By on July 12, 2010

Tesla has finally acknowledged the existence of its Model S customers–and it’s about freaking time. It’s been more than a year  since I plunked down a $5,000 deposit  and officially joined the Tesla family as Model S customer No. P 717. (Projected delivery date: early 2012.) At first, the bennies of Model S ownership were pretty cool.  A neck-snapping test drive in the Tesla Roadster instantly persuaded me that electric drive is the future of high-performance driving. An invitation to the grand  opening of the New York Tesla dealership, located in the oh-so-hip Chelsea district, featured wine, fancy food, and thin artsy people wearing black. I  sat back to await the presumed  steady flow of Model S owner communications–technical updates, customer surveys, maybe even a factory tour or a test drive in a prototype for a lucky few of us.
Then, nothing. Dead silence.  For the last year, I’ve felt more like an orphan than a member of the Tesla family.  Could they have lost my file (and–shudder–my $5,000)?  No, a call to the factory revealed everything was fine.  Apparently, Tesla simply had better things to do than communicate with its Model S customers.
It seemed bizarre.  Chevrolet has an aggressive program of technical info and updates about the Volt.  Nissan has done a superb job of building buzz for the Leaf. But the Model S seemed stuck in an informational and promotional black hole.  Why wasn’t the company bombarding us hyper-receptive potential buzzmakers with technical updates, promotional doo-dads, and invitations to EV-nut get-togethers? Time and again, friends would ask me, “Hey, what’s the latest with the Model S?”  My answer: I haven’t a clue.
The first break came June 16, when I got an e-mail “Model S Update: Tesla Factory.”  To my surprise and delight,  it contained actual new technical information.  The detailed description of the production process for the Model S in the new Fremont factory included some intriguing technical nuggets, like the low-emission paint process that will use powder-coating for both  primer and clear coats, and a final water-leak test that will use ultrasonic waves instead of actual water.  Interesting stuff, for a Tesla geek at least.
Then last week, I opened  my mailbox to find a package from Tesla.  The box itself was an eye-catcher,  printed to resemble the artful black-and-gold weave of  the Roadster’s carbon-fiber composite body shell. Feverishly opening the box, I found inside a splendid assortment of promotional swag:  a  coffee mug, thermos bottle, baseball hat, and  stylish black T-shirt, all emblazoned with the Tesla logo.  A thumb-size Roadster (made of metal, not plastic) had wheels that actually turned, and I immediately set it zooming  across the kitchen floor. There were a bunch of VIP cards that entitled the bearer to an overnight demo in a Roadster, and I was urged to pass them along to friends.  (I’ll save one for myself.)  And lastly, in a translucent envelope sealed in the royal style, a card from some guy named Elon that said simply, “A small gesture of appreciation from Tesla.”
Okay, so it wasn’t exactly a test drive in a Model S prototype. But at least our existence has finally been acknowledged. Finally, I feel part of the Tesla family again.
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20 Comments on “Tesla Model S Customer Blog: Delivery… But Still No Car...”

  • avatar

    It’s nice to know that the IPO funds are already being put to use for Tesla regalia to those who’ve put down deposits.

    With regards to logistics – I question the following.

    What’ll happen when ten, twenty or more arrive at a charging station at the same time running on reserve power. Who determines the pecking order of the queue?

    With regards to service issue – how experience will the service techs be? What will be the depth, breath and availability of spare parts?

    • 0 avatar
      thats one fast cat

      +1 OldandSlow.

      Somehow this is all going to end in tears — similar to the situation my mother had back in the day when she put down a deposit for a Corbin (remember those?) Not surprisingly, the company didn’t make it through the rapids and the deposit was lost, although if I remember correctly she did get a cool shirt/hat out of it….

    • 0 avatar

      I assume those are rhetorical questions, brought up in the Best and Brightest tradition to slag whatever car manufacturer is being mentioned in that article.

      As to the etiquette of logistics: Of course we don’t know how a pecking order, line, or whatever will be formed. Any more than we could have explained the proper etiquette of using an ATM back in 1960. We’ve yet to get to the point where social pressure in a given situation is going to form the necessary etiquette so everyone can be treated fairly, or at least equally unfairly. And you’re not being logical in demanding that those behaviors already exist.

      Service? I have a funny feeling that a smart company is going to do the same thing that GM did in 1940 regarding Hydra-Matic: If it breaks down, you replace the unit with a new one under warranty and send the original back to the factory for teardown and analysis. And, in the interim, you train your mechanics like crazy to bring them up to speed on the new product.

