By on February 4, 2008

tesladelivery.jpgA number of media outlets are carrying the story that Tesla chairman Elon Musk's personal Roadster has finally made it across the Atlantic and into his waiting arms. Everyone is proclaiming this as the first delivery of a production Roadster. Yet Petrol Head reports that as Musk got his, he indicated "the first deliveries" would start in mid-March. In the meantime, the second car will go to Tesla founder Martin Eberhard. So what about it gang? Would you consider this transfer of a hand-massaged example with a temporary transmission to the head honcho as the official start of Tesla Roadster production? Should we end the Tesla Birth Watch series with this installment? Or should we wait until we actually see the cars getting into the hands of a paying customer?

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23 Comments on “Tesla Birth Watch 32: Musk Gets a Roadster. Is This the End of the Beginning?...”


  • avatar
    Orian

    Birth watch until the first retail customer has theirs in their garage IMHO.

  • avatar

    I agree with Orian.

    I found it humorous that Autoblog’s test drive had a car with first gear locked out in its two speed transmission, but Car and Driver apparently drove the same car, but also was able to use one WITH the functioning two speed transmission for its acceleration tests.

    I’m all for innovation and I think the idea is a great one, but I just think there’s too much development work to go in the next 45 days to expect customer deliveries to begin then.

    Are there Vegas odds on when the first 5 retail deliveries will happen (easy to make on or two, harder to make five)? I’d put money on it not happening by March.

  • avatar
    dhanson865

    wait until … paying customer

  • avatar
    guyincognito

    Hmmm. The distinction between final assembly verificaiton prototype and production model, esp with low volume vehicles like this, is pretty much arbitrary. If it were built on the same line with the same processes and parts as the vehicles that will go into paying customers hands, I think this would qualify as a production unit. If it were hand built by product specialists then not so much. In any case, I vote that it doesn’t count because I like reading these articles…

  • avatar

    This is pretty arrogant. If I had a bunch of customers $95,000 sitting around, and I was months late on production, I would not bother supplying the two guys who set up the operation – I’d be making my customers happy. If I had put down a deposit on one of these, I’d be somewhat irritated and I’d be calling up Siry or whateve assclown at Tesla who thought up this fake delivery right now asking for my money back.

    Oh, in response to your question, I’d say continue the series until a car is delivered to an Arm’s Length party.

  • avatar
    John

    I’d drop the birthwatch and replace it with a recall timeline.

  • avatar
    jazbo123

    In the picture, they are pushing it out of the truck.

    Are we sure it actually runs?

    Or did they forget a reverse gear?

  • avatar

    … they are pushing it out of the truck.

    In every picture I’ve seen so far the Volt appears to be human-powered – which might not be such a bad idea. The car of the future may be a mountain bike.

  • avatar
    jazbo123

    Ah yes, a modern take on the Flintstonemobile.

  • avatar
    Redbarchetta

    I think the Birthwatch should continue until the first 25 paying customers get deliveries. A lot of things can happen between the first few hand built models and production of several a week.

    Elon Musk’s personal Roadster has finally made it across the Atlantic

    I thought these Tesla’s were going to be assemble here in the States with some Lotus parts? So much for an American auto manf. I guess they are following the rest of Detriot.

  • avatar
    i6

    The answer is, as always, “it depends”.
    If the subject of the birth watch is a new auto manufacturer, then we have to wait until they sell their first car. If the subject of the birth watch is a mega-million dollar con job, then pass around the Montecristos!

  • avatar
    BuckD

    I think we’re just about ready to transition to Tesla Death Watch.

  • avatar
    Paul Milenkovic

    I am waiting until some rich guy finds the front end of one of these things underneath his sheets . . .

  • avatar

    I’m with Redbarchetta on this. Wait til 25 paying customers get theirs. And regarding the fact that two company people are getting theirs before customers, either these are prototypes or there is a bad omen for customer service.

  • avatar
    jthorner

    Sounds like an alpha-test phase prototype. It certainly isn’t a production delivery.

  • avatar
    SkiD666

    So how big a market is there for a $100,000 2 seat electric sports car?
    When all the orders are fulfilled in a few years, what will the company sell then to stay afloat?

  • avatar
    Redbarchetta

    So how big a market is there for a $100,000 2 seat electric sports car?
    When all the orders are fulfilled in a few years, what will the company sell then to stay afloat?
    Tee-shirts and hats because the Whitestar EV sedan wont be anywhere near ready if Tesla Motors even lasts that long to unveil a concept.

    I still thing the Watch should go until 25 deliveries. If they build 4 a week that’s roughly 2 months of production after the first real delivery. We will get to see what the car is really made of, if people are having problems and how the company is handling production in that time. Plus the generally stupid media is going to swoon all over the first delivery, if they don’t consider this a delivery, and I don’t think TTAC should follow suit and then end it’s Birth Watch. What will it be called after that “the delivery watch”?

  • avatar
    KixStart

    I think you’d better go with Samir Syed’s nicely phrased standard of “an arm’s length party” delivery.

    If you wait for the first 25 customers, you might end up starting the Tesla Deathwatch post-mortem. There’s no fun in that.

  • avatar
    Redbarchetta

    KixStart you don’t even think they will last a few months, a man with my kind of faith, and I kind of agree. It’s just the delivering one, two or even a small few is not really the birth of a new car IMO. If you look at other automakers they build a small batch or first cars and then ship them, weather it be a few hundred in the Malibu’s case or several thousand. Those numbers would be much to high for them, but a small a lotted sum like 25 is a good start up number.

    Maybe we should have a Birthwatch and Death watch going at the same time until they have reached that target and not died in the process. I’m putting my money on 57 cars and then adios. Starting a pool would be pretty screwed up I guess.

