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2012 Tesla Model S
As the first cars are set to arrive in European dealers next year, Tesla Motors [NSDQ:TSLA] has announced its new European distribution center in Tilburg, Netherlands.
The facility will serve as a final assembly point for European vehicles, as well as acting as Tesla’s distribution hub and regional service center.
The 62,000 square-foot facility will be central to Tesla’s roll-out of Model S cars through Europe. The first European Model S will enter production at Tesla’s Fremont plant in March 2013, before being shipped to Tilburg for final assembly.
As well as distribution and servicing, Tesla will use the facility for training, importing operations, parts remanufacturing, collision repair and more. Tesla expects up to 50 new jobs to be created in the next few years.
Many European Tesla dealerships have already begun taking orders for the electric sedan, while some still have stocks of the Roadster left.
Official pricing hasn’t yet been announced, though as with the U.S, European buyers can choose between standard and Signature Edition Model S.
Also in common with the U.S, many European countries offer tax incentives and rebates for the purchase of electric cars, plus exemptions from local vehicle taxes, parking charges and inner-city congestion charging.
2012 Tesla Model S Signature
It looks like Tesla may just have done it again.
Compared to Nissan’s challenged public responses to hot-weather range-loss problems in its Leaf electric car, a recent move by Tesla to offer free Supercharging to early buyers of the 60-kWh version of its 2012 Model S looks like brilliant customer relations.
Or at least it looks brilliant to me. I’m set to take delivery in December of my own all-electric Tesla Model S luxury sport sedan.
And after a surprise e-mail from Tesla Motors [NSDQ:TSLA] earlier this week, I’m a really, really happy customer right now.
Here’s the story.
I put down my deposit more than three years ago, so I’m pretty early in the queue (reservation P 717, out of 13,000 outstanding as of last week).
My number came up in August, and I chose my battery size (60 kWh, the middle of three alternatives) and color (green), specified the options I wanted, and signed my purchase agreement on September 5.
One of the options supposedly available to me at that time was Supercharging: the onboard hardware and software required to use the network of ultra-fast charging stations that Tesla had been teasing for months–though it hadn’t then officially unveiled any details.
According to Tesla’s website, Supercharging was to be standard on the 85-kWh Model S, optional at a price “to be determined” on 60-kWh cars like mine, and unavailable on the base 40-kWh version.
But I didn’t see a Supercharger box to check on my purchase agreement. No problem: Since I knew little about Supercharging, and the price had not yet been determined, I wouldn’t have opted for it any case.
Then, on September 24, Tesla officially unveiled the Supercharger system. The big news was that the charging service would be free for all Model S owners equipped with the hardware to handle it.
Four days later, I got an e-mail announcing the price of the Supercharger option for my 60-kWh car: $1,000 for the hardware, plus $1,000 for software testing and calibration.
But, the e-mail continued, “Since you are an early reservation holder and booked your 60-kWh Model S before complete Supercharging information was available, we planned ahead to build your Model S with Supercharger hardware at no additional cost to you.”
2012 Tesla Model S Charging Connector
The testing and calibration, however, would still cost $1,000. Did I want my Supercharging hardware enabled at that price?
I mulled that one for a while. Though I don’t often make long cross-country trips, it would be nice to have the option.
It seemed a waste to have the Supercharging hardware in the car, but unusable. And, frankly, I didn’t want to miss out on the full Tesla experience.
So, what the hell? I clicked the “Add Supercharging ” box.
Four days later came the e-mail that shocked and delighted me.
“After revisiting some of the explanations we used on our website and in our Design Studio the past few months, we feel as though it was not as clear as it should have been regarding the requirement to activate Supercharging on 60-kWh battery cars.”
“As a result, we are going to waive the entire fee to enable Supercharging on your 60-kWh Model S. You will now receive free, unlimited Supercharging on your car at no additional cost.”
Tesla Supercharger fast-charging system for electric cars
“We apologize for the confusion. We thought our explanations were clear, but they were not clear enough.”
To be honest, I was never confused about the Supercharger option.
But I will happily accept Tesla’s largesse, and take it as a very positive sign for the future: This is a company that clearly wants to keep its customers happy.
Now, about that Model S service program….
David Noland is a Tesla Model S reservation holder and freelance writer who lives north of New York City. This is his fifth article for High Gear Media.
