Boycott Israel Campaign 2012


Boycott Israel Campaign 2012

Last Updated 4th June 2012


The boycott of Israeli products and companies supporting Israel is a peaceful means of putting international pressure on apartheid Israel and follows in the footsteps of the successful boycott against South African apartheid. Help end Palestinian suffering by boycotting Israel today!



The guilty companies (Boycott Israel card [front])

The guilty companies (Boycott Israel card [back])


Why are these companies on the boycott list?

Summary of how each company on the boycott list is supporting Israel:





Israels Keter Group is one of the world’s leading manufacturers and marketers of plastic consumer products. The Israeli plastics giant is privately owned by the Sagol family, and has a turnover of $1.1 billion, 90% of which is derived from overseas sales.


Its product range includes garden furniture, outdoor storage solutions and sheds, shelving systems and utility cabinets, tool boxes and storage products for the DIY market, household products, baby and toddler products.

Its brands, subsidiaries, and sister companies (all owned by the Sagol family) include ‘OutStanding Solutions’ (Keter garden storage), Lipski (plumbing accessories), Allibert (bathroom accessories), Curver (plastic home & food storage), Jardin (garden furniture), and Contico Europe (plastic storage boxes). Keter products are also sold under the Black & Decker, B&Q and Homebase brands.

Whilst the profits end up in Israel, not all the products are produced in Israel, for example Allibert has factories in France & Belgium, whilst Curver has factories in Poland & Hungary. Keter has 12 factories in Israel, 2 of which are in the illegal settlements.

Stanley toolboxes are also made in Israel by Israeli plastics company ZAG (90% owned by Stanley).

For more information see the Shopping Can Kill campaign.




The Straus Group is Israels second largest food company with a turnover $1.8 billion in 2010 and 13,500 employees operating twenty-five production sites in twenty-one countries around the world. Its brands in the USA include Sabra (hummus dips) and Max Brenner (chocolate cafes). Strauss Coffee is currently the fifth-largest coffee company in the world, dominating the central and eastern European markets (Doncafe) as well as Brazil.


The Strauss Group on its website, on the page on “Corporate Responsibility – Community Involvement” reveal their deep rooted support for the Israeli army, and in particular the infamous Golani platoon, known for its brutality, which the Strauss group has “adopted” for over 30 years.


In July 1998 Danone opened its R&D facility in Israel – the Danone Insitute, and later the same year in October 1998 Mr. Franck Riboud, on behalf of Danone received the Jubilee Award by the Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu.[Jubilee Award]


Danone owns a 20% share of Israel’s second largest food company, the Strauss Group. Danaone Israel is the hub supplying Danone products to the whole Middle-East including Turkey, Greece, Egypt and Jordan.


Israeli food company Tivall is one of the world’s leading suppliers of meat-substitute products. It has a turnover of $74 million and has 451 employees[59] It has a manufacturing base at Kibbutz Lochamei Hagetaot in Northern Israel, and a new facility in the Czech Republic.


Tivall brand products can mainly be found in health food stores – their website mentions Holland & Barrett, Fresh & Wild, and Planet Organic. But most of their sales are through the supermarkets who rebrand Tivall products as part of their own frozen “Meat-free” range. This includes Tesco, Asda, Morrisons and Sainsbury’s. Morrisons also stocks Tivall brand Frankfurter. Waitrose online site Ocado sells a full range of Tivall products.


Osem is Israels 4th largest food & beverages company (by turnover) after Tnuva, Strauss and Coca-Cola. It has a turnover of $712 million and nearly 5000 employees with 14 factories in Israel.


Its brands include Beit Hashitah (pickles), Of Tov (frozen meat products), Habait (ready made cakes) and Sabra Salads (ready-made salads and spreads). Osem also owns 58% of meat-substitute manufacturer Tivall Foods.

According to Osem’s website its products are sold in Marks & Spencer, Tesco, Sainsbury and Morrison, with each store marketing them under their own label. Waitrose online site Ocado sells a range of Osem products from soups, crackers and croutons. Tesco online sells a range of Osem cakes.

In April 2009, Osem UK announced its acquisition of Yarden GB. Yarden GB’s product range includes chilled meats and Yarden wines from the Golan Heights Winery, located in Katzrin on the occupied Syrian Golan Heights. Golan Heights Winery exports 38% of all Israeli wines, its wine brands also include Gamla and Golan. According to Yarden GB’s website its products are available in Tesco, Asda, Sainsbury, Morrisons, Budgens, Somerfield, Waitrose and Harrods. Waitrose online site Ocado sells a range of Yarden meat and houmous products.


