ran um an automotive x prize before it became the one that it ultimately became, and that's actually how i met elon the first time i hadn't yet met him through tesla. He was.

It was so early that he wasn't quite as involved it's involved. He was just a yes, this x prize and he was on the board. I'm probably still is of x prize since we ran into each other in the hallway once and i was asked to describe what we're doing, and he looked at me and said why the would you do that we would just win. That was my very first conversation.

Okay, okay, you yeah, so you know the the trials and the problems that tesla's had with service in particular have been real right. Yeah uh. Are you familiar with that thing with rich rebuilds uh accounts of the thing i had at least generally yeah? I so they really did a number on him right. He bought a a used one because he was one of these guys that, like i totally get why they wouldn't want someone like him right, he's kind of like a hack and he's making fun of them and then he's putting these two things together, and he has No idea what he's doing right, he doesn't know he's not a mechanic he's, not a thing.

Um he's just trial and error. His way he's like me, i'm that person right, i don't know what i'm doing. I don't know what i'm talking about. I'm just trying my an error, my way through things and meanwhile being successfully like loud, and so they doesn't align well with their image.

So i could see where they'd be like. Oh, my god, this you know this guy. This dumb guy is just making too many waves uh making us look bad, but then he genuinely bought a car, a used car and they totally did a number on them. I mean they just had him going typing twice back and forth to dealers and the car.

Wasn't there and when they got the car, the car wasn't ready and it was it wasn't, and he, meanwhile, all this stuff was happening. He was being loud about it. He was making videos about it and he's been rightly so, being critical on the the treatment that he was getting. You know he was looking at it from a perspective as like as a consumer, and no one would like to go through that.

You know and yeah, and it was crazy because he took his credit. He never disclosed that tesla was vindictive and they totally just cut off his uh. His affiliate thing his referral program thing. They just disqualified him for no reason really just you know it was basically because he they didn't like him being negative, outspoken, the negative or critical on them.

Um wellness, i mean what i think is interesting euphemism for many purposes about that sort of thing. Is the vindictiveness is not new, it goes back a dozen years, or so i mean it's a long-standing thing and, to some degree, being the squeaky wheel was the way to get your stuff done. I mean especially going back to the bricked battery days, which started as um hi. Here's your 40 000 bill for your battery pack, because you were dumb enough to leave it on a boat.

To you know, eastern europe, without plugging it in or whatever stupid thing that always happened in order to break a battery pack. But if you complain loudly enough, then it became something else and, and it led to warranties that have served everybody else. So in some ways it's been good for the longer term effects, but this notion of needing to be loud and complaining and everybody tweeting elon versus being able to go through normal service channels to get decent service on your car has been around forever and yet the.

13 thoughts on “Chelsea Sexton Revenge of the Electric car – JGPodcast”
  1. Avataaar/Circle Created with python_avatars z. z.onichi says:

    Nice, Thanks for the interview, very cool to hear your updates and view on these topics.
    just wanted to add. i think gm made a mistake by ditching the Volt as well. they should have taken a bigger car like a decent SUV. use the voltec powertrain extend it to AWD EV increase the battery slightly to give it like 100km per charge. and have the ICE serve as a generator when battery range isn't sufficient like for long trips that gets like 1000km . this configuration would provide significantly improved efficiency when running in hybrid mode. overall for daily commutes. 90% of people would drive in EV mode. the ICE being only a generator could be something small and efficient like 4cyl engine.

  2. Avataaar/Circle Created with python_avatars VladBox says:

    Its not only about the electrification of the automobile, its also about the electrification of the mass transportation. Lets not forget the amount of "investment " oil companies have in the road infrastructure in this country and how much is their influence on the design of the cities.

  3. Avataaar/Circle Created with python_avatars Copisetic 1 says:

    Ya, western drought, reservoirs going dry, shutting down gas and coal fired plants. Wind generators collapsing, solar not even close to providing the power generation needed. No building of modern technology nukes, I think I’ll short Tesla stock.

  4. Avataaar/Circle Created with python_avatars Norm T says:

    We have Voltec in our 2018 CT6 2.0E plug-in and really enjoy the technology and efficiency. The 40 miles of range, up to 48 miles under ideal conditions, is a perfect compliment to daily driving and when going outside this range the 36-38 mpg from the 2.0T is good for almost 600 miles!

  5. Avataaar/Circle Created with python_avatars Joe says:

    EVs are not practical for anything outside a city. not to mention the availability of ICE. EVs are a fad. Watch.

  6. Avataaar/Circle Created with python_avatars Gordon Y says:

    Thank you for interviewing Chelsea Sexton. I didn't know she existed nor the movie, "Who Killed the Electric Car". Apparently it's not offered on Netflix, but I managed to see it on TubiTv. It's definitely an eye opener. I enjoy your channel and the only criticism is it's only for DIY'er, because most of it is way over my head. I'm a plug and play kind of guy, so if you decide to go that route in the future, you may become the next Wozniak or Gates.

  7. Avataaar/Circle Created with python_avatars Rick Rys says:

    When I turned in my Jetta and Touareg diesels to VW I wrote to them suggesting they make a compelling EV, as your only real way to redeem your company. I suggested they put their "A" team on the problem and go all it. ID3/ID4 are interesting but give me a VW Buzz (with V2G please) – I like my Tesla, but there is room for improvement.

  8. Avataaar/Circle Created with python_avatars HCJP BlueSky says:

    Charging infrastructure isn't "subsidized", if a utility gets approved to charge ~$.33/KWh. This happened for Nextera, in FL, and may be a viable model for cost recovery, on highways.

  9. Avataaar/Circle Created with python_avatars Vic Kipps says:

    I wish it was easy to import batteries cheep in South Africa its just so expensive here

  10. Avataaar/Circle Created with python_avatars Vic Kipps says:

    To dry it out put it in the sun and a packet of rice will dry it out

  11. Avataaar/Circle Created with python_avatars Ginnyella Ann Broughton says:

    My friend have a good day any amount of battery will be highly appreciated for my diy thanks

  12. Avataaar/Circle Created with python_avatars Anthony Alleyne says:

    I wish it was easy to import your batteries to Barbados without having to get a special license.. I so want to buy.

  13. Avataaar/Circle Created with python_avatars DemonsOfRazgriz says:

    and so close to that 500 lol only had 309 during the livestream.

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