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Why Can't You Lease a Tesla?

PORTLAND, Ore. (TheStreet) -- Those looking to lease a Tesla anywhere are in the same frustrating fix as those trying to buy one in New Jersey or Missouri: They just can't.

Last year, Tesla introduced its Resale Value Guarantee, which allows owners of its Model S to sell their financed vehicle back to Tesla between the end of months 36 and 39, regardless of the loan's term. That buyback price is 50% of the original base purchase price of the 60 kWh Model S plus 43% of the original purchase price for all of the options, including the upgrade to the 85 kWh battery pack -- not including taxes, fees and accessories. What it isn't, however, is an auto lease.

Not only do you have to finance the vehicle as you would if you were buying it, but you're paying taxes on the full price of the vehicle rather than on the amount the car will depreciate over the lease term -- the portion of the vehicle's value that you'll use during the lease. Meanwhile, you're still limited to 15,000 miles a year while you're financing between 60% and 90% of your vehicle?

Why does Tesla prefer this method? Because, as you may have gleaned during the past few months after watching Tesla deal with the states, it does not like third-party involvement. It doesn't want a dealer in the mix, it doesn't want a bank backing its deals -- it wants a direct sale. While announcing a small-business version of the Resale Value Guarantee this year, Tesla left the distinct impression it doesn't think much of standard lease agreements:

While customers have become accustomed to lease agreements that run as long as 10 pages, we found that we could say all that needed to be said in less than three pages -- and it's written in plain language. In keeping with the Tesla way of doing things, our customers can handle and sign their lease agreements completely electronically. Customers are able to view an electronic version of the lease agreement upfront before delivery. Even the signature process at delivery is simple: a one-button tap on the 17-inch touchscreen in their new Model S is all it takes.

Tesla sees its financing options as an extension of its innovation, asserting that "when combined with the fuel savings of Model S, [they] provide an attractive value proposition compared to what's available for a gasoline-powered car." What the company isn't saying is that there's no way it can offer a traditional lease and still provide its customers the U.S. government's $7,500 Plug-In Electric Drive Vehicle Credit.

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