By David Noland
2012 Tesla Model S
Well, they made it!
Tesla Model S-driving trio Peter Soukup, Tina Thomas and Luba Roytburd successfully arrived in New York City after almost five thousand miles of driving coast-to-coast.
After starting in Portland, Oregon on December 26, the team drove down the West Coast, before cutting across Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Louisiana, Alabama, South Carolina, and then up the East Coast.
They announced their arrival in NYC with a Tweet on Monday.
“If I can make it here, I can make it anywhere and we made it! Electric Road Trip S successfully finished in NYC, final mileage 4887!”
The team then thanked Tesla and Elon Musk for “an amazing car”.
Over the course of the journey, the team made use of several different charging stations, including Tesla’s own Supercharger network, for speedy charging and shorter stops.
Musk himself tweeted about the trip, suggesting that by the end of 2013, “it will be Superchargers all the way!”.
Congratulations to the team for reaching their goal. With a few more rapid chargers along the way and electric car range rising all the time, we doubt it’s the last such trip we’ll be hearing about over the next few years…
You can read the team’s own report on the Electric Road Trip S blog.
‘Revenge of the Electric Car’ premiere: Elon Musk arrives in a Tesla Roadster
Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk is hardly shy and retiring.
He tweets out random financial results, states as fact things that haven’t quite happened yet, and regularly speaks his mind.
Yesterday, he described the troubled Boeing 787 Dreamliner’s battery pack design as ‘inherently unsafe,’ which could add fuel to the…ahem…fire.
It came just one day after his offer to help Boeing resolve its problem with fires in the 787′s lithium-ion packs, designed by Japanese battery-cell company GS Yuasa.
(It’s worth noting that SpaceX, the other company Musk runs, competes directly with Boeing for certain government contracts for space-launch vehicles.)
Musk, who has run Tesla Motors [NSDQ:TSLA] for several years, laid out his thoughts on battery design in a detailed e-mail to the website Flightglobal.
In it, he termed the architecture of the GS Yuasa battery packs supplied to Boeing “inherent unsafe,” and predicted more fires from the same causes due to its design.
Specifically, Musk criticized the use of large-format lithium-ion cells “without enough space between them to isolate against the cell-to-cell thermal domino effect.”
He also noted that when thermal runaway occurs in the larger cells, more energy is released by the single cell than comes from a small-format “commodity” cell, of the type used by the thousands in Tesla battery packs.
And he went on to highlight what he viewed as the dangers of batteries using those large-format cells, saying they have a “fundamental safety issue” because it’s harder to keep the internal temperature of a large-format cell consistent from the center to the edges.
Not surprisingly, Mike Sinnett–Boeing’s chief engineer for the 787 project–counters that the company designed the pack to cope with not only a single cell failure but to contain runaway thermal events as well.
The 787 battery problems have sparked a deluge of news coverage, with the Seattle Times noting yesterday that Boeing had numerous problems with the batteries before the fires that led to the grounding of all 787 planes worldwide.
Boeing 787 Dreamliner
The chemistry used in the Boeing 787 cells is not the same as that used in today’s electric cars, a point largely overlooked by many reporters.
But Musk’s comments highlight a second issue: the use of large-format lithium-ion cells (some roughly the size of a very thin paperback book) versus the smaller commodity cells (somewhat larger than a AA battery) that Tesla uses.
Musk’s critique, although he didn’t explicitly say so, could be extended beyond the 787 Dreamliner to indict the pack design of all electric cars that use large-format lithium-ion cells.
Those include, oh, every single modern plug-in electric car except the Tesla Model S.
Tesla Motors is the sole maker that builds its packs out of thousands of small ‘commodity’ lithium-ion cells (from Panasonic, for the Model S) rather than using hundreds of large-format cells.
Battery-pack engineering is a complex, multifaceted art.
There’s the physical design of a large, heavy component that must be engineered into the vehicle’s structural design.
There’s positioning of the cells inside the pack to protect against thermal runaway.
Tesla Motors – Model S lithium-ion battery pack
There’s thermal conditioning, in which a pack is passively or actively heated or cooled to keep its cells within a desired temperature range, both extending their life and reducing the chance of catastrophic cell failure.