Nestlé is the world’s largest food company, it owns 53.8% share of leading Israeli food manufacturer Osem, an investment worth over $850 million.


In 1998, Mr. Peter Brabeck-Letmathe on behalf of Nestle, received the Jubilee Award by the Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu [Jubilee Award]. Following the award in June 2002 Nestle opened its Research & Development Centre in Israel, in Sderot. And since then it has steadily increased its investment in Israel, its initial 10% stake in Osem has now grown to a controlling 53.8%. Nestle also owns Nespresso Israel Ltd in Tel Aviv which supplies coffee brewing equipment. In 2010 Nestle acquired a 51% stake in Israeli babyfood company Materna Laboratories for $72 million.

Nestle has 9 factories in Israel, which after China(18) and Russia(11) is the highest number in any country in Asia – disproportionately high when one considers its size and population. And in May 2011, Nestle announced plans to build another factory in Israel, an ice cream plant worth $40 million.

Nestlé also owns 30% stake in L’Oréal, another company on the boycott list.

Coca Cola

A detailed account of Coca-Cola’s links to Israel is provided here:

A summary:

From 1966 Coca-Cola has been a staunch supporter of Israel. In 1997 the Government of Israel Economic Mission honored Coca-Cola at the Israel Trade Award Dinner for its continued support of Israel for the last 30 years and for refusing to abide by the Arab League boycott of Israel.

Every year Coca Cola bankrolls the American-Israel Chamber of Commerce Awards which honors companies that have contributed most to the Israeli economy. In 2009 a Coca-Cola sponsored award went to Israel’s Lobby AIPAC for its successful lobbying of the Senate to reject of the UN call for “immediate ceasefire” and endorse the continuation of the Israel military assault on Gaza.

In 2008 Coca-Cola tasked the Israeli venture capital Challenge Fund to locate suitable investments in Israel with a promise of “a blank cheque” . This agreement is exceptional in the Israeli venture capital industry.

In 2009 Coca-Cola hosted a special reception at the Coca-Cola world headquarters to honour Brigadier-General Ben-Eliezer. Ben-Eliezer is a wanted war criminal, during the Six-Day War his unit was responsible for the execution of over 300 Egyptian POWs. Under Sharon, Ben-Eliezer served as Defence Minister presiding over the massacre at Jenin.

For the past two decades, nearly every year, Coca-Cola has sponsored the JCC Maccabi Games whose stated aim is to cultivate Jewish youth in an informal setting to “encourage their identification with the state of Israel”. As part of this, Coca Cola has sponsored young children to visit Israeli military bases and spend time with war criminals in order to engender empathy, in their own words “visit an air force base.. talk with the pilots that are the elite Israel Defense Force fighters of the army.”.

Coca-Cola Israel, Israel’s third largest food & beverages company, owns dairy farms in the illegal Israeli settlements of Shadmot Mechola in the Jordan Valley and a plant in the industrial zone of Katzerin in the occupied Golan Heights.

Eden Springs

Eden Springs is an Israeli water cooler company that in Israel steals water from the Salukia spring in the the illegally occupied Syrian Golan Heights. This is in violation of UN resolution 242 and Article 55 of the Hague Regulations which specify that you cannot acquire territory by war and that you cannot plunder the natural resources of occupied territory. To clarify, the water in Eden Springs Coolers found in the UK is sourced locally, but the profits go back to Israel to finance its illegal activities.




SodaStream is an Israeli company manufacturing and distributing home carbonating devices and flavorings for soft drinks. The company’s main plant is located in the industrial zone of Mishor Edomim which is an illegal Israeli settlement in the West Bank. Kav LaOved, the NGO committed to protecting the rights of disadvantaged workers in Israeli companies, has reported that SodaStream factory workers, in particular Palestinians, are paid less than half the minimum wage and has described the working conditions in the factory as “one of the worst”, with workers being fired if they complain of the conditions.


SodaStream brands include: SodaStream, Soda-Club, AlcoJet, Sprudelino, Aquabar, Gazoz, Aquafizz, Aquabubbler, Penguin, Sodamaker, Fountain Jet and Edition1. Its products are available in Argos, Asda, Comets, Currys, Harvey Nichols, Homebase, John Lewis, Robert Dyas, Selfridges and House of Fraser.


Howard Schultz, the founder, chairman, president and chief executive officer of Starbucks who also owns 31.6 million shares of Starbucks stock (worth around $1.4 billion in Nov 2011) is an active zionist.


