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2012 Tesla Model S
When you walk into a crowded deli in New York City, you take a number.
Rather than jostle in line and try to elbow (or charm) your way to the front, you take the number from the dispenser on the counter and wait till that number is called. First come, first served. Even among rude, pushy New Yorkers, it works.
When Tesla Motors [NSDQ:TSLA] first started taking reservations (with $5,000 deposits) for its all-electric Model S sports sedan nearly four years ago, it put in place a similar system.
Each depositor was assigned a reservation sequence number, which represented the owner’s place in line, and, to a certain extent, his/her status in the pecking order for the award-winning Tesla Model S.
When I put my money down in April 2009, I received number P 717. With the waiting list now approaching 18,000, I’m feeling pretty good about my place in the line to own what by all accounts is a remarkable car.
In addition to the 716 even-earlier-adopters before me, about 1,200 “Signature” customers put down $40,000 deposits for the right to buy special-edition top-of-the-line cars before the standard P cars went into production.
I never begrudged the Signature owners in front of me–they certainly paid dearly for their right to jump the queue.
But now that all Signature cars have been delivered and P cars have been in production for more than a month, it turns out that the Tesla delivery system isn’t working nearly as smoothly as your average New York deli.
The Agony and the Ecstasy
In many cases, production P cars are being delivered way out of order–sometimes astonishingly so.
This naturally results in equal numbers of customers who are giddy at their unexpected early delivery and frustrated at a maddeningly delayed one.
2012 Tesla Model S display screen [Photo: Flickr user jurvetson]
Count me among the latter.
Just yesterday I saw a post on the Tesla owners’ forum from an ecstatic Model S owner who’d just been notified his delivery would be in the first two weeks of February. That’s essentially the same delivery window I’ve been given.
You know when this guy placed his order? Last August 31! That’s more than three years after I put down my money. He’s number 11,601 in the queue.
“Essentially FIVE MONTHS from order to delivery!” the guy crowed.
He’s not alone. A number of cars with numbers above 5,000 have already been delivered. According to a Tesla Motors Club forum thread, an unofficial online forum, the highest number delivered as of December 31 was P 9935.
Meanwhile, owners with reservation numbers as low as P 631 have not yet received their cars, according to TMC.
“Reservation holders more than 3500 spots below me have gotten their VIN (a final step just before delivery),” moans one owner on the TMC forum. “Extremely frustrated.”
I understand his frustration.
Why should a Johnny-Come-Lately who puts his money down for a few months on a sure thing get his car before a True Believer who gambled $5,000 back when the Model S was a pipe dream and Tesla was a company struggling to even stay alive?
The 85-kWh Advantage
Although there seems to be no rhyme nor reason for many of the out-of-order deliveries, the cause of my delay is clear: I’ve ordered my car with the mid-size 60-kWh battery.
Because all the initial Signature cars had top-of-the-line 85-kWh batteries, Tesla started production of that battery first. When Signature production finished in late November, Tesla wasn’t yet geared up for production of the smaller 60-kWh and 40-kWh battery options.
So it continued to churn out 85-kWh production models, skipping over even low-number 60- and 40-kWh buyers like me.
Tesla Model S owner David Metcalf after covering more than 400 miles [photo: Gene Kruckemyer]
Tesla has announced that 60-kWh production will begin this month, and 40-kWh production in March. The company seems to be in no particular hurry to do so, and who can blame them?
They’d prefer to sell as many of the more expensive 85-kWh cars as possible, as they try to overcome the cash crunch of production start-up.
Tesla Motors remains mum about the proportion of the various battery options in the order book, so it’s unknown how many 40- and 60-kWh depositors have been passed over as 85-kWh production continues.
But there have been numerous non-sequential deliveries of 85-kWh P cars as well. The reasons behind this seeming “delivery roulette” are a frustrating mystery for many owners.
