By on November 17, 2008

We’ve often wondered how many cars Tesla has actually delivered to paying customers. The company claims there are some 60 cars out there, somewhere. Well, thanks to Jason Calacanis’ patience over the last two years, we can now bring you this update: 16. Well, at least 16, as Jason has just taken delivery of Roadster number 16 (says so right on the VIN plate). But wait! That’s number 16 after the “Founders’ Series” of 27 Roadsters. So that would be… 43! But wait! Calacanis says the numbers aren’t delivered sequentially. His is 16, but, ’cause he asked for special paint job, cars with higher VIN numbers may have been delivered earlier. Anyway, after an intro that makes the opening credits of the original Batman series seem like a subliminal message, the 169th edition of TWIT (This Week in Technology) reveals all. Calacanis describes the prototype Tesla four-door as an Aston Martin combined with a Porsche and a Maserati, and says Tesla’s problems are now behind it. Which probably means they’re dead ahead.

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38 Comments on “Tesla Death Watch 37: Number 16 Delivered...”

  • avatar


    I forgot to point out that they start talking about it again in TWIT at about 1 Hour and 20 Minute mark.

    Special Paint and 2 tone interior…Holy Electric bad taste Batman!

  • avatar

    OMG, one of you knuckle-dragging TTAC fans actually listens to TWIT? Has unemployment finally got you experimenting with new ways to kill time?

  • avatar


    Thanks for the post pal! I’m really loving the car so far. It’s super fast, handles really tight and it looks just amazing.

    Orange is clearly the best color. :-)

    At this point, as a paying customer of Tesla’s, I’m 100% sure they are going to make it based on the fact that they have delivered a really delightful product.

    The dealership told me that folks are coming into Santa Monica offering $300-500k in cash for the car. That’s a very good sign.

    In fact, I’m considering buying a second roadster for my wife and I’m absolutly going to be in the first 10 buyers of the four door. I’ve seen the early designs of the four door and while I can’t give any specific details I can tell you it looks AMAZING! It’s one of the best looking four door cars I’ve ever seen.

    The best way to tell if a company is going to do well in my experience in business is to ask them a very simple question: “would you buy from them again?”

    The answer to that question for me is a resounding “HELL YES BABY!!!!”

    TFFL (Tesla Fan For Life!)


    ps – If you’re in Los Angeles any time soon lets go for ride!

  • avatar

    Oh yeah… here are some photos of various quality (from iphone and blackberry) of #16:

    FYI: The electrical installation folks told me they have done over 20 cars in SoCal alone, so I think the 60 cars delivered number is accurate. 27 + 16 = 43, and I know that many folks after my vin# got their cars ahead of me.

    rock on!


  • avatar

    Nice color combo. Actually looks better than it sounds.

    Reminds me of the Bond Bug:

    Came in Orange Tangerine only.

  • avatar

    jasoncalacanis :

    Thanks for posting. We could really use your help. How about you lend us your car so we can put it through a thorough independent evaluation.

    We want to test range, recharge times and have an expert examine it for safety.

    We’ll insure the car for the test period, which should be one day.

    [email protected]

  • avatar

    Sure…. come to Los Angeles and we can test the range together. It seems to be right on the money.

    In my early tests I think it’s going to get 130 miles out of the ~176 “full” charge I have it set for due to the way I drive (read: I like to get to 60 quickly :-).

    The “full charge” is set at the following:

    a) charge the battery up to 90%
    b) set zero at 10% battery charge

    From what I understand it’s best to let the battery operate from 10-90% for the longevity of the battery. Taking out 20% from the stated 220 miles is 220 – 44miles or 176.

    Note: You can turn off these settings if you want and charge all the way to 100% or run down to true 0%. In fact, you can use the last 10% automatically… it’s sort of like the empty on your gas tank being not really empty, but reserve.

    It can easily hit the 176 number based on my watching the battery icon. I did exactly 50 miles and burned through almost exactly 1/3rd of the battery. This was while being on the highway and doing fast stop to starts in order to show friends the pick up.

    In fact, I think that in the next year or two they will do tweaks to the drive software and hardware to get another 10-20% out of the batteries.

    Additionally, I don’t see why–besides cost–they wouldn’t dump in a second battery pack that was 50% of the size. If they did that you would be at a max range of well over 300 miles. I guess adding another 5-8k in costs is the issue there.

    come to LA and we’ll drive it down the 405 freeway for an hour at exactly 55 MPH and see what happens! could be fun!