In 1998 he was honoured by the Jerusalem Fund of Aish HaTorah with “The Israel 50th Anniversary Friend of Zion Tribute Award” for his services to the zionist state in “playing a key role in promoting close alliance between the United States and Israel”. The ultra-right wing Jerusalem Fund of Aish HaTorah funds Israeli arms fairs chaired by the butcher of Jenin, General Shaul Mofaz, and the zionist media pressure group, they were also implicated in the production and distribution of the infamous islamophobic film ‘Obesession’. Starbucks proudly displayed the award on the company’s website under the section of ‘awarda and accolades’ the Starbucks company has won, however, once the boycott started to bite the award mysteriously disappeared from its website.

Howard Shultz work as a propagandist for Israel has been praised by the Israeli Foreign Ministry as being key to Israel’s long-term PR success. On April 4th 2002, whilst the Israeli army was slaughtering Palestinians in Jenin Howard Shultz made a provocative speech blaming the Palestinians, suggesting the intifada was a manifestation of anti- Semitism, and asked people to unite behind Israel. Starbucks also sponsors fund raisers for Israel.

At a time when other businesses were desperately pulling out of Israel, Starbucks decided to help Israel’s floundering economy and open Starbucks in Israel. The venture failed but Shultz has vowed Starbucks will “return to Israel in due course”.

Starbucks has opened outlets in US bases in Afghanistan and Iraq, and at the illegal torture centre in Guantanamo Bay. Customer Relations say “Starbucks has the deepest respect and admiration for U.S. military.. who risk their lives to protect Americans and our values of freedom and democracy”. Petty Officer Barry Tate who is serving in Guantanamo Bay agrees that Starbucks is helping “lift the morale” of the guards and interrogator’s at Guantanamo Bay.



McDonald’s Corporation is a major corporate partner of the Jewish United Fund and Jewish Federation. According to the Jewish United Fund, through its Israel Commission it “works to maintain American military, economic and diplomatic support for Israel; monitors and, when necessary, responds to media coverage of Israel”. The Jewish United Fund also runs “Fun-filled Summer Family Missions to Israel” where families get to “visit an army base and meet with Israeli soldiers” and “visit our sister city, Kiryat Gat and see the important work we are doing there”. Kiryat Gat is built on stolen Palestinian land – the lands of the villages of Iraq Al Manshiya and Al-Faluja whose residents were ethnically cleansed in 1949 in contravention of International Law. Through its “Partnership to Israel” programme, the Jewish United Fund provides $1.3 million annually to help further settlement and development of Kiryat Gat. The Jewish Federation, through its Israel Action Network is tasked to fight “efforts to boycott Israeli products” and “campaigns, such as equating Israel with apartheid South Africa”.

Another way McDonald’s supports the Jewish United Fund is by running a partnership scheme whereby they will match any donation an employee make to the Jewish United Fund with its own equal size donation.

McDonald’s first restaurant in the Middle East was in Israel, opened in 1993, since then it has 160 restaurants in Israel (1996) with a 60% market share, employing around 4000 Israelis. Since April 2009 McDonald’s has also opened 15 branches of McCafe chain in Israel, with plans to open 10 new branches every year.

McDonalds discriminates against its Arab workers, in 2004 it sacked an Arab worker in Israel because she was caught speaking arabic to another Arab employee. Arabic, along with Hebrew, is the official language of Israel spoken by 20% of the population.

According to the American Jewish Committee (AJC), whose Executive Director “regularly meets with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu”, McDonald’s in July 2001 immediately pulled an advertising campaign in Egypt when the ADC contacted them to complaint that the singer featured in the advert had in the past performed a song critical of Israel. Within 24 hours of the complaint, the advert was cancelled and according to the Egyptian franchise of McDonald’s “all copies of the tapes were whisked ‘back to the main offices'”!


Israeli Fresh Produce

In 2010 exports of Israeli fresh agricultural produce was worth $1.41 billion and most of it, some 87% was exported to Europe (UN Commodity Trade Statistics). Fruit, vegetables and herbs grown in Israel and on its settlements in the West Bank can be seen on sale at all the major supermarkets and greengrocers. Always check the label – avoid Israel and West Bank.


Until recently the main player was Israeli state owned company Carmel Agrexco, responsible for about 60-70% of all Israel’s agricultural exports. But in September 2011 Agrexco went bankrupt. This was due in part to fact that Agrexco has been the target of a sustained international boycott campaign. It has been recently reported that the Israeli Bickel Export Group has acquired Agrexco with plans to revive it in 2012 (target sales 50 million euros).

With the privately owned Israeli company Mehadrin Tnuport Export (MTEX) set to take Agrexco’s place as Israel’s biggest agricultural exporter the focus of the international boycott campaign is now firmly on MTEX with actions already having taken place (Nov 2011) outside its UK headquarters in Borehamwood and its French headquarters in Chateaurenard.

