By on May 1, 2009

And that’s just the prototype. The LA Times‘ Dan Neil (the automotive journalist’s automotive journalist) got an exclusive first up-close look at Tesla’s Model S and comes away with some healthy skepticism. What did he learn? “Tesla has already had to walk back a claim regarding the Model S’ recharge capacity. The car will not have the capacity to accept 440-volt current, which would allow it to be charged in 45 minutes,” for one thing. The prototype “is just barely ambulatory,” writes Neil. “More like a glorified golf cart than a harbinger of tomorrow tech.” Also, “the car’s signature design flourish—a 17-inch, touch-screen control panel with haptic feedback in the center console —may not even make it to production.” And Neil’s skepticism is contagious: The Business Insider concludes that “There’s No Way Tesla’s Model S Will Cost $57,400” even after hefty government incentives. Ouch.

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18 Comments on “Tesla Model S: “90% there on the outside and about 40% there on the inside”...”

  • avatar

    Both Fisker and Tesla are lowballing their prices.

    When this car was introduced, accounts said it was a seven-seater. Anyone ever sort that out?

  • avatar

    I see that Tesla is taking cues from the Volt. The wrapper isn’t the only thing the customer buys.

  • avatar
    Edward Niedermeyer

    Karesh: this ‘graph of Neil’s doesn’t exactly answer the question, but damn is it good for some context.

    “A ‘clean screen’ design, the Model S would be built in Tesla’s own assembly hall (in an undetermined facility in Southern California). It would offer a choice of three progressively costly battery packs with ranges of about 165 miles, 230 miles and 300 miles; it would accelerate from zero to 60 mph in 5.6 seconds and would have a top speed of 125 mph; the base price of the car would be $57,400 ($49,900 if you count the federal tax credit on all-electric cars); it would offer seven-passenger seating (which seems impossible, given the size and layout of the prototype and the increasingly stringent federal rear-crash standards) (emphasis added) and optional all-wheel drive; it would provide for quick replacement of its floor-mounted battery pack, a daunting technical challenge that would require that the pack be a load-bearing part of the structure. Tesla expects to build 20,000 vehicles in the first full year of production.”

  • avatar

    If they managed to get this to production, they will be lucky to get to customers for under $100,000. Battery technology is not moving fast enough and battery suppliers do not seem to able to keep with demand, so unless the Model S goes into production in 2020, I cannot see the Model S going for $57k. Tesla has been losing money on their current car. Maybe they just figure they will keep losing money on everything they sell and the tax payers will just give them more money to make up the difference.

  • avatar

    My main concern with Tesla is their apparent lack of engineering capabilities. Their gas to electric conversion of the Lotus Elise was slow and painful and that somewhat undermines their claim that they can design a four door electric luxury sports car from scratch. I have greater faith that either Fisker or RUF will be able to deliver than Tesla.

    Maybe its the silicon valley upstart mentality, but in the car business you need more than just a sexy demo and a bunch of cash deposits from Hollywood celebrities – you need to be able to actually deliver a working product and support it.

  • avatar

    When this car was introduced, accounts said it was a seven-seater. Anyone ever sort that out?

    You can say anything you like about a car that’s not real. Remember Ferdinand Piëch’s fish-story about the Veyron’s abilities? VW’s engineers must have sweated that, and they had the benefit of a million-dollar MSRP.

  • avatar

    I would love to see Tesla pull this off. But if they do, I think it will be despite Elon Musk’s management skills, not because of them.

  • avatar

    Tesla plans