    In terms of charging the car I was able to top off 40% of the battery in two hours at my friends house. He has the max battery charger I think… so, if you have that base station you can charge the whole thing in 3-4 hours MAX.

    My friend has had his for almost a month and he has the old software. So, we actually test two cars at the same time side by side and see what two cars do!

    best jason

  • avatar

    @ jasoncalacanis:

    “The best way to tell if a company is going to do well in my experience in business is to ask them a very simple question: “would you buy from them again?” ”

    Good thing for Tesla it isn’t, ‘can they sell their product for a profit or manufacture enough of them for it to matter?’

  • avatar


    Why so cynical!??! They’re only trying to create a new car company based on a new energy source. Where’s the risk in that?!?! :-)

    Seriously, I think if they make a modest profit or just break even on the Roadster and deliver the 1,000+ they have on order they will be in amazing shape as a company.

    From my understanding they can make a little margin on the roadster now. Additionally, based on the advances they are making in manufacturing and the core technology I think they are going to have two great business lines:

    1. Selling the technology to other companies that are way behind on figuring out the tough issues associated with electric-powered cars.

    2. Selling lots and lots of $30-60k cars.

    The big question I have is why didn’t Tesla start with a $50,000 car which would have resulted in 10-50,000 orders I’m sure. From what I’m told they wanted to make a sexy car that got a lot of attention…. well, mission accomplished on that one.

    Seems like everywhere I go around the world (I travel a lot) folks know the Tesla Roadster. I got chased down Sunset today by someone who wanted to talk about it, and if you park the thing on the street a crowd starts assembling almost immediately.

    Bottom line: it was a probably a good idea to make a sexy roadster that draws so much attention, but you’re right the big question is when they get passed the first 1,000 roadsters can they produce 10,000 four door cars for $60k each.

    I’m feeling confident in the company right now because the product is so well produced and delightful!!!

    best jcal

  • avatar


    I am just jealous, I get to drive my tangerine Element in Brooklyn, not an Orange Tesla in LA…….

  • avatar


    Yes, I listen to TWIT and a bunch of other Podcasts. I commute from NJ to Brooklyn and Queens everday or 30K miles/year. I need the white noise…..

  • avatar

    The whole vaporware idea is slowly evaporating, thankfully. I’m happy to see they’re starting to deliver more cars, despite all of the drama in the company itself.

    jasoncalacanis: Was the car sitting in the dealership for a while before you took delivery? The dealership seems to have gotten much livelier in the past few weeks. Come give me a ride some time, I’ll even pay for gas! ;)

  • avatar

    The car was at the dealership for about five days before i picked it up. I was in Tokyo for a technology conference at the time…. and yes I considered coming home early to pick it up. :-)

  • avatar

    Also, open invitation to any bloggers/podcasters/press who want to go for a ride in Santa Monica. you can ping me any time at jason at


  • avatar

    A $50.000 car has to be pefect. A $100.000 car just has to be fun. See in the past Ferrari’s and cars like that

  • avatar

    @ jasoncalacanis:

    Thanks for the response. I’m only cynical because Tesla didn’t hire me…well and because I believe they were on an already outrageously ambitious but correct path, ie. build a sexy niche product at low volume and high price, and then deviated from it. Clearly, if they had focused more energy on the Roadster and gotten it to market closer to the initial cost/timing targets, Tesla would be in outstanding shape right now.

    Instead they got way ahead of themselves. First, they tried to increase the performance of the roadster before they even had the initial design perfected. Then, they started working on the Model S/Whitestar before they got the Roadster to market.

    Now, they have a limited number of products on the road and questionable ability to fill the orders they’ve taken deposits on, never mind money to fund the Model S program. And that doesn’t take into account the great job they have done in paving the way for their competition. I can’t fault Tesla for their extreme ambition, but I believe their naiveté and lack of patience will do them in.

  • avatar

    I think production is going well. See photos I took in the past few weeks at the Menlo Park store here and here. See if you can spot Jason’s car.

  • avatar
    Dr. Remulac

    Jason C:

    Did you buy this because it is “green” or for novelty? Just curious of the mindset of someone that can actually afford it.

