By on June 23, 2008

mn-concours23_ph_0498675332.jpgOn March 17 (of this year), Tesla Motors supposedly began production of their $98k Lithium-ion-powered Roadster. Ninety-eight days later and nada. Niente. Nix. Nothing. So while we await independent confirmation that a single paying customer has received a single Roadster, here's an article in The SF Gate about the Palo Alto Concours d'Elegance, which has dressed-up its parade of pistonhead perfection with alt power-mobiles. One of which was, of course, the Roadster, presented, of course, with obfuscation and unsubstantiated PR spin intact. "Nearby, Bob Liems walked past a 2008 Ferrari 430 Scuderia, the lightweight $305,000 model with 515 horsepower, and to the Tesla Roadster, the electric sports car with 248 horsepower and a 220-mile range. The Tesla, which takes anywhere from three to seven hours to fully recharge, costs $98,000 and tops out at 125 mph." You can't buy that kind of publicity. Or can you? Anyway, I'd like to suggest that the Palo Alto show was the perfect place to view the Roadster, nested as it was amongst other rare and exotic machinery that have faded into minor, adored and ultimately irrelevant historical relevance. 

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16 Comments on “Tesla Death Watch 6: 98 Days and Counting...”

  • avatar

    You’ll never get a Tesla for $98k unless your name is already on the waiting list. It now costs at least $109k to have your name on the list for eventually sometime or the other perhaps one day maybe in the hopefully not too far distant future delivery.

  • avatar

    We’ve already seen 2 cars delivered to paying customers. Granted, these customers are also investors, but they each paid $100K up front for their cars (as did all the first 125 customers). The first 25 cars all go to investors in the company and are part of the so called Founders Series (it would have been more accurate to be called the Investors’ Series, but that just sounds bad). Last week there was a report of #5 being delivered soon and #15 entering the production line. There was another report of current production rate being 2 cars a day (with the eventual goal of 10/day). These gliders are assembled by Lotus in the UK and shipped by boat or plane to CA to have the drivetrain installed.

    Anyhow from my POV things are progressing. Yes slowly, but the direction is positive. Still don’t understand why TTAC is so negative. The car is pretty awesome.

    This “Death Watch” is unnecessarily pessimistic. The company is still a start-up. If it’s TTAC’s opinion that not yet “a single paying customer has received a single Roadster,” then you should have continued the Birth Watch.

  • avatar

    doug :

    Those links prove nothing. The key words here are “independent confirmation.” Tesla says they’ve begun customer deliveries. But Tesla said a lot of things, many of which were untrue or entirely misleading or revised later.

    Which is also the reason for the pessimism.

  • avatar

    Ok, there is slowly ramping up production and then there is this. 4 months and 2 cars delivered? There can only two reasons for this delay IMHO, major technical difficulties or major financial issues. I’m guessing its the former. Designing and building a vehicle is complex stuff. When you start getting parts off production tooling and try to put it all together, things change, parts no longer fit or function as they should.

    Also, weren’t the first few cars to be delivered actually reconditioned prototypes?

  • avatar

    Well, this Sunday I was on Main St. in Santa Monica and saw that blue Tesla parked on the street again. A few people were looking at it. There was a festival going on so I imagine that’s why enough people were there to pay attention to the rather 914ish (from a distance) looking car. Do they pay someone to drive it around? The Tesla dealership has two cars on the floor that don’t ever seem to move. I can imagine the fun of trying to get a test drive, if anyone is even in the dealership.

  • avatar


    I’m guessing it’s both. I think Tesla is/was a pie-in-the-sky company under Eberhardt that had a good idea but not enough business acumen to see it through. That’s why there’s three and half cars officially produced, and it’s a pretty common occurence in start-up land.

    Under Musk, they’re trying to do damage control. There’s a lot of VCs who are going to expect some return on investment soon, or they’ll close Tesla down and reopen it as an “Intellectual Property” company.

    Particularly telling is how hard they’re shilling the Whitestar sedan. That tells me that they’re grasping at straws; either because they need momentum (and money) or management is just letting engineering run amok.

  • avatar


    I think the first link counts as “independent confirmation,” unless you think Dave Zinman is a lier. The second link sprung out of my own speculation about photos from an independent photographer in Chicago. This was later confirmed a delivery by Tesla, which you can choose not to accept.

