By on June 9, 2011

In one of its latest SEC filings (a prospectus for an offering to fund development of the “Model X” CUV), the EV firm Tesla notes

We currently intend to end the production run of the Tesla Roadster in December 2011, but we will continue to sell the remaining inventory of Tesla Roadsters in the first half of 2012.

The Detroit News notes that, if Tesla keeps its “mid-2012″ launch date for its Model S sedan (which was initially supposed to go on sale this year), it will have to endure a six month gap with no new production… and if more delays come, that “dead zone” could extend longer. And though Tesla plans on replacing the money-losing Roadster sometime during or after 2013, that won’t necessarily be easy…

The DetN explains

For the Roadster, Tesla has obtained gliders from Lotus of Britain, which uses the same body for its Elise sports car. But Lotus is retooling for a new Elise, and Tesla’s contract for 2,400 gliders expires at the end of this year. Expanded over a year ago from an earlier deal for 1,700 gliders that would have expired in March, the agreement lets Tesla keep Roadsters in showrooms longer. But the end of the supply of Roadster gliders “sheds light on how Lotus views the relationship,” said Kevin See of Lux Research. If Lotus saw the Roadster and Tesla as an important revenue source, he said, “it would find a way to keep those gliders coming.”

Tesla’s take on the situation (from its last S-1 filing):

We expect 2011 sales of the Tesla Roadster to grow over 2010. We have a supply agreement with Lotus to purchase 2,400 Tesla Roadster vehicles or gliders, and through March 31, 2011, we have delivered approximately 1,650 vehicles to customers. Our present plans do not call for the purchase of materially more than 2,400 gliders from Lotus. We currently intend to manufacture the majority of our gliders with Lotus for our current generation Tesla Roadster until December 2011, and we intend to use these gliders in the manufacturing of the Tesla Roadster to both fulfill orders placed in 2011 as well as new orders placed in 2012 until our supply of gliders is exhausted. Accordingly, we intend to offer a limited number of Tesla Roadsters for sale in 2012. We currently anticipate that sales of the Tesla Roadster in North America will end by the end of 2011 or shortly thereafter.

As we have a limited number of the Tesla Roadster left for sale, we anticipate our automotive sales may decline, potentially significantly, just prior to the launch of our Model S. The launch of our Model S could be delayed for a number of reasons and any such delays may be significant and would extend the period in which we would generate limited revenues from sales of our electric vehicles.
To the extent we wish to sell additional Tesla Roadsters with the Lotus gliders beyond the number of vehicles we have contracted for, we will need to negotiate a new or amended supply agreement with Lotus but may be unable to do so on terms and conditions favorable to us, if at all.

Particularly noteworthy is Tesla’s decision to end US sales of the Roadster this year, and sell the remainder in overseas markets. According to Tesla’s CFO (quoted in the DetN), the firm sold more Roadsters abroad in the first quarter than in the US market, an inversion of the previous dynamic. And we’re already hearing reports that some of Tesla’s US markets, specifically Boulder CO, may be “tapped out” (gee, I wonder why…). In short, the $100k electric sportscar market in the US may not be that much bigger than 1,500-1,600 units. Meanwhile, the fact that Tesla has been selling in Europe since 2009 indicates that Europe could be as tapped out as the US, and that the new international Roadster sales are coming from new markets like Japan and Australia. But then, since the company stubbornly refuses to release any sales data (because Tesla is a real car company… it’s just different), we’ll probably never know.

Meanwhile, Tesla is desperately validating its forthcoming Model S sedan… which has already received a styling refresh. Fans of the firm had better hope that demand for the larger, cheaper electric sedan is quite a bit stronger and more sustainable. Pricing has been tipped at about $60k for a 160-mile range version, $70k for a 230 mile version and $70k+ for a 300 mile version… and while lower prices are nice, shorter ranges might actually limit sales more. Into the unknown!

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19 Comments on “Tesla Roadster: 1,650 Down, 750 To Go...”


  • avatar
    CJinSD

    “Particularly noteworthy is Tesla’s decision to end US sales of the Roadster this year, and sell the remainder in overseas markets.”

    Decision? I think sales ended on their own when the population with six figure budgets for their 5th cars and IQs under 70 reached Tesla saturation. That there are always about 5 Teslas on the market with less than 2,000 miles and asking prices conceding at least $10 a mile depreciation says that the market for new ones is history. Does Tesla really manage to lose money on the Roadsters themselves, considering they’re just half as useful Lotus Elises for twice the price? Considering Tesla is little more than the distributor, there are some easy pricing models that would have put a metric on the viability of the Roadster market. We are completely shafted when you consider that the people spending our future bought Elon Musk’s fantasy, and Elon Musk needed our money because he isn’t capable of actually running a business.