Each electric-car maker takes a somewhat different approach: Nissan uses just passive cooling in its Leaf battery electric car, but has had no recorded fire incidents at all to date.
It has, however, had problems with reduction in energy capacity early in the life of cars that cover high mileages in high temperatures.
The Chevrolet Volt, on the other hand, uses only two-thirds of its pack energy and has active liquid cooling for its pack (as does the Model S).
So has Musk has implicitly slammed the pack designs of the Nissan Leaf, Chevrolet Volt, and a host of other electric cars with battery packs of 16 kilowatt-hours or more?
If so, is this a good strategy for the CEO of a startup electric-car maker?
Leave us your thoughts in the Comments below.
Tesla Model S with DISRUPT license plate, March 2013 [photo: Sam Villella]
Accessories are a huge part of the auto business, and for every car, somewhere there’s a business (or a few dozen) offering aftermarket items the manufacturer hasn’t, can’t, or won’t provide.
And so it turns out to be for the Tesla Model S, the all-electric sport sedan from Silicon Valley startup Tesla Motors [NSDQ:TSLA].
Founded by Tesla owner Roger Pressman, who took delivery of a very early Model S with serial number 00184, Teslaccessories.com plans to offer aftermarket add-ons for the Model S.
The company’s first product is the Center Console Insert, which slides into the empty center tray on the floor of the Model S just ahead of the front seats.
The Console Insert has stitched leather sides and a carbon-fiber pattern top surface, and it contained both a cupholder and a closeable compartment with a sliding tambour door.
The pricing is not given on the company’s website, although there’s a signup procedure to get on a priority waiting list for the item (which the company says was released last week).
Signing up on a waiting list is a process Model S owners will be familiar with, since Tesla took deposits for Model S reservations up to three years before it delivered the cars.
With something like 5,000 cars delivered to date (Tesla won’t say), and production at 400 cars a week, the pool of Model S owners is growing every day.
Center Console Insert for Tesla Model S offered by Teslaccessories.com
And you can view the arrival of a dedicated aftermarket firm exclusively for the vehicle as another tiny indicator of success for Tesla Motors.
It won’t make any difference to the company’s viability as a global auto business, of course.
But the launch of Teslaccessories.com can be viewed as yet another bit of validation by a member of what have to be some of the most enthusiastic–if occasionally critical, or at inquisitive–owner bodies of any new car in the world.
We look forward to hearing about additional aftermarket accessories for the Tesla Model S.
Tesla Model S with DISRUPT license plate, March 2013 [photo: Sam Villella]
Electric-car maker Tesla is on a roll–its first quarter was profitable, its stock price is soaring, and Consumer Reports gave its Model S a rave review.
That has led many writers to compare the company to Apple Inc. [NSDQ:AAPL].
Now one analyst has taken it further: In a Bloomberg column, Chamath Palihapitiya suggests that Apple should simply buy Tesla Motors [NSDQ:TSLA].
And, Palihapitiya writes, if Steve Jobs were still alive, he would have done so. He argues:
The right move would be for Apple to enter the car space, buy Tesla and make Elon Musk the CEO. Cook could move back to COO. Obviously this will never happen. The market is too big. Tesla is too good, and Cook is probably too weak to do something this radical.
Apple has designs on your dashboard, granted, and it is working with carmakers to integrate its Siri Q+A service into car infotainment systems.
Apple also has the money: Even assuming a 100-percent price premium over Tesla’s current market capitalization of $8.8 billion, buying Tesla would cost Apple only 12 percent of its $145-billion cash hoard.
So it’s doable.
But it would probably be a spectacularly bad idea.
Writing about Apple’s rumored plans to enter the television market, Palihapitiya writes, “TVs will probably turn out to be a very difficult product category.”
So cars, meanwhile, would be easy?
Apple designs remarkable consumer electronic products that share the following characteristics:
- Product cycles of 18 to 36 months
- Superb, sometimes revolutionary user interfaces
- Outsourced manufacturing in developing countries
- Core technology is low-power consumer electronics
- Size is small enough to carry; weight is a few ounces to 30 pounds
Tesla’s designs, on the other hand, differ rather a lot from Apple’s:
- Product cycles of 3 to 7 years
- User-interface innovation confined to infotainment; steering, brakes, accelerator all conventional
- Manufacturing done in-house by automakers of scale
- Core technology is energy storage in battery, and high-power electric motor-generator plus power electronics
- Size is more than 16 feet long; weight is more than 2 tons
The similarities and shared expertise are … where, exactly?
