Tesla Birth Watch 5: Tesla Amps-Up The Hype. Again. Still.

Robert Farago
by Robert Farago
tesla birth watch 5 tesla amps up the hype again still

Now that Tesla's delayed the delivery of their $100k lithium-ion-powered Roadster for the third time, and lowered production expectations again, you'd think that the automotive media would begin to share TTAC's skepticism about this Silicon Valley venture. Not so. Perhaps that's because A) The media really want it to happen and B) Tesla's wrapped the delay in [increasingly familiar] hyperbole. In a letter to Tesla Club Members ($50k and you're in!), Tesla's freshly-minted CEO apologizes for the delay and resets customers' expectations. "While we expect to produce a limited number of production cars in the fourth quarter," Michael E. Marks writes. "I have set a production goal of shipping fifty cars in the first quarter of 2008, with an additional 600 cars in the 2008 model year." (In case you're not a lawyer, "expect" and "goal" are not legally binding terms.) And then the really good news: "Range: 245 miles on the EPA combined cycle, confirmed!" Confirmed by… Tesla! Although the company feels free to use the term "EPA" in their claims, nothing about the Roadster is government certfied. And there is still no independent confirmation of the Roadster's safety, range or recharge time. Yet the press continue to repeat Tesla's claims as if they were gospel. Rest assured, the Devil's Advocate will keep you posted.

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  • Lewissalem Lewissalem on Sep 27, 2007

    Darryl, Your comments are appreciated here. I guess we're just jaded from promises from other automotive companies (cough...GM cough.) We are aware that many of the "promises" made were not of your companies doing, but of an overzealous media grasping for a story. How is the White Horse project going? I think that car is more in my price range. LS.

  • Wulv Wulv on Sep 27, 2007

    Sorry Darryl, but the comment about sending a Roadster off to the "buff mags" to review doesn't really fit in with promoting your vehicle. Almost every "buff mag" out there has lost all credibility with car lovers when it comes to reviewing auto's. Telling us that you are sending out a car to be reviewed by them sounds more like you are gearing up for a paid promotion. Also, "several of them write about their experience on our company blog" , the Company Blog? Edited by "company Editors"?. Written by customers who have thrown down a ton of cash and are "reviewing" an unfinished, untried product? Of course any flaw will be overlooked as something still in development? Once production ramps up, and customers actually drive their vehicles around, is when most people will start to believe the hype.

  • Siry Siry on Sep 27, 2007

    @Wulv: I agree with you on some points but not others. We don't do any paid promotion, and certainly don't do any advertising, so I think the buff mags will be able to breathe a sigh of relief and be objective. Too bad for me. Also - the irony of manufacturing a breakthrough product is that you need to try to embrace the mainstream to an extent. To many of our customers, our car being reviewed by mainstream magazine is a good validation. We will also offer test drives to other media outlets. You are right when you say that the final assessment is really when cars are on the street in customers' hands. Regarding the blogs, we don't edit our customers' posts (except for curses and spam and the sort). We have had 38 customers drive the car to date and will continue the program. Some of them choose to share their experiences (good and bad) and we publish them verbatim. I am the "company editor" so we aren't talking about some huge corporate PR machine washing the blog posts. I don't even edit out flame posts that directly insult me or the company. It's good for the dialogue since it shows people we aren't trying to hide anything. We aren't perfect by any means, but we aren't engaging in obfuscation. Early on we thought we would have a range of 250 miles. When it looked like we were missing our goals we announced that to customers and the public. Why would we do that if we were out to deceive? Now we have done hard work and achieved a great result so we shared it with our customers and the public. To me, that is pretty straightforward. It is also straightforward to me that a delay is disappointing to our customers and to us as well, but I know it is the right course of action and will result in a better car when it is ultimately put in the hands of our customers and the public.

  • Wulv Wulv on Sep 27, 2007

    I AM personally excited about the Roadster, I really REALLY hope it makes a difference, especially in changing people's perception of the electric vehicle. I also really like how Darryl is keeping track of stories on sites like TTAC. In my mind at least, it really does make it look like Tesla has committed to listening to what others have to say. I believe also skepticism is healthy for a company, especially in an industry that historically shrugs off the skeptics as unimportant. I am looking forward to the day(s) when the Roadster is given a go by the "blogging" community. There are way too many knowledgeable people out there that AREN'T for many reasons attached to print/TV media. A lot of people have woken up to the fact that the web communities have "pull", and have nowhere but to become more numerous. My personal skepticism comes from how, the auto industry treats their customers. If Tesla can change the way people think about car companies in general, they will win over a ton of people.