  • avatar
    healthy skeptic

    The fact that they are about to run out of gliders probably gels nicely with the diminishing demand curve for Roadsters.

    The Roadster in its present incarnation is definitely a great achievement, and a $100+K sports car is certainly viable (otherwise Ferrari et al could not exists). The 240mi range is pretty decent too, especially for an EV. But it has some drawbacks.

    The problem is that once Tesla burns through the enthusiasts and early adopters, they then have to compete for somone who’s out shopping for an expensive sports car, but also looking at cars like the Porsche 911. Here’s what’s wrong:

    1) The Roadster is kind of a one-trick pony. It has a great 0-60 time, but from what I’ve read, acceleration drops off dramatically after 70 mph. Handling is encumbered by low rolling resistance eco tires and a huge hulking mass of battery that lurches around during cornering.

    2) It’s not trackable, due partly to range and lack of trackside recharging, but primarily to cooling. At $100+K, a car ought to kick ass at the track. Even if most people who own 911s never track them or drive them anywhere near the performance limits, there’s psychological importance for sports car owners to know that the car is capable of it.

    3) It’s pretty darn small inside. Not everyone fits, and for those who do, not everyone fits comfortably.

    4) Whether right or wrong, it still carries some of the stigma that all electric cars suffer from.

    5) Tesla is a small startup, and people might feel more comfortable buying from an established player like Porsche.

    Not much Tesla can do about #4 or #5, but the next gen of the Roadster (if they get that far) is going to have to address #1-3.

    • 0 avatar
      CJinSD

      The Tesla Roadster DOES NOT ship on low rolling resistance eco-tires. They all have R-compounds that wear out in a few thousand miles in order to control the extra thousand pounds in mass dictated by the electric drivetrain. The 240 mile range is righ up there with the Green Flash too.

  • avatar
    StanSmith

    @CJinSD

    ” We are completely shafted when you consider that the people spending our future bought Elon Musk’s fantasy, and Elon Musk needed our money because he isn’t capable of actually running a business.”

    Right. Lets see … Elon Musk graduated from Stanford with a degree in physics and economics. He created two multimillionaire dollar companies right out of college. You heard of Paypal? Then he created the worlds fastest electric car. He puts his own fortune into Tesla and still owns 25% of the company, he recently even bought more shares of his company. Now the question is.. Who are you and What have you accomplished that people should believe you and not him? Talk is cheap.

    • 0 avatar

      Listen good, CJ… Musk doesn’t need the market, the market needs Musk. Ignore the fact that cars are a fundamentally different business than anything he’s ever done, EVs have major shortcomings, and that he’s admitted he’s in over his head… Musk has the magic touch that never fails. Don’t question it, just believe

      • 0 avatar
        StanSmith

        @Edward Niedermeyer

        I’m surprised you’re using a computer. Isn’t innovation and risk taking scary for you Gramps?

      • 0 avatar

        Stan, I’m surprised you’re visiting a website that cares about getting at the truth. Either use the resources here to educate yourself and engage in constructive discussion, or go hang out at one of the many sites that foster the kind of uncritical echo chamber you seem to be looking for. If you took a few minutes to read through some of my work here you’d find I have no fundamental problem with EVs, but that I am deeply skeptical about Tesla’s ambitions for reasons that I go to considerable length to explain. Disagree if you like, but leave the trollish attitude at the door.

        Oh yeah, and I’m 28 years old. Who are you calling Gramps?

      • 0 avatar
        FreedMike

        “Listen good, CJ… Musk doesn’t need the market, the market needs Musk.”

        LOL

    • 0 avatar
      MikeAR

      Musk didn’t create Paypal, he doesn’t discourage anyone from saying that though. Again, by memory only, Musk founded something that Paypal bought early on and he stayed with Paypal until he cashed out to do other things. I remember reading a pretty long article in Wired about the founding fathers of Paypal and Musk was never even mentioned. My impression of him has always been the peripheral guy who doesn’t do much heavy lifting but is always in front to claim credit if the project works. We all have worked with that guy.

    • 0 avatar
      Southerner

      Oh my. Stanford physics: check. Paypal: check plus. His own fortune: hell yeah. Tax money to subsidize his toy: hell no! Talk is very cheap, my money isn’t.

    • 0 avatar
      rpn453

      Right. Lets see … Elon Musk graduated from Stanford with a degree in physics and economics. He created two multimillionaire dollar . . .

      Riveting tale, chap.

  • avatar
    sirron

    I routinely buy gas (Oh, the irony..) across the street from the main Tesla Sales and Service facility in Menlo Park, CA. They currently have ~20 new roadsters parked in their side lot.

    A few months ago, I went to the dealership and inquired about purchasing a roadster. I meet their “prime demographic” requirements. I was told that I could buy one that day and drive it away. One difficulty with their business model is that they do not accept trade-ins.