Through it all, Tesla has been characteristically obtuse about the reasons for its out-of-order deliveries of production models.
There were similar problems with out-of-order Signature deliveries that spurred much grumbling among impatient owners. At the time, Tesla VP George Blankenship responded with an e-mail explaining that the problem was due to vendor delays and changes or shortages of certain interior decors and options.
“In some weeks,” Blankenship wrote, “it meant we had to reach forward in the sequence order to find cars that were not impacted by a particular decor or option, and in some case the absence of a decor or option pushed cars back.”
In his note to Signature owners, Blankenship acknowledged the importance of the sequence numbers.
“Many Model S reservation holders I have met during the last two years introduce themselves by name and then follow their introduction by giving me their….reservation sequence number,” he wrote. “Their sequence number is…very important to them, and is very important to us.”
Blankenship characterized Tesla’s customer communication on the subject as “weak at best,” and promised to do better.
But so far, Tesla has sent no such explanation to us production owners. (Or at least P 717 has not received one.)
David Noland is a Tesla Model S reservation holder and freelance writer who lives north of New York City.
By David Noland
TuneIn streaming radio integration – 2012 Tesla Model S
HI-RES GALLERY: TuneIn streaming radio integration – 2012 Tesla Model S
TuneIn streaming radio integration – 2012 Tesla Model S
News In Your Inbox
Deliveries for the 2012 Tesla Model S have started, and in case you missed editor John Voelcker’s first drive of the Model S this past week, one point of note was how calm and quiet the cabin remains even when accelerating.
That said, while we’ve spent more time sitting in the Model S than driving it, we haven’t yet spent much time using its sound system. In addition to the Slacker Personal Radio features that already come in the Model S, there’s now another way to be informed or entertained. With TuneIn services, song and track information for streaming radio stations are fully integrated, with the info displayed with album art either in the Model S’s gauge cluster just ahead of the driver, or over on the touch screen.
According to TuneIn, it’s the first direct integration in a vehicle, rather than streaming through a smartphone’s data connection; and it’s the company’s 200th distribution platform. TuneIn is already available as an app for iPhone and Android handsets, as well as for tablets, home entertainment systems, and online.
In the Model S, the huge 17-inch touch-screen system that serves as its interface is already a standout. And with an interface designed in-house at Tesla Motors [NSDQ: TSLA], plus well-integrated streaming, it’s looking like one of the most interesting pieces of infotainment hardware yet.
In part, it’s like a large-screen iPad (with an operating environment that somewhat resembles IOS or Android systems), with a supplemental display that’s part of the gauge cluster just in front of the driver. With dedicated data access—there’s a monthly fee, but Model S buyers should be able to afford that—you get live Google maps, a Web browser, easy access to vehicle settings, and the opportunity to stream audio and use specially designed apps.
With TuneIn there will be no lack of choices. The service offers unlimited listening of more than 70,000 stations (AM, FM, HD, and Internet) from 230 countries and territories, with about two million on-demand programs.
Tesla’s retail store concept
HI-RES GALLERY: Tesla’s retail store concept
Tesla’s retail store concept
If we had to pick one word to describe Tesla Motors, “audacious” would be at the top of the list.
Not only did founder Elon Musk decide to build a car company, which in itself is pretty gutsy. He chose to create a car company that builds nothing but electric cars — pricey, high-end electric cars that hold their own against some of the best luxury models on the market.
Say what you will, the man knows how to make an entrance.
Then again, should we have expected any less from the guy who took on the banking industry by creating PayPal? The man who said, “Space travel? Oh, yeah, I can make that happen.” Musk isn’t known for going with the flow — or for losing.
So it should be no surprise that Tesla Motors [NSDQ:TSLA] may be single-handedly changing the way that automakers sell cars. Nor should it be a surprise that the competition is miffed.