MTEX is Israel’s largest grower and exporter of citrus fruit responsible for 65% of overseas sales of Israel’s most recognisable brand on the supermarket shelves – JAFFA. They supply most of the supermarkets including Tesco and Sainsburys. MTEX ownes 50% of Miriam Shoham Ltd whose mangoes and pomegranates are available in Tescos and Asda.

Hadiklaim, the Israeli Date Growers Cooperative, which includes illegal settler plantations in the Jordan Valley, sells 65% of all Israeli dates. Its dates have brand names King Solomon, Jordan River, Tamara, Karsten Farms / Kalahari and Bomaja. Agrexco date brands include Jordan Plains and Jordan Valley.

Most supermarkets sell fresh herbs sourced from the illegal Israeli settlements on the West Bank. These include basil, sage, chives, rosemary, parsely, sorrel, marjoram, mint, thyme and tarragon. They are labelled ‘West Bank’ or ‘Israel’. ‘West Bank’ never refers to Palestinian goods as they don’t make it past the military checkpoints. Often settlements goods are labelled ‘Produce of Israel’ to avoid payment of tariffs when entering the EU – according to the EU-Israel Association Agreement goods produced outside the recognised borders of Israel (ie on the Israeli settlements on the Palestinian Occupied Territories) are not exhempt from import duties. A July 2008 Channel 4 news report revealed herbs grown on the illegal No’omi settlement on the West Bank, destined for the UK, were being mislabelled ‘produce of Israel’ in breach of the EU-Israel Association Agreement.

Other Israeli fresh produce brands to avoid include Edom (peppers, tomatoes and mangoes), Carmy (sweet potatoes), AdaFresh (herbs), Arava (peppers, Tomatoes, herbs) and Tali (table grapes).

..Information on other companies to follow shortly..




[Jubilee Award]On October 14, 1998, Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu presented a select group of international business people with the highest tribute ever awarded by the “State of Israel”. The Jubilee Award, marking Israel’s fiftieth year of independence, recognizes those individuals and organizations, that through their investments and trade relationships, have done the most to strengthen the Israeli economy.


Frequently Asked Question

Why so many companies?

Our strategy is to have a focused campaign where individual Israeli companies are targeted wherever possible rather than wide boycotts of whole stores. This means that whilst there are more brands on the list, they are actually easier to boycott. So for example whilst B&Q and Homebase are major sellers of Israeli plastic giant Keter’s products we are calling for a focused boycott of each Keter related brand – OutStanding, Lipski, Jardin, Allibert, Curver and Contico, rather than a blanket boycott of these stores.



Why are some of the brands in the previous Boycott Israel Campaign missing from this campaign?

Over time many companies have reconsidered their support for Israel and some have divested from Israel due to many reasons including the accumulated pressure of the boycott. These changes are reflected in the new card.




Disney, working with the Israeli embassy, was given 1.8 million dollars by Israel to promote Jerusalem as the capital of Israel at a special exhibition at its Epcot centre in Florida, strategically positioned so that every visitor to the centre would have to walk through the exhibition in order to reach the exit. Jerusalem is an illegally occupied Palestinian city and under international law can NEVER be the capital of Israel. The exhibition has since been removed so Disney is no longer on the boycott list.



Sara Lee

Sara Lee has divested its large stake in the Israeli textile giant Delta Galil so it along with its two dozen plus brands have all been removed from the boycott list.




Nokia Ventures Organization which had so heavily invested in Israel is no longer part of Nokia and is now called BlueRun Ventures and has many investors now. Note that Nokia is still one of its investors, but its stake in Israel is now no more prominent than countless other technology companies who are not on the boycott list, so Nokia has also been removed from the list.



Arsenal FC

Following a concerted campaign, Arsenal Football Club’s contract with the Israeli Tourism board to promote Israel as the teams “official and exclusive travel destination” on its digital perimeter boards (to an estimated 700 million viewers in 198 countries) was not renewed. Subsequently, Arsenal FC has been removed from the boycott list. Note that Arsenal still runs ‘Arsenal in the Galilee’ coaching project in Israel.




Selfridges flagship store in London was picketed for stocking a range of settlement products including Ahava and soon a boycott of the store followed. It no longer sells Ahava Dead Sea products on its website, although it does advertise Estee Lauder Origins ‘body scrubs’ which include Dead Sea salts. As part of our strategy of a more focused boycott campaign where individual Israeli brands like Ahava are targeted, Selfridges in no longer on the boycott list.