Sure, Apple tends to enter new categories within its core industry.
‘Revenge of the Electric Car’ premiere: Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk on red carpet
But we’d suggest that going into carmaking would be roughly as smart as Apple going into, say, deep-sea oil exploration–another industry where electronics and sensors are increasingly key to success.
We’ve long argued that Tesla is not likely to remain independent as a carmaker. At some point, we believe, it will be bought by one of perhaps a dozen global automakers.
By far the most logical candidates are Daimler and Toyota, each of which owns a minority share of Tesla. An outlier might also be its lithium-ion cell supplier, which also has a stake in the company.
But may we suggest a different acquirer? What about Ford Motor Company [NYSE:F]?
Ford is at best lackluster about the prospects of battery-electric vehicles.
Its Ford Focus Electric is apparently only a compliance car, and the company has said in the past it doesn’t expect it to sell well–a self-fulfilling prophecy, apparently.
But we note that company chairman Bill Ford (whose name is on the building) recently expressed his admiration for Tesla and its recent successes.
“My hat’s off to them,” Ford said at a Los Angeles conference last Tuesday, although the company needs to be “mindful as they scale.”
1903 Ford Model A Rear Entry Tonneau and Bill Ford, Jr.
Of the big global companies, Toyota has placed its bets on hybrids (Ford makes some too, but only a fraction of Toyota’s volume). GM has its Chevy Volt, Nissan its all-electric Leaf and other battery cars coming, and Volkswagen is doing a bit of everything.
It’s a sign of Detroit’s inherent conservatism that Ford jokingly called himself as a “Bolshevik” for pledging that the company would raise fuel efficiency 25 percent from 2000 to 2005–a commitment it did not keep.
If Ford came to see plug-in electric cars as necessary to comply with increasingly stringent global fuel-efficiency rules, buying Tesla could catapult it to the front of the crowd.
That makes more sense, at least, than an Apple acquisition.
As Ford cautioned, “Running a car company is different than running a tech company.”
2013 Tesla Model S electric sport sedan [photo by owner David Noland]
The big news in plug-in car sales for March was Tesla’s statement that it delivered “more than 4,750″ Model S electric cars from January through March.
That news early Monday not only sent stock in Tesla Motors [NSDQ:TSLA] soaring, it also cued up an interesting three-way horse race.
Those sales put the Model S on a par with the Volt, ahead of the Leaf, and add roughly another third or so to the total number of plug-in cars from established makers that were delivered for the quarter.
Would Chevrolet manage to deliver more than 2,000 Volt range-extended electric cars to outsell the Model S?
And how quickly would sales of the 2013 Nissan Leaf rise now that cars are flowing freely from the Tennessee assembly line where they’re now built?
CEO Ghosn promises Leaf sales
Last month, while Volt sales recovered, Leaf deliveries were hampered by low inventory.
With production of the U.S.-built 2013 Nissan Leaf ramping up at Nissan’s Smyrna, Tennessee, assembly plant, supplies were low for the first two months of the year.
But at a press roundtable at the New York Auto Show last Wednesday, Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn said that the company expected to deliver around 1,900 Leafs during March.
The actual number turned out to be 2,236–higher than Ghosn’s no-doubt lowballed estimate–bringing the Leaf’s quarterly total to 3,539. Not at Tesla levels, but by far the Leaf’s best-ever monthly total.
Ghosn went on to say that a level of around 2,000 monthly sales was NOT where Nissan expected to settle–implying that higher volumes were in the cards for the rest of the year. We hope Nissan’s U.S. sales staff is listening to their boss.
Volt gets close–but not close enough
As it turned out, Chevrolet delivered 1,478 Volts during March, fewer than last month’s 1,626.
That number brings first-quarter Volt totals to 4,244, decisively below the Tesla total.
While the Volt is still ahead of the Leaf for the first three months of the year–4,244 to 3,539–it was outsold in March by Nissan’s battery electric car, for the first time since January 2012.
The third-place monthly ranking has got to be a blow for GM’s electric-car team–although, in fairness, the price of the average Model S is likely twice that of the average Volt and Tesla has a backlog of eager customers who’ve waited up to three years to take delivery of their cars.