Showrooms vs. dealerships
Back in July, Bengt Halvorson attended the opening of Tesla’s showroom in Portland, Oregon. He was lucky enough to speak with George Blankenship, the man behind Apple’s hugely successful retail stores and Tesla’s growing chain of showrooms.
Blankenship summed up what makes Tesla’s sales approach so unusual: “The [traditional] model is that they do a bunch of research, hold a bunch of focus groups, and they decide that this is a car we should build; they design that car, they engineer it and manufacture it, and then they sell it to some dealer who then tries to sell it…. That’s just not how we’re doing it.”
Instead, Tesla has created a new kind of showroom. So far, there are 17 of them scattered across 10 states and the District of Columbia. And like Apple stores, they’re often found in shopping malls.
That’s a great way to attract attention and to raise brand awareness, but it may not be such a great way to sell cars — at least, not if Tesla wants to stay on the right side of the law.
The problem, according to the National Automobile Dealers Association, is that in 48 states, franchise laws forbid or severely restrict the ability of automakers to sell vehicles directly to the public. The content of those laws vary from state to state, but behind most of them is the rationale that allowing big automakers to operate their own retail outlets stifles competition. As a result, today’s dealerships tend to be independently owned and operated.
And this is where Tesla finds itself in trouble, because Tesla showrooms are owned by Tesla. In fact, as AutoNews reported, in some cases, business documents even list Elon Musk as the showroom owner.
Blankenship insists that Tesla understands the nuances of these franchise laws and operates according to the restrictions of each state. In most places, for example, Tesla showrooms don’t actually sell or even take reservations for vehicles. Instead, they share information about Tesla cars, then refer shoppers to the Tesla website, where they can customize and reserve a vehicle of their own.
Dealers think that’s a load of semantic baloney. They insist that even though Tesla’s showroom workers don’t take money in exchange for vehicles, they’re still part of the sales process. And that puts Tesla in violation of the law.
Tesla’s retail store concept
As we reported earlier this week, Tesla now faces lawsuits in four states, and as the company’s network of showrooms expands, we’d expect to see a few more dealer networks calling up their armies of legal experts.
Ahead of the curve
Tesla and Musk surely understand that they’re pushing the boundaries of what’s acceptable in these showrooms. After all, being audacious is part of their M.O.
But unlike today’s attention-starved pop stars, Tesla isn’t just pushing boundaries for the sake of being edgy. They’re exploring new ways of communicating with customers, and in doing so, they seem to be part of a larger trend of soft-sells and conversations, rather than old-school, stereotypical car sales techniques.
Think of social networking, think of Facebook and Pinterest and Instagram. This is how a growing number of us get our information and how we communicate with friends, “friends”, businesses, and brands. Successful marketers on social networks aren’t the ones who shout offers at potential customers, Mad Men-style; they’re the ones who share information, engage consumers, give the public a sense of what they’re about, let shoppers peek behind the green curtain.
That, in essence, is what Tesla is doing. Its showrooms are more like information hubs than traditional car lots — that’s why they’re located in malls. The company’s front-line workers are like Apple Geniuses, answering questions and explaining what makes Tesla different from its competitors.
Basically, Tesla has reimagined the auto shopping experience, removing the two things that customers hate most: haggling and buying. Creating a space for the public to window shop for cars, without pressure from sales personnel? That’s pretty smart.
In fact, it’s so smart that Audi recently riffed on the idea with its new Digital City showroom in London. Will Audi run into the same legal problems as Tesla? We’ll know soon: the company plans to add another 19 of its showrooms over the next three years.
There’s little question that Tesla’s showrooms are skating on thin ice when it comes to legal issues. The real question is: are state franchise laws outdated? Are the laws that Tesla is flouting in need of revision?
And just as importantly, will Tesla’s soft-sell sway shoppers?
Let us know your thoughts on Tesla’s unique techniques in the comments below.
By Richard Read
Tesla Model S Inside Line
The 2012 Tesla Model S is the most anticipated all-electric car of 2012, but it is also the most enigmatic.