  • avatar

    Starting a car company is a daunting task. If Tesla survives, they will have a leg up on the EV competition in terms of niche and name reconition. Especially if EVs really take off, as they’re suspected to do.

  • avatar
    Stu Sidoti

    uhhh….why is there a Chevy Malibu ad link embedded in the post?

  • avatar

    Selling what core technology? They license AC propulsions drive system technology, and are built on a platform from Lotus. The tough problem (transmission), hasn’t licked yet. And if it was, it would again be based on outsourcing anyways. They are an integrator, and unless they have a lock on some key developer.

    From my point of view: they must survive on car sales alone.

  • avatar

    Good to see that it looks like that production levels of cars are now in the hands of actual customers.

    I think, for cars, the “vaporware” level should be set to the number of Tuckers built (51). Looks like the Tesla has surpassed that. Good for them.

  • avatar

    Nice paint job. Actually looks better than one could imagine.

    Reminds me a lot of the Bond Bug:

    that came in tangerine only.

  • avatar

    Some random production stats…

    I know that Signature #52 was being delivered yesterday. (Which would make 77 cars total)

    10 days ago when I stopped in, they had cars through sig #64 in the Menlo Park store (going through final testing).

    I am sig #76. Once I get mine in ~2 weeks, they will have delivered over 100 cars to paying customers.

    What number do they need to hit to stop being called vaporware?!? Feel free to be cynical about longer term plans (like I could stop you) but the Roadster is real….

    Walk around downtown Palo Alto on a random day and you’ll see how vaporous it is. I saw two of them parked on the street yesterday!


  • avatar

    Calacanis describes the prototype Tesla four-door as an Aston Martin combined with a Porsche and a Maserati,

    How does it compare to a Lotus Elise or Exige, though? I don’t see how it could have them beat in the handling department. Also have you ever driven an Ariel Atom or its Brambo (I think that was the name of the American supplier in Ashland) counterpart?

  • avatar

    Lumbergh21, I’ll let you know how they compare. I have a Brammo Ariel Atom 2 (300HP stage 3) and I’m on the waiting list for a Tesla Roadster.

    I don’t understand all of the negativity. Who would think it’s a great thing if Tesla is a failure? Nobody with any sense, that’s for sure. Electric cars are the future, and my congratulations to Tesla, the first company with the guts to go for it. Now Chrysler and GM are trying to copy them since it appears that they are being successful.

    Can’t wait for my roadster.

  • avatar

    LastResort, you are way behind the times. Initially Tesla licensed AC Propulsion parts to develop their prototype but found the parts to be too expensive, analog, random and unreliable, so Tesla designed their own. The energy storage system, power electronics module and motor are Tesla designs. Tesla’s powertrain is being sold to other auto companies and producing a good revenue stream.

  • avatar
    tesla deathwatcher

    “Tesla’s powertrain is being sold to other auto companies and producing a good revenue stream.”

    That’s news to me. What carmaker buys Tesla’s powertrain? I’ve never heard that, and doubt it very much. In my opinion, Tesla has contributed little if any to the state of the electric car art.

  • avatar

    How is this a death watch, it seems that they are delivering more and more cars to paying customers.

  • avatar

    So far there are over 70 roadsters delivered. There are around 10 roadsters in the Menlo Park showroom ready for delivery with 15 or more in the final assembly area close to ready. Perhaps we should call this a birth watch instead.

  • avatar

    Studebaker made and delivered a fair number of Avantis, too.

  • avatar

    Unfortunately Studebaker was on its last legs. The Avanti was an attempt to resuscitate a once great company but it was too little, too late.

  • avatar

    TeslaTruth:Analog? Really? Thats a criticism? And you only responded to one of my points, but I’m not sure it’s 100% accurate. My research indicates that Tesla is still licenses technology from AC Propulsions, though building their own power electronics and motors. Which are all well understood technology.

  • avatar

    Sometimes it feels like some people here wish Tesla ill. I can believe in cynicism, like we hear from Robert, but the contempt I hear in some voices is unfortunate. At least Tesla has tried a difficult task, and in terms of designing and building the car, they are darn near close to pulling it off. I think this is admirable even if they are not ultimately successful.

    Even though I think Tesla made a mistake in throwing Martin off the bus, I still want them to succeed, and so does Martin. (I am not speaking for him; simply read his blog and he says so explicitly).