Whilst Danone is still on the boycott list, it has gone through some changes and lost some of its famous brands and these are no longer on the boycott list. Jacob biscuits is now owned by United Biscuits; HP foods and Lea & Perrins is now owned by H.J. Heinz; and similarly Galbani and LU Biscuits are also no longer owned by Danone.




What is the Boycott Israel card and how can I get one?


The Boycott Israel card is a handy sized card listing the companies that give support to apartheid Israel. The card is designed to be carried in your wallet or purse so that when you are out shopping you know what products to avoid.

Over the past 10 years, in conjunction with the Islamic Human Rights Commission (IHRC), we have published many versions of the Boycott Israel card. They began with credit card size to the now familiar A7 size, each version has seen many, many print runs, with perhaps a total distribution in excess of one million cards worldwide. This latest version was launched on 2nd December 2011.


Get Your Copy

If you would like copies of the card for local distribution ( in your community, solidarity group, Mosque or for your Palestine stall) please use the form below to order your free cards or telephone IHRC on (44)2089044222 (please remember to give them your email address as well as postal details):



Order Your Free Leaflets
Boycott Israeli Dates
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Boycott Israel Cards
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These list which companies and brands to boycott, its small size is designed to fit in your wallet or purse.
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2013 Automobile of the Year: Tesla Model S

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Last summer, Automobile Magazine editors had the opportunity to interview Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla, as the company launched its all-new electric sedan. A well-known industry insider warned us not to fall for Musk’s smooth talk. “Don’t bring any cash,” he said. “Because you’ll be offering to give it to him twenty minutes into the interview.”

To say there’s healthy skepticism regarding Tesla and its new wundercar is an understatement: in many industry circles, it borders on outright hostility. We understand why. Building a car — any car — is really hard. Musk, the PayPal billionaire whose automotive accomplishments were limited to converting 2350 Lotus Elises to run on batteries, was not only proposing a class-leading sport sedan, but he promised it would have a more advanced electric powertrain than anything global automakers could muster.

Tesla Model S Front Right Side View Tesla Model S Left Side View Tesla Model S Rear Right Side View Tesla Model S Dash Tesla Model S Gauges Tesla Model S Interior

He was doing this with our money — your money — courtesy of a $465 million loan from the Department of Energy, and he claimed to be doing it for our own good: “Since we are not appropriately pricing the CO2 capacity of the oceans and atmosphere, then the only way I could think to address that was with innovation.”

We believe the proper business term to describe such a gambit is chutzpah.

We left the interview with our wallets no lighter, eager to see how the Model S would perform in the real world, removed from Musk’s spin and Tesla’s chaperones. As it happened, that opportunity arrived at our Automobile of the Year exercise. That’s a rather intimidating environment to make a first impression, especially given that this year’s field was the strongest in recent memory. We weren’t expecting much from the Tesla other than some interesting dinner conversation as we considered “real” candidates like the Subaru BRZ and the Porsche Boxster. In fact, the Tesla blew them, and us, away.

Actually, the Model S can blow away almost anything. “It’s the performance that won us over,” admits editor-in-chief Jean Jennings. “The crazy speed builds silently and then pulls back the edges of your face. It had all of us endangering our licenses.” Our Model S was of Signature Performance spec, which means its AC induction motor puts out 416 hp and that it blasts to 60 mph in 4.3 seconds. Even those numbers — positively absurd for a large sedan that uses not a lick of gasoline — fail to communicate how crazy it actually feels. “It’s alarming to jam the accelerator of such a big car and have it surge forward so quickly and so quietly,” says copy editor Rusty Blackwell. Like most electric cars, the Model S generates its torque almost instantly. Unlike most electric cars, Tesla’s torque amounts to a prodigious 443 lb-ft, all of which goes to the rear wheels. The only indicators of your stunning momentum are the rush of scenery around you, a faint whine, and the digital speedometer’s difficulty keeping pace. “Driving the Model S is decidedly not like piloting a Nissan Leaf or an electric Smart,” notes road test editor Christopher Nelson. Contributor Ezra Dyer, meanwhile, was so impressed that he arranged an informal drag race to 100 mph with a 560-hp BMW M5. The Model S won. “It bears repeating: this thing is silly quick,” he concluded.

Of course, straight-line speed is hardly our only qualification for Automobile of the Year. Tesla’s first car, the two-seat Roadster, was even quicker but never made a serious bid for our award. That car was something of a one-trick pony — everything else about the $100,000 Roadster felt like the $50,000 Lotus Elise on which it was based. The Model S, developed by Tesla from the ground up and assembled at its factory in Fremont, California, is a holistic and incredibly novel experience.