That’s because even though it launched back in late June, access to — and time behind the wheel of — the Model S has been strictly controlled by Tesla.
Our own 1-hour test-drive proved to us that the Tesla Model S was a viable, impressive car, but because of our location — the busy streets of Manhattan — we were unable to push the luxury sports sedan to its limits.
Edmund’s Inside Line was a little luckier, persuading Tesla to ship a Model S to the Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California so it could put Tesla’s claimed Model S performance specifications to the test.
With a clear, clean test track, the Model S Performance romped to 60 mph in 4.3 seconds, a 0.1 seconds faster than Tesla’s official time.
The $94,350 Model S Performance then went on to 75 mph in 6.1 seconds, posting a quarter mile of 12.6 seconds at 108.3 mph.
Braking was similarly good, with Inside Line’s test driver Mike Monticello reporting consistent, firm braking.
2012 Tesla Model S Signature Enlarge Photo
2012 Tesla Model S Signature
On the handling tests, Inside Line reports the Model S managed 0.86g on the skid pad, impressive for a car of its size.
Meanwhile, the full slalom course was handled at a speed of 66.8 mph, illustrating excellent weight distribution and suspension.
LIke us, Inside Line admits it has only had limited time behind the wheel of the 2012 Model S.
But with impressive handling and speed tests confirming Tesla’s own specs, it continues to look as if Tesla’s Model S is a very special electric car.
Of course, with a race driver on staff who’s most eager to get the Model S on a test track, we’d like to offer our own race-track skills to Tesla, just in case it wants a second opinion.
Tesla Supercharger fast-charging system for electric cars
As the brand-new owner of a 60-kWh Tesla Model S, I was eager to try out a Supercharger, the ultrafast 90-kilowatt DC fast-charging stations that Tesla is establishing along Interstate highways across the country.
Model S owners–and nobody else–will be able to plug in and grab up to 150 miles of extra range in 30 minutes, about the time it takes to empty their bladders and then eat a fast-food meal and/or check their mobile devices. Astonishingly, the Superchargers are free for Model S owners.
So far, Tesla Motors [NSDQ:TSLA] has installed five Superchargers in California and two along I-95 between Boston and Washington D.C.
Tesla claims it will have more than 100 Supercharger stations by 2015, enabling the Model S to make long cross-country trips just like a gasoline car.
For me, the nearest Supercharger is at the service area on I-95 in Milford, Connecticut, about 85 miles from my home in New York’s Hudson Valley. Though my car’s EPA range of 208 miles should manage the round trip without a recharge, I figured it would be fun to try out the Supercharger experience.
And it would be my first long trip in the car, a chance to check the accuracy of the “rated range” readout–also called the Guess-O-Meter–that so commands the attention of any electric-car driver.
Hopefully, my fate would be better than that of reporter John Broder of The New York Times, whose Model S famously ended up on a flatbed truck, out of juice, when he attempted a trip to the Milford Supercharger after leaving his Model S unplugged on a very cold night.
Unlike Broder, I started with a full charge. He had unwittingly charged the car in “Standard” mode, which–in the name of long-term battery health–stops charging at 90 percent of battery capaacity.
For my trip, just to be sure, I set the charger on “Max Range”, which takes the charge to the full 100 percent. As I pulled out of my driveway on a cool 40-degree morning, the “rated range” read 198 miles.
2013 Tesla Model S electric sport sedan on delivery day, with owner David Noland
Still new to the car, I drove conservatively, cruising at 60-65 mph on open stretches and accelerating gently on more congested two-lane roads. Under those conditions, the Tesla’s “Guess-O-Meter” was spot on. After about two hours, I pulled into the northbound side of the Milford service area showing 116 miles of range remaining–82 miles less than what I started with.
So far, so good. But where the heck was the Supercharger?