Plug-in hybrid models to come
In fourth place during the first quarter was the Toyota Prius Plug-In Hybrid, which outsold the Leaf through February to take a solid second place behind the Volt.
2012 Toyota Prius Plug-In Hybrid, Catskill Mountains, NY, Oct 2012
We said yesterday that if March sales tracked at their level during the first two months of the year, the Prius Plug-In would come in between 700 and 900 units.
And in fact, Toyota delivered 786 plug-in Priuses in March, for a first-quarter total of 2,353–bumping that car down to fourth place for the quarter, now that we have Tesla numbers.
As for Ford, it continues to increase sales of its Energi line, with 494 C-Max and 295 Fusion plug-in hybrids sold.
The Honda Accord Plug-In Hybrid appears to be on a slow upward trend. Just 19 were delivered in January and February combined, but March saw 26 sold–a far slower pace than the first months of the Ford C-Max Energi plug-in hybrid.
Compliance cars coming too
As for the battery-electric compliance car segment, deliveries of the Ford Focus Electric totaled 180 cars in March–its best-ever month, bringing total sales since December 2011 over the 1,000 mark for the first time.
(We’re still waiting for Ford to address our questions about whether the Focus Electric actually is a compliance car, though its continuing pessimistic and downbeat predictions on the Focus Electric’s sales potential may well be self-fulfilling.)
Remarkably, 133 Toyota RAV4 EVs were sold in March, by far the highest monthly number ever–bringing total sales since last September to more than 400, or one-quarter of the number Toyota needs to build.
Honda delivered 23 Fit EVs in March, equaling the previous two months’ sales combined and bringing the lifetime total to 139.
Finally, as for the Mitsubishi i-MiEV, after a couple of months that totaled almost 600 sales, the littlest electric car on the market slumped back to its 2012 levels of 31 cars delivered.
The i-MiEV isn’t a compliance car, but the March sales are at that level–and a disappointment to the hopes of those who like small, minimalist plug-ins.
2013 Tesla Model S electric sport sedan [photo by owner David Noland]
Next: Tesla Q1 sales call in May
Analysts will now be looking for comments from Tesla–which may not come until its Q1 earnings call in May–about the level of reservations for Model S.
Not all reservation-holders will convert into sales, but the rate at which the company can add new reservations versus starting to clear its queue of more than 10,000 Model S depositors will be keenly watched as an indicator of its ability to sustain sales beyond its first audience of early adopters.
Finally, one note on sales outside the U.S.: In its first full month of deliveries, 1,089 Renault Zoe all-electric subcompact hatchbacks were registered last month in France.
That number is fully 80 percent of plug-in electric car sales in the country for March.
French carmaker Renault is an alliance partner of Nissan, with the two companies together having delivered 70,000 battery-electric vehicles since December 2010.
The Zoe is its first high-volume battery electric vehicle, following the Kangoo ZE small electric delivery van and the low-volume Fluence ZE mid-size sedan with a swappable battery pack, designed for–and mostly sold to–the Israeli company Better Place.
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Drivers of the Tesla Model S are generally pretty happy with their cars, but as with any new product there are always a few ways it could be improved.
Tesla Motors [NSDQ:TSLA] is one of few companies that can execute those improvements without you having to lift a finger, as software updates can be achieved via the internet.
Whether lane departure warning, adaptive cruise control and blind spot detection will be software updates is a different matter, but all have been discovered deep within the car’s menus by an enterprising owner (via Autoblog).
None are currently available on the Model S but all have appeared in a video of the car’s menu settings, located behind an access code off the car’s main menu.
It’s likely that all are simply menu provisions for hardware changes coming in later Model S, unless Tesla has hidden the required sensors in each car already. ‘Right Hand Drive’ also appears on the menu, suggesting that Tesla has designed in a bunch of features not yet tested, but expected at a later date.
What itt does imply is that the car will be getting a few of the options some owners have been asking for, already standard on many competing vehicles.
Other screens within the coded menus include power usage data, not just between battery, motor and wheels but also through the battery temperature systems, heating and ventilation and more.
Another menu shows not-yet-available apps, light-hearted applications like a sketchpad rubbing shoulders with test apps for the screen colors, audio and others. A further menu illustrates speed and torque-limiting option sliders.