    • 0 avatar

      These are not trivial issues. Unlike refueling a petrol burner, charging the batteries is not done in a matter of minutes.

      Parts and service from a car manufacturer whose is at this point not even a fledgling company. It cannot be compared with the GM circa 1940. GM was established by then, as was its dealer network.

      I’ll bet dollars to donuts, when the Teslas have service issues, owners will find themselves waiting for parts. They seem to have been playing it day by day so far.

    • 0 avatar

      Yep, and let’s not forget that anyone who bought a Ferrari back in 1948, or a Porsche in 1949 was in about the same position. And nobody was slagging those guys because of it.

      Anyone who buys a Tesla S (assuming it gets produced) is going to be one of those early adopters, with all that entails. And quite frankly, nobody is going to buy a Tesla S as their only car. For the first decade or so, electric cars are going to be used about the same as expensive sports cars – limited use for owner defined purposes. Well, OK, the electric car will probably be used in the rain. After all, it’s not that exotic.

  • avatar

    If you need to get rid of any of those VIP cards my address is ……

  • avatar
    cRacK hEaD aLLeY

    Nice! Keep those goodies in a box for your great-grand children!

    More free entertainment by the Musks at:

    Bread and Circus. Bread and Circus…

    • 0 avatar

      Thanks for the links. I remain sad for both of them due to their broken marriage and other sufferings (loss of a child from SIDS), but they would both do well to keep their dirt offline.

      As for the Model S, I still think it’s one of the most beautiful cars in the world, and hope it sees production.

  • avatar

    I for one welcome our new electric car overlords.

  • avatar

    This chechke’ covering for a yet-nonexistent automobile is part of a grand old American tradition. I remember reading that early deposits on the 1936 Cord receive a mounted 1/24th scale model of the car to tide them over while the cooling and transmission bugs were being worked out, so delivery could start.

    I’ve yet to find a Cord collector who has one of those. I assume they’re worth a fair bit of money.

  • avatar
    healthy skeptic

    I’ll take a VIP demo ticket as well :)

  • avatar
    Facebook User

    I’ll shell out a few bones for a drive in a roadster…one of the “dealerships” is really close to me in Boulder, CO.

    Where oh where would anyone ever get a boutique car serviced? Easy guys, mobile mechanics just like the Tesla van posted last week in the “WWWTP”. McLaren, Bugatti….not to mention these cars are far far more simple than any exotic in terms of number of parts and function.

    Tesla, for all its faults, tax payer handouts and stumblings along way has earned my absolute respect as I now regularly see roadsters humming around the Denver area. That, for what its worth seems like a small step forward.

  • avatar

    I saw my first on-road Tesla last week. It looked like the owner was having a good time with it.

  • avatar

    I have a feeling that the recharging issue will be worked out by the time electric cars are lining up.

    Remember there were no gas stations when the first gasoline powered cars were sold either, and probably snarky lines about how grass to feed a horse could be found along the side of the road.

    None other than Gertrude Stein in the “Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas” tells of when she first purchased a car in Paris around the start of WWI. To buy gas, she only had to go to the closest pharmacy, where they sold it in one liter tins.

    • 0 avatar

      I don’t doubt it in the slightest. After all, humans have an amazing ability to adapt to anything when they really have to.

    • 0 avatar

      I remember seeing a program on PBS about one of the early cross country driving challenges, SF to NY. They could typically buy fuel at hardware stores. Eventually service centers popped up as the number of cars grew, and quite naturally they sold petrol. Eventually, not too long ago, you began to see gas stations that no longer performed car service. As demand grows, people will be there offering to fill it, assuming a more powerful entity, like the government, doesn’t hinder them from doing so. I’m sure that I’ll see what happens before I die, but it will be decades before this all shakes out, and I doubt that governemnt pressure, no matter how well intentioned, will result in the large stable network of service that we currently have for internal combustion engine driven cars.

  • avatar

    Wow. T shirts and coffee mugs. That should calm the nervous deposit plunkers for a couple of months

  • avatar

    It’s a rerun of Tucker 1948.

  • avatar
    John Horner

    If people weren’t so easy to manipulate then there wouldn’t be any marketing executives. Personally, I think they should have sent everyone a DVD of the movie “Tucker” :).

  • avatar

    I was going to draw a parallel with the Tucker Torpedo, but RobertB34 and John Horner beat me to it.

    If they start selling accessories for the car before large-scale production begins, it is indeed 1948 all over again.

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