The picture on the Tesla website shows what looks like a four-bay carport, conspicuously Tesla-logoed, and flanked by a 15-foot-high sculpted phallic column of no obvious purpose. (A nod to the SpaceX Falcon 9, perhaps?)
But I could see nothing like that anywhere around.
Eyes swiveling, I drove slowly past the parking area, past the gas pumps, past the restaurant pavilion, finally to the truck ghetto at the far end of the service area.
Tesla Supercharger obelisk
And now, I realized, I was stuck. Traffic flow through the service area is one-way only. There was no going back.
I parked the car and backtracked on foot. After a few minutes of searching, I found the Supercharger station. No carport. No phallus. Just two adjacent spaces in the regular parking lot, each with a gas-pump-like charging station and a miniscule Tesla logo.
I can now understand why John Broder drove around in circles in the parking lot at Milford. Tesla CEO Elon Musk implied that he was trying to run down the battery on purpose; Broder said he just couldn’t find the Supercharger. I can relate to that.
Luckily, both spaces were empty. But of course my car was now at the other end of the service area, marooned by “Do Not Enter” and “Wrong Way” signs.
If I wanted to charge up, my only legal recourse was to continue north on I-95, get off at the next exit, get back on I-95 southbound, drive to the next exit south, get off, get back on northbound, and return to the service area.
I looked around for cops, saw none, and drove the wrong way back past the gas pumps to the Supercharger, encountering no other cars during my nefarious 20-second dash.
Tesla Road Trip from MD to CT, Feb 2013 – Tesla Model S cars at Delaware SuperCharger location
There were no instructions on the charger, just a phone number to call in case of problems. The charging plug was the same as the one I use at home.
Click the button on the plug, the charge door pops open. Plug in, and the glowing ring around the charge port turns blue, then green, and begins to pulse rapidly. Just like at home. Nothing to it.
Tesla brags that Superchargers are located at places “you’ll actually want to stop.” Not the Milford service area, a monument to low-rent fast food: McDonald’s, Subway, Dunkin’ Donuts. I used the bathroom (clean), grabbed a smoothie and a Danish, and was out of there in 26 minutes.
During that time, the car picked up 62 miles of range, bringing the Guess-O-Meter up to 178 miles, more than double the mileage home.
This fell far short of Tesla’s claimed 150 miles in 30 minutes.
There are, however, two reasons.
First, I was more than half full when I plugged in. The charging rate is very fast for an empty battery, but it slows down as the battery fills up.
Second, I have the mid-size 60-kWh battery, not the big 85-kWh model. With less capacity, my charge rate presumably falls off more quickly. (A Tesla rep on the owners’ hotline could shed no light on 60-kWh vs. 85-kWh charging rates for me.)
With my brain perhaps dulled by a fast-food sugar-and-fat buzz, I had some trouble getting the plug out. With no instructions, I did what I do at home to unplug: squeeze the button on the plug and pull.
But it wouldn’t come out. With rising panic, I fiddled for 5 or 10 seconds, randomly pushing the button and tugging the cord. Nothing.
And then, thank God, it finally popped out, for no apparent reason.
(A Tesla hotline rep later confirmed that it takes longer for the Supercharger to shut down and release the charge cord. Might I suggest it would be nice to let Model S owners know that ahead of time?)
Fat with energy, I drove home at my normal 70 to 75 mph, and didn’t stint on the acceleration. (Nothing crazy, though.) I arrived home with 76 miles remaining, for a net “usage” of 102 miles on the meter to cover the 88 miles home.
After trying out a Supercharger, I can see its potential. But Tesla needs to put the charging stations closer together.
The two Superchargers connecting Washington D.C., and Boston are about 200 miles apart. John Broder notwithstanding, that’s probably okay for an 85-kWh car under most conditions. But it provides little margin for cold weather, fast driving, or Murphy’s Law.
2012 Tesla Model S
And for 60-kWh cars like mine, it just doesn’t work at all.