    I test drove the car. It’s very small. With the optional roof in place you have almost no side or rear visibility.

    • 0 avatar
      AVR1

      Well, there is one less on the lot because I recently bought a Roadster from the Palo Alto store. Now that production will stop at 2,400, there is a ton of interest and buyers are snatching up the remaining inventory.

      I haven’t bought gasoline, driven or ridden in an automobile powered by an ICE in over a month. My $80,000 SUV is for sale and I couldn’t be happier (lack of trade-in capability wasn’t a concern since I paid cash for the Tesla).

      My Roadster is simply a joy to drive and people are very interested and excited about the car. I have to bake in 10-15 additional minutes at any public place just to answer questions. Last week, two people on separate occasions thanked me for buying the Roadster. They felt like my purchase will help bring down the cost to make future Tesla’s more affordable.

      The entire Tesla team are stellar; exceptional service and support and I feel they are as excited as I am about the car. For me, as a kid who grew up in the 80′s, Tesla is part of the future I saw depicted on television and always dreamed about. I can’t wait for my garage to be filled with a Model S & X in the not-to-distant future.

    • 0 avatar
      AVR1

      Sirron,

      One more thing: if you set your mirrors correctly (not just on the Roadster, but any car) you’ll never have a blind spot. I barely move my head when changing lanes in the Roadster (roof on/off) now that I have the proper adjustment.

      Check out this link: http://www.teslamotorsclub.com/showthread.php/1217-How-do-you-adjust-your-side-mirrors

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    I’m glad Ed mentioned that Tesla abandoned its showroom in Boulder – it tells you a lot about where the fortunes of this company are headed.

    For anyone familiar with Denver, Boulder is on the northern edge of the metro area, and demographically, it’s very affluent and VERY liberal politically. People up there are VERY eco-conscious and are also extremely athletic, which is a plus, since getting in and out of a Tesla is something best left to Harry Houdini or someone with less than 5% bodyfat.

    If I were selling expensive eco-mobiles in the Denver area, that’d be my first choice for a location.

    They moved the showroom to Park Meadows Mall (near where I live), which is probably 50 miles away, on the south side of the metro area, and while it’s an affluent area as well, it’s 180 degrees different from Boulder – it’s right wing Valhalla down here. And, to be kind, let’s just say that the athletic obsession of folks down here is somewhat less ardent than it is up in Boulder. There’s a reason why the family car of choice down here is a duded-up four door mega-pickup or sumo-sized SUV. I’ll leave it at that.

    So, that brings me to visiting the Tesla store in the mall. The good news: it’s right across from the Apple store, so you get lots of tech-gawkers. The bad news: wheeling one out the front door for a test drive might endanger the lives of your fellow shoppers. They actually had a couple parked outside the mall (unattended and open, with the tops off, which may not be the best idea for $100,000 sports cars) as demonstrators.

    The store itself is teched out and eco-chic, festooned with plenty of touch-screen monitors for prospective buyers to configure and even buy their Teslas with. Yes, buying a $100,000 car is now self service, apparently.

    There were all manner of friendly-looking, model-quality male and female employees in unisex garb handing out a small brochure on the four door model. The young lady who greeted me was quite attractive, but when I asked her about the technical aspects of the car, she launched into an amazing imitation of a cast member on “The Hills” (“well, like, you know, it’s like this car is just so, like, cool and like, really fast, and I’m, like, so happy it’s good for the environment, you know?”).

    When that interaction lost its amusement, I began watching the mall-goers checking out the cars. Remember how I said that an obsession with athletics was not “the thing” in this part of town? You haven’t lived until you watch some heavy-set dude in a Troy Tulowitzki jersey try to get in and out of a Tesla.

    (Full disclosure: I AM one of those heavy-set guys, but I’m way too vain to even debase myself like that)

    After a couple of folks of this general girth tried their hand, I noticed that the eco-chic sales staff was all watching with barely concealed horror and amusement on their faces (“Like, oh my God, that guy is going to like need a crane to climb out.”).

    How does all this bode for Tesla’s continued success in my neck of the woods? I’d say it has about as much chance as the Gore, Kerry and Obama lawn signs that mysteriously disappeared from my front lawn. Why they’d try selling this ridiculously expensive eco-mobile in the heart of “Drill Baby Drill” territory is absolutely beyond me. Which leads to a question: why this mall? I mean, if you want to reach highly affluent people in Denver that have an eco-bent, why not try downtown Denver? If you have to be in a mall, why not Cherry Creek, which has demographics far more favorable for actually selling these cars? The reason is that the rental in either place would have been much higher. Basically, Tesla probably took this space because it was available and cheap.

    What does that tell you about a company that’s trying to sell six-figure eco-sports cars? It tells me they’re desperate.


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