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.