Okay, if I drive 55 mph and don’t use the heat or air conditioning, I might make it by the skin of my teeth. Maybe. If nothing unexpected happens.
But I’m guessing this kind of razor’s-edge driving is not what Tesla has in mind. It’s certainly not what I have in mind; this weekend I’ll be driving to Baltimore in my trusty Chevy Volt because I’m not willing to risk the 198-mile drive in the Model S from my house to the Supercharger in Newark, Delaware.
According to Broder, Elon Musk conceded that the Superchargers need to be 140 miles apart, not 200.
Speaking for all Supercharger-equipped 60-kWh Model S owners, I concur most heartily.
David Noland is a Tesla Model S owner and freelance writer who lives 60 miles north of New York City.
By David Noland
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The Tesla Model S Performance looks great on paper.
Not only does the 85 kWh Model S have an impressive 265-mile EPA-rated range, but it’ll do the benchmark 0-60 mph sprint in only 4.4 seconds.
That means the all-electric luxury sport sedan from Tesla Motors [NSDQ:TSLA] is at least as fast as V-8 German super sedans like the BMW M5.
But how do you quantify that sort of speed in the real world? If you’re Drag Times, you put it on the strip, preferably head to head against an American legend like the Dodge Viper SRT10. And then you beat it.
Yup, the near-silent Tesla made a mockery of the shiny red sports car–posting a quarter-mile time of little over 12 seconds in the process.
A second video shows the Tesla’s fastest pass, at 12.371 seconds and 110.84 mph. There aren’t a great many production cars which would do better–mostly vehicles well into the “supercar” or “hypercar” brackets, and at even higher cost than the Model S.
Some of the other statistics are outstanding too.
Drag Times recorded a 3.9-second 0-60 mph time on their VBOX timing gear. Given the Tesla’s hefty weight at the curb of 4,690 lbs, it’s even more impressive–weight is typically the enemy of speed.
Huge low-down torque helps, of course–the 416-hp Model S Performance develops 443 lbs-ft from zero to 5,100rpm, and power delivery is much smoother too.
While that driver in the Viper had to manage wheelspin and shift gears, the Tesla driver just has to sink the right pedal and keep it on the floor until he passes the 1/4-mile mark.
We’d love to see what other car giants the Model S is capable of killing.
With zero emissions and supercar-slaying acceleration, it seems you can really have your cake and eat it too.
Tesla Model S launch
Tesla Motors said today it would cut the third-quarter production target for its 2012 Model S all-electric sport sedan, according to a stock analyst who follows the company.
A report by Wunderlich Securities analyst Theodore O’Neill notes that Tesla is now saying it would probably only deliver 500 cars through the end of September, down from a previous target of 1,000.
It still expects to deliver about 5,000 cars by the end of 2012, meaning an average of 1,500 cars a month from October through December.
The delays were attributed to unspecified production execution issues.
Green Car Reports has asked Tesla for confirmation of the report, and will update this story if we receive further information.
[UPDATE: In response to a question asking for confirmation of the report, Tesla spokesperson Shanna Hendriks replied, “Tesla’s plan has been and continues to be a focus on quality while ramping up production of Model S. This plan has not changed, and there have been no unexpected challenges or issues.”
That translates to “no comment”; you may draw your own conclusions.]
Tesla delivered its first production Model S in late June, and is now slowly ramping up production of the pioneering electric luxury sedan.
It has said it expects to deliver 15,000 cars during 2013, once its assembly plant in Fremont, California, is up to a steady production rate.
The news caused Wunderlich to downgrade Tesla Motors stock and change its recommendation to Sell, setting a new target price of $28 per share–down from its previous target of $49.
Two other analysts, Jefferies Group and Maxim Group, left their Buy ratings for Tesla stock unchanged.
Tesla Motors [NSDQ:TSLA] stock declined steadily throughout yesterday; today the stock price climbed until about 1 pm and then began to fall.