  • avatar
    jjdaddyo

    My opinion is that until there are at least 100 Roadsters in paying customer hands, this thing is nothing more than a hand-built exotic.
    And wasn’t one of Tesla’s organizing principles that an all-electric sports car need not be an exotic but a working proposition for, if not exactly the masses, than at least more than a few well-heeled collectors?

  • avatar
    Skid

    It’s sad to see all these arm-chair experts criticizing people who do amazing things. What have you done besides criticize.
    What Tesla is doing is incredible. A few months late and you think it is a failure. You will make yourself irrelevant.

  • avatar

    Skid :

    All we ever asked from Tesla was honesty and transparency. This they singularly failed– and fail– to provide.

    And make no mistake: critical armchair experts (a.k.a. journalists with 20+ years of experience) have their role to play. Who else is going to ask the tough questions? You?

  • avatar

    I would compare the Tesla Roadster to another similar project that has captured the imagination of an admittedly much smaller group: The Red Camera.

    Jim Jannard, founder of the Oakley Sunglass company, really wanted a great video camera. Nothing the competition could do would satisfy him. So instead of being the usual grouchy and complaining American, he started his own company to design and build a camera for himself.

    So he hired an exceptionally competent team, and sold about 3,000 initial customers on his dream. His pitch: “I don’t need the money but I need to know people want this. We’re going to create a great camera, essentially a motion picture version of a full-frame Canon DSLR. If you give me your deposits, I will refund them, with interest, if at any time you want to back out.”

    After two years, RED is finally delivering cameras. The customers, who are receiving a product that’s superior to the $130,000 Sony for about $30,000, are extremely happy about the design and overall image quality of the unit.

    Nobody complains about the fact that RED camera serial numbers 1-5 went to Jim Jannard. Without Jim, there would be no RED.

    I think really, Elon Musk and Martin Everhard both wanted this car. Sure, they wanted to help save the world and get others involved, but really, they wanted the car, and they got it. Quite an achievement!

    Now, consider the RED again. The first few cameras dribbled out slowly. The delivery schedule repeatedly slipped, and slipped again. Early customers had problems with the lens mount; Jim took back every one and replaced it with a new mount at no charge. People still loved Jim, but many of them were upset by the delays. As far as I know, none of them asked for their deposit back, but they grumbled.

    Until they got their cameras. RED produced images that were every bit as great as advertised.

    So in light of this, I think you can see these are almost completely parallel situations. RED’s been around longer and so we can see what happens when a group of enthusiastic people with deep expertise start a new company to tackle a fresh approach to an old industry with stagnant competitors. They do great, they mess up a few things, they fix them and they keep on going.

    As Jim said (source)

    The RED ONE is not perfect. The above reasons are just a few of many. RED Digital is not perfect. We are building a camera company from scratch. It is tough as a m%^&*@fu&^%r. Not what we expected. But we are awake. Alive. And more dedicated than anyone you have ever met to deliver what you want and need. We are a small team trying to slay the giant. You have the right to be nervous. We are. We are so nervous that none of us can sleep. But you will have to kill us to stop us. If you bring up a problem, we will listen and get on it like a cheap suit. We have. We will. We always will.

    I believe Tesla runs on a similar philosophy.

    Both of these companies have another thing in common: Extremely wealthy founders who can make mistakes, admit them, dump more money into the company and continue fighting the good fight that they believe in.

    So what does this mean?

    It means that what we are seeing at Tesla, with the exception of Martin’s firing, which made me sad, is normal for any company trying to produce a new and revolutionary product that’s radically different from what was done in the past. This is a tough job. Doesn’t mean it can’t or won’t be done.

    They’ve built cars. They are great fun to drive. They have gone long distances without things falling apart or failing.

    If I am not mistaken, this is way further than most wannabe automakers have gotten. I think it would be reasonable to assume that they will be able to solve their problems, considering that Musk has committed to continued funding of the company.

    Someone in a previous comment did a quick financial statement of the company and saw them with a substantial loss. It seems pretty impressive to me that a car company could come so close to making money in its first year of production. Startup expenses to make the Roadster would be enormous. It might cost several million dollars to make the first car but only in the mid five figures to make subsequent models. I would expect that over the four years or so it was made, the vehicle would generate profits.

    Finally, it seems obvious that demand for this car is likely to remain very high. If we consider the car competitive with a Porsche 911 (similar acceleration figures and cost), we see that Porsche sold no less than 2,238 $94k Carrera S Cabriolet models. That is just one model of 911; the whole series sold 12,045 cars in 2007. Here’s a Porsche press release that was my source for 911 sales.

    So as you can see, Tesla is not dissimilar to other companies, such as RED, that have attempted successfully to revolutionize their industries.

    Furthermore, it seems likely that, thanks to its wealthy backers, Tesla has enough access to capital to successfully reach its goals.

    And finally, it seems likely that the product’s appeal will result in continued high sales going forward. To be honest, I’d rather be Tesla or RED (with a product everyone wants but they can’t make) than GM, who can make a whole bunch of cars nobody cares about. Customers will wait, albeit grumpily, for a RED camera or Tesla Roadster, while they continue ignoring GM products.

    My conclusion, then, is that you’re being too harsh on Tesla with the Birth Watch.

    As the same time, I don’t want you to discontinue it, because I want to continue hearing solid reporting from an impartial source about what’s going on in Tesla. It’s a fascinating story and it deserves to be told with due scrutiny. Perhaps when the first car does go to its heated garage, we can have the articles simply renamed “The Tesla Watch”, and we will leave to history what happens next …

    It’s one wild ride, that’s for sure.

    D


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