    At any rate, that still doesn’t answer my question as to why you ended the Birth Watch if you’re still waiting for what you consider “independent confirmation.” This premature Death Watch suggests you actively want Tesla to fail.

  • avatar


    At any rate, that still doesn’t answer my question as to why you ended the Birth Watch if you’re still waiting for what you consider “independent confirmation.” This premature Death Watch suggests you actively want Tesla to fail.

    I was against ending the Tesla Birth Watch. But I was over-ruled by my ME, who said we should accept Daryl Siry’s assertion that a paying customer had received a car.

    As for the TDW’s existence suggesting that I “actively” desire Tesla’s failure, no. After considering the company, its products and their PR, I “actively” believe Tesla might fail. That’s why it’s a watch. We’re watching.

    I would love to see an American company produce a successful EV. This thing has been over-hyped and under-delivered since day one.

  • avatar

    I wonder if they’ll get Jeff Bridges to star in the movie?

  • avatar

    There are also Death Watch series for GM, Ford and Chrysler, showing that Robert isn’t just picking on Tesla. And despite his sharp comments, I don’t seriously think Robert wants GM, Ford, Chrysler and/or even Tesla to fail.

    I believe that what Robert thinks, or hopes, is that his Death Watch series can help encourage the companies involved to think twice about what they’re doing, and perhaps become more honest about what’s going on.

    With the expulsion of Martin Eberhard, Tesla turned overnight from being one of the most exciting companies to follow, with honest pronouncements from executives, to one of the least, with virtually no information coming out of the company.

    You could almost think of being on the Death Watch as an honor. This means Robert believes that you are important enough to receive coverage.

    Auto Blog Green and The Truth About Cars are about the only media I know of that covers Tesla. I think Robert accused ABG of whitewashing Tesla but they are now considerably more critical, especially with the Eberhard’s car fiasco.

    I really admire what Tesla’s doing, wish they’d kept on Martin, and still wish them the best of luck. I think I share with Robert a desire to try and push them back to a better course, even though I’m under no illusions that it’s likely :-(.


  • avatar

    I wouldn’t call it a death watch since the product hasn’t technically been “born”. Perhaps you could call it “Tesla Abortion Watch”.

  • avatar


    I “actively” believe Tesla might fail. That’s why it’s a watch. We’re watching.

    Fair enough. :)

    …it was amongst other rare and exotic machinery that have faded into minor, adored and ultimately irrelevant historical relevance.

    This from a car guy??? I stopped by that show since it was right here on campus. Most every car I saw there was pretty damn awesome. Also, “irrelevant relevance”???

  • avatar

    The problems are multi fold. First of all, having vehicles built in the UK of all places. Have they ever been known for high volume production of anything? What do they work these days? One shift, four days a week, ~6 hours a day?

    Hand built aluminum/carbon fiber. Not just stamping out sheet metal and spot welding it together. I’d be interested in seeing how the aluminum is joined, and how the CF is attached.

    How long does it take to transport vehicles from the UK to California? That is where the battery pack is installed? Why?

    How many cars a week does the plant turn out?

    Who builds the inverter?

    And the million dollar curiosity question; what brand or model is the new fancy capacitor they are using?

  • avatar

    OTOH, Mattel has just released a Hot Wheels version of the Tesla. Given the prices of the real Tesla, even if they actually build them, the Hot Wheels version is about as close as I’m ever going to get to owning one.

  • avatar

    RTZ the teslas are made by Lotus in Hethel in England not france.

    5 days a week 8 am till 5 p.m. standard working week. Admittedly that isn’t as long as the americans work because we all know american minutes are bigger than our GMT minutes.

  • avatar

    @RTZ: OK I’m also sceptical about the Tesla, however the Lotus production and Aluminum chassis are the one part that is actually realistic: The aluminum frames are delivered by Norsk Hydro, joined by state of the art glueing techniques.
    Just recently Lotus has built their 20,000th Elise that way, so that seems to be proven technology.

    Oh, and making fun of European working hours might be a nice game Americans like to play (just like incorrectly calling Europe “Socialist”), however you shoudn’t forget that better training and more modern production methods also provide the European autoworker with a healty productivity advantage compared to his UAW controlled peers.

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