The Model S looks conventional enough — somewhat disappointingly so. But that impression fades as soon as you walk up to it and the flush door handle powers out to meet your touch. Climb into the Tesla for the first time, and you’re liable to spend a few minutes searching for the ignition button. You won’t find it — the car turned on when you sat down, and it’s now waiting for you to shift into drive and glide away. The cabin is airy, modern, spacious, and impeccably trimmed in leather and wood. A flat battery pack and a rear-mounted motor yield a completely flat floor and a large, useful center-console storage area (the Model S uses a column-mounted shift lever supplied by Mercedes-Benz). Additional storage areas, such as map pockets in the door panels, might be nice but would spoil the interior’s appealing, Bauhaus simplicity.

An absolutely enormous, seventeen-inch touchscreen dominates the dashboard and features the controls for everything from the radio to the steering effort. That sounds like a recipe for disaster, but here it works wonderfully. Oh, yeah, and you can surf the Web on it, as well. “We turned a lot of preconceived notions on their head and said, ‘Why does it have to be that way?'” says Tesla lead designer Franz von Holzhausen. Of course, practically every new car claims to be revolutionary. But this one actually feels like it is, to the point that many of us were reaching outside the automotive lexicon to describe it. “It reminds me of the first time I used an iPhone,” gasped associate web editor Ben Timmins.

Tesla Model S Detail Tesla Model S Door Handle Tesla Model S Wheel Tesla Model S Interior Detail Tesla Model S Brake Tesla Model S Trunk Tesla Model S Plug Tesla Model S Left Side View 2 Tesla Model S Front Right Side View 2

There’s much about the Model S, which Musk himself refers to as “Tesla’s Macintosh,” that has an innovative, Apple flavor. As with the tech giant’s slickest products, there’s a sense that even the smallest details here have been lavished with attention in order to be as distinctive and elegant as possible. To open the panoramic sunroof, for instance, one brings up an overhead image of the car on the touchscreen and literally drags the roof as far back as desired. Why didn’t anyone think of that before? Then there’s Tesla’s controversial but intriguing strategy of distributing its products through company-owned boutiques rather than conventional dealers. It’s being run by George Blankenship, who set up those posh Apple stores. Finally, it’s hard to ignore that Tesla has in Musk a Steve Jobs-like figure, a relentless leader who guides the company’s direction. “They’re both brilliant, both thinking about things that other people won’t be thinking about for twenty years,” Blankenship says.

For all its high-tech novelty, the Model S does an exceptional job at the things we expect any high-priced sport sedan to do well. The electric power steering is nuanced and well-weighted, with natural buildup just off-center. Through corners, the Model S exhibits impressive body control and vacuumlike grip despite weighing more than 4500 pounds. Editors also raved about the suspension’s ability to soak up bumps that tortured other test cars. It was just as impressive on the racetrack — yes, we took it on the track. “All that speed, along with powerful braking, superflat handling, and sharp steering, gives you the sense that you’re invincible,” marvels Jennings. And although the exterior may be lacking in gotta-have-it character, it deserves credit for achieving a claimed 0.24 coefficient of drag — better than a Toyota Prius or a Chevrolet Volt — without those cars’ gawky styling. The only concession to weirdness and egotism are the optional rear-facing third-row seats, which Musk wanted so he could ferry around his many children.

The car’s professionalism owes to the fact that, despite its Silicon Valley sheen, Tesla employs plenty of people who know a lot about building cars. That begins with von Holzhausen, who penned the Pontiac Solstice, our 2006 Design of the Year, before moving on to Mazda. He joined Tesla’s design team four years ago — when Tesla basically didn’t have a design team. “There was nothing here,” he says. Huibert Mees of the Ford GT program led development of the Model S’s chassis components, and the steering was likewise developed by Ford and Lotus veterans. Despite Musk’s domineering reputation, the employees we’ve spoken to say he has a relatively hands-off management style. Continuing the comparison with the famously involved Jobs, Blankenship notes, “Steve hired incredibly bright people to get done what he wanted to get done. I think Elon hires incredible people and expects them to do what they were hired to do.”

You’ll note that we haven’t even discussed Tesla’s raison d’etre, which is, in Musk’s words, “To accelerate the advent of electric cars.” That’s another credit to the Model S’s overall execution and seductive powers. “The electric motor does not define this car,” says Nelson. But it is, at the end of the day, what makes this very good sport sedan an absolute game changer. The Model S’s range, rated by the EPA at 265 miles with the largest battery, finally fits the American conception of driving. Want to take the family from Washington, D.C., to New York? No problem. Stop for an hour at one of Tesla’s Supercharger stations being installed throughout the country, and you can travel on to Boston. The even bigger psychological advantage, though, is the freedom to go about your daily life, with all its spontaneity and last-minute shopping trips, without the fear of running low. Electric cars that participated in past Automobile of the Year competitions have required special testing procedures — shorter drive routes, strict guidelines against aggressive driving, industrial charging trucks. The Model S wore no such kid gloves. We plugged it in at night and then drove it all day — and drove it hard.

