Rap musician Will.i.am drives one. So does actor Matt Damon. It’s the Tesla Roadster, the sleekest sports car on the road today. But get this: It’s a 100% battery-powered electric vehicle. No gasoline. Ultra green. And in 3.9 seconds, it accelerates from zero to 60 miles per hour.
However, this two-seat convertible from Tesla Motors sells for $101,500, and the waiting list has 1,300 high-profile customers. Yet the Tesla Roadster gives a glimpse of the wave of the future, and with President Barack Obama putting automakers’ feet to the fire, green cars may become commonplace sooner than later. “Obama’s fuel-efficiency mandate is great news for alternative-fuel vehicles, particularly EVs (electric vehicles), which are dramatically more efficient than internal combustion engine vehicles (gas guzzlers) or hybrids,” says Rachel Konrad, senior communications manager of San Carlos, California-based Tesla Motors.
Will.i.am is a very passionate and outspoken environmentalist and has mentioned Tesla in his lyrics. In general, though, blacks are only slowly changing into the green lane.
In Georgia, Ford dealer Steven Ewing, CEO of Wade Ford in Smyrna, Georgia (No. 7 on the BE Auto Dealers list with $213.7 million in sales) finds that African Americans have not yet acquired a taste for hybrids. Blacks are also not well-represented in Ohio among Mike Pruitt’s Honda Insight customers. He expects purchases of hybrids will increase as green awareness circulates more among African Americans. “Once that gas hits $3 a gallon, you’ll see a lot of people start thinking about the hybrids, either ours or Toyota’s,” Pruitt says.
It’s the same story in Wisconsin, with few blacks as hybrid customers. “It’s more of the white-collar worker that comes in to purchase that car: Someone who goes online, does the research and comes in and buys the car,” says Boyland Honda’s Ron Bridges. “They enjoy the styling, but mainly what they are after is good fuel consumption. It used to be when a person first bought that car, they wanted to make a statement, ‘I am concerned about the environment.’ But now the people that buy that car are interested in saving money. They like to be green, but they want to save green,” adds Bridges.