    I hope none of this gives Jason second thoughts about letting Robert’s team borrow his Tesla. I would really love to see the results of the subsequent testing.


  • avatar

    Tesla Death Watch was founded for a reason – the bell tolls for thee Tesla.

    The spin continues to boggle the mind. I can’t wait for Jason to check his range in 1 year then in 2 years etc. The battery capacity and range degradation issues are not yet fully known and solved for the 18650 cells other than the known horrible decay associated with our everyday laptops.

    Elon’s interview citing that a quick re-charge station can exist 220 miles out from LA may work on week number 1, but what about week 52 and week 104, etc when the range decays to 60% of original state? Remind me what a battery replacement costs?

    Also, hill climb in the summer will be a thrill when you drive to Vegas from LA and you can’t pass a Ford Taurus pulling a trailer uphill as your powertrain is overheating and the car diverted to “safe mode” to protect the superhot motor.

    The car is a blast to drive initially, but this toy will not pass the test of practicality or real scrutiny when premium sedan buyers who look at the Model S compare it to real cars for the same price.

    As a toy with short quick trips around town it is groovy, but it is not yet ready for prime time.

    Applaud Martin and Marc for their vision, but fault Elon for Tesla’s demise. Comforting note though, Elon fired a quality manager to save $60K in the UK last week, but decided to replace the high cubicle walls in San Carlos with new Ikea furnishings this week for $100K. At least his priorities are in the right place: window dressing. Perception is reality…

  • avatar
    tesla deathwatcher

    I don’t think people wish Tesla ill. Speaking for myself, I thought Tesla, including and especially Martin Eberhard, took too much credit for what they did. Best technology of the year. Green technology of the decade. On and on. Eberhard and Musk accepting prizes and congratulations for leading us all into the electric car age.

    Except they weren’t leading us anywhere. They burned through a lot of cash and have a business plan that does not work. Tesla’s electric propulsion technology may be of its own design, but it is, technology-wise, a dead knock-off of the AC Propulsion tzero. The body and chassis is a knock-off of the Lotus Elise. What has Tesla really accomplished? Not a whole lot.

    Had we seen more humility from Elon Musk and Martin Eberhard and less hubris, they might get a more sympathetic reception now. I listened closely for any acknowledgement from Tesla of the contributions to the Tesla Roadster of AC Propulsion and Lotus. Not a word of acknowledgement, let alone praise, was spoken. According to Martin Eberhard, the Tesla Roadster is all of Tesla’s own design.

    To top it off, Tesla has the gall to sue Henrik Fisker over trade secret infringement. The arbitrator finds in favor of Fisker, and chews Tesla out for bringing the case in bad faith. What does Elon Musk say about it? He says the arbitrator made the wrong decision. Oh, right.

    Entrepreneurs and companies that labor long and hard through difficult times to bring something new to market deserve their reward. I am sometimes envious of those people, but do not begrudge them their success. They earned it.

    But I do feel it only fair when a company like Tesla that basked in glory it did not earn has to taste the bitter fruit of adversity. They had money to burn, and they sure burned it. If they still find some way to make it, great for them. They already took their victory lap. Now win the race. I will hold my applause until then.

  • avatar

    “I don’t think people wish Tesla ill…only fair…a company like Tesla that basked in glory it did not earn has to taste the bitter fruit of adversity”

    Is there a contradiction there Tesla Deathwatcher? I think that sounds bitter and is an unbalanced reaction to Tesla, their car, their perceived place in electric automotive history etc.

    I’m sure Messrs Eberhard and Musk have their flaws, I imagine ego and bloody-mindedness help sustain people who are pushing boundaries.

    This thread is strangely negative.

    Isn’t the Tesla car important in itself; it appeals to the emotions we fight against when we think of the planet/climate change. The Tesla is a piece green indulgence in a sea of green sacrifice. In this way it is totemic.

  • avatar
    tesla deathwatcher

    Do I contradict myself? Very well then, I contradict myself.

    Seriously, though, I don’t wish Tesla ill. And I’m not bitter about what they have done, or are doing. If they can succeed at it, great for them.

    But when people like Jason Calacanis tout Tesla as a great success, I beg to differ. In my eyes, they have failed as a ompany. Burning money like a GM with no hope of a profit. That’s all.

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