Granted, this freedom doesn’t come cheap. A Model S with an 85-kilowatt-hour battery, like the one we tested, starts at $78,750 (before a $7500 tax break). Less expensive versions have smaller batteries and shorter ranges, starting with $58,570 for 160 miles (again, before deductions). Put another way, though, the cheapest 85-kWh Model S offers more than three times the range of a Nissan Leaf for little more than twice the price. The battery pack should also be rather durable thanks to liquid cooling. But the most important factor here is that, more than any electric car that has come before it, the Model S feels and drives like a gasoline car of the same price. “There’s still a lot of novelty in driving an EV,” says senior editor Eric Tingwall, “but with the Model S, that’s no longer the only reason to drive one.” Design editor Robert Cumberford is more succinct: “I would happily own one.”

But you might not be able to get one. Only 250 sedans have been delivered to customers as of this writing — a rounding error for any mainstream automaker (some 13,000 customers have put down at least $5000 as a reservation). Musk himself admits that Tesla’s path to viability is far from complete. “There have been car company start-ups before. The real challenge is to ramp up production. Then we’re a real car company.”

We can’t say for certain whether Tesla will be able to make that happen. The auto industry is tough enough for a giant like General Motors. What we can say with this award is that Tesla deserves to succeed. It has managed to blend the innovation of a Silicon Valley start-up, the execution of a world-class automaker, and, yes, the chutzpah of its visionary leader. The result is the Model S. It’s not vaporware. It’s our Automobile of the Year.

Tesla Model S Front View Tesla Model S Rear Right View Tesla Model S Rear Seating Tesla Model S Frame Tesla Model S Body Frame

An 85-kWh battery puts the Model S’s range on par with conventional cars, but recharging still can’t match the speed and convenience of pumping gasoline. Despite that, Tesla intends to make long-distance, multi-charge road trips possible with a network of high-speed chargers that can inject 150 miles of range into the battery in thirty minutes. These Superchargers bypass the car’s onboard equipment and feed 400 volts of direct-current electricity straight to the battery through a thick, vinelike cord. Interestingly, the hardware that transforms the electricity from alternating current to direct current is the same as what’s carried in the car for 120- and 240-volt charging. The difference is that a Model S has one or two 10-kW chargers onboard, while the stationary Supercharger system uses a stack of twelve units that can produce a total of 120 kW.

Tesla Model S Front View Tesla Model S Rear View Tesla Model S Interior

Supercharger hardware comes standard on the 85-kWh Model S, and it’s a $2000 option on 60-kWh models. Either way, owners are entitled to free electricity from the Superchargers for the life of their car.

Some Supercharger stations will be paired with solar-panel-clad carports supplied by SolarCity, another Musk outfit. This arrangement gives owners a clear conscience when it comes to the environmental impact of their electricity sources, as Tesla claims the photovoltaic panels will feed more electricity into the grid than the Superchargers will to cars. Today, there are just six Superchargers scattered throughout California, but Tesla claims that owners will be able to drive from San Diego to Vancouver, Miami to Montreal, and Los Angeles to New York, stopping at Superchargers along the way, by next year.










Electric cars


The long, (mostly) slow struggle.

//1830s The first rudimentary electric vehicles emerge, powered by one-use power-storage units. The four-stroke gasoline engine is still four decades away.

//1859 Rechargeable lead-acid storage batteries are invented in France.

//circa 1890 William Morrison of Des Moines, Iowa, produces the first American electric car. Powered by 24 batteries, it has 4 hp and can go 20 mph — double the top speed of Karl Benz’s gas-powered Patent-Motorwagen. Maximum range is 40 to 50 miles.

//1899 Belgian Camille Jenatzy hits 65.8 mph in La Jamais Contente, his missile-shaped electric car.

//1900 Electric cars account for more than a third of all sales in the fledgling U.S. auto market and prove especially popular in cities.

//1909 Thomas Edison perfects his nickel-iron battery and markets it to automakers.

//1912 Electric cars lose their most compelling advantage — convenience — when Cadillac introduces “the car that has no crank.”

//1913 A Detroit Electric travels 211 miles on a single charge, setting a new record. Range of 80 miles is more typical. Prices start at about $2650, equivalent to $61,300 in today’s dollars.

//by 1920 High cost, limited range, and cheap oil contribute to a sharp decline in electric-car sales.