One thing is for sure: There are still plenty of interesting features in the pipeline for Model S owners.
2012 Tesla Model S, brief test drive, New York City, July 2012
To creep or not to creep? That is the question.
As many hardened electric car fans will tell you, unlike gasoline cars with automatic gearboxes, not all electric cars move forward — or creep — when you release the foot brake.
When Tesla launched the 2012 Model S, it, like unlike the two-seat Tesla Roadster which preceded it, did not come with creep function enabled.
But after numerous requests from its customers, Tesla has announced it will soon be offering a remote software update to all 2012 Tesla Model S cars which will enable the function.
Without visiting their local service center, Tesla customers will be notified of the update to their Model S’ operating system.
Once installed, it will add a new option to the car’s preferences, allowing customers to enable or disable automatic creep.
2012 Tesla Model S, brief test drive, New York City, July 2012 Enlarge Photo
2012 Tesla Model S, brief test drive, New York City, July 2012
Tesla’s creep function upgrade was quietly announced in a recent webpage update covering its 2012 Model S servicing plans.
“By default, Model S does not slowly move forward when you release the brake pedal like cars equipped with automatic transmissions,” Tesla says on its webpage. “With an electric motor there’s no need for this, but some early customers miss it. Using software updates, we can upgrade every Model S with a ‘creep’ option which customers can enable using the 17 inch touchscreen.”
Tesla hasn’t detailed how long Tesla owners will have to wait for the update, or if it will come standard on Model S cars which have yet to leave the factory, but we assume the additional optional feature will be made available to existing customers shortly.
For those who are used to driving gasoline automatic cars, the option of creep simulation will be a welcome addition to first-time electric car drivers.
But would you like to choose if your electric car has it or not?
Let us know in the Comments below.
2013 Tesla Model S
As of January 1, it’ll cost you more to buy a 2013 Tesla Model S–as the company said last week.
Now, Tesla Motors [NSDQ:TSLA] has released the details of the price increases on the different versions of the Model S all-electric luxury sport sedan.
The new prices are $59,900 for the base version with a 40-kilowatt-hour battery pack, $69,900 for the mid-range 60-kWh model, $79,900 for the top-end 85-kWh level, and $94,900 for the Performance model, which also uses the 85-kWh pack.
That means each car has risen by $2,500. Tesla says that figure is half of what an inflation-adjusted figure might be, given that the company priced the Model S way back in 2009.
Those prices will apply only to buyers who put down a deposit starting January 1 or later.
To sweeten the deal, all Model S cars from January 1 get 12-way adjustable, heated front seats for no extra cost.
Performance Package cars get 19-inch wheels as standard, with 21-inch wheels for $3,500 extra. A new red multi-coat paint shade is also available, for $1,500. Production of the new red shade starts in March 2013.
Any rush by uncommitted buyers to put down deposits on or before December 31 of this year can only help Tesla’s quarterly and annual financial results, which will be announced in January.
With European pricing announced very soon, Tesla will also deduct 1,700 Euros (or its equivalent in other European countries) from the base price of a Model S, for any European buyer putting down a deposit by end of day on December 31, 2012.
Batteries from $8,000
Tesla also released pricing for replacement battery packs, giving current and future owners a better sense of what it will cost to own their electric sport sedans over a decade or more.
The price of a 40 kWh pack is $8,000. Another $2,000 gets the 60 kWh pack, and the 85 kWh pack costs another $2,000 on top of that.
The company suffered some criticism by owners and depositors who disliked its mandatory $600-per-year service requirement in order to keep their Model S warranties valid, since battery electric cars require little maintenance beyond inspections and new tires and wiper blades.
But now owners can calculate the cost of potentially replacing a battery pack over the car’s longer term life.
Extended warranties, servicing
Long-term ownership costs can be calculated further with the introduction of a new four-year, 50,000-mile extended warranty. This joins the standard four-year, 50,000-mile warranty, and costs an extra $2,500.
Likewise, buyers can purchase an extra four years and 50,000 miles of prepaid maintenance–to add to the previous $600-per-year service package–for an additional $1,900.
Price increases are rarely something to celebrate, but with new features and extended peace-of-mind options, 2013 will still be a good year for Model S buyers.