//1940 Detroit Electric, which had shifted to commercial vehicles and outlasted all of its competitors, finally goes out of business.

//1974 The Florida-built CitiCar debuts and offers about 30 miles of range. It’s relatively popular, finding more than 2000 buyers in its first two years. But the homely, plastic-bodied two-seater does nothing to improve the greater perception of electric cars.

//1996 General Motors begins leasing the EV1, the first modern electric car. Range starts at 70 to 100 miles. An upgraded version with nickel-metal-hydride batteries goes on sale three years later with 100 to 140 miles of range.

//2003 The California Air Resources Board ends its initiative to require zero-emissions vehicles. GM, along with Toyota and others, ceases production of electric vehicles soon thereafter. Meanwhile, in Silicon Valley, Tesla is born.

//2008 Despite several fits and starts, the Lotus Elise-based, lithium-ion-battery-powered Tesla Roadster goes on sale. Then-chairman Elon Musk promises a scratchbuilt BMW 5-series competitor within three years.

//2009 Tesla, along with several other firms, receives millions of dollars in funding from the U.S. Department of Energy. It uses the loan to develop the “Whitestar” (the Model S) and to acquire Toyota’s shuttered plant in Fremont, California.

//2010 The Nissan Leaf brings the electric car to the mainstream. We name the plug-in hybrid Chevrolet Volt the 2011 Automobile of the Year.

//2011 The Fisker Karma wins our 2012 Design of the Year.

//2012 The introductions of an electrified Honda Fit and Ford Focus, a Tesla-powered Toyota RAV4, and, of course, the Model S, make for the busiest year in electric cars since the early twentieth century.










Fifty years at Fremont


From Chevys to Toyotas to Teslas

by Ronald Ahrens

The factory in Fremont, California, where the Tesla Model S is built, has always been cutting-edge, with operations continually tinged by government involvement. Constructed near San Francisco Bay’s backwaters in 1962, the “four-in-one” Fremont Assembly Plant represented General Motors’ greatest effort to avoid monopoly prosecution. If GM made Chevrolets alongside Buicks, Oldsmobiles, and Pontiacs, how could the Justice Department carry out its threat to spin off Chevy as a separate company?

Two years after job one, GM head Frederic Donner came to Fremont, announcing a $2 billion worldwide manufacturing expansion. Governor Pat Brown also attended and delivered “quite a political talk and tossed out figures that were a great deal bigger,” Chevy chief Semon “Bunkie” Knudsen wrote.

But GM proved a vulnerable monopoly. Fremont closed in 1982. Thanks to a GM/Toyota joint venture, it reopened in 1984 as New United Motor Manufacturing, Inc. Toyota used NUMMI to evade import restrictions threatened by Congress. Meanwhile, GM learned lean manufacturing practices. The Toyota Corolla (rebadged as the Chevy Nova and the Geo Prizm), the Toyota Matrix, and the Pontiac Vibe were among roughly eight million vehicles produced before the partnership ended in 2009. Toyota subsequently struck a deal with Tesla that included factory space, California offered tax incentives, and Tesla landed a $465 million federal loan.

Tesla paid $42 million for the factory in May of 2010 and an additional $17 million for machine tools and spare parts.

“We had this megafactory, and we wanted to take full advantage of the infrastructure in order to manufacture at very low cost,” said Gilbert Passin, Tesla’s vice president of manufacturing. He noted that Tesla also salvaged tooling at bargain prices elsewhere in the distressed auto industry. While a new plant at a greenfield site typically represents an investment of at least $1 billion, Tesla probably has less than one-third that amount tied up in Fremont. Passin said 95 percent of all Model S parts are made in-house, an uncommonly high amount in an industry that relies heavily on outside suppliers.

Visiting last summer, we saw that only a portion of the five million square feet of floor space was in use. In an upstairs clean room, about 350 employees — some of whom formerly worked for NUMMI — put together battery packs and electric-drive components on two shifts, while another 450 workers sporadically assembled bodies and chassis on ground level. (Corporate headquarters lies across the Bay, in Palo Alto, and the design center is in Southern California.) The Tesla factory’s innovative modular assembly process relies on so-called “smart carts” to carry the bodies through assembly, automatically raising or lowering as needed and periodically recharging while traversing the line. This method turns away from the traditional use of overhead conveyors, saving millions of dollars. Meanwhile, each newly purchased robot typically performs five different tasks, and advanced artificial intelligence allows one to install the Model S’s panoramic roof by analyzing a digital image.

Tesla hoped to ramp up to eighty cars per shift by the end of 2012, but during our walk-through, it was quiet enough to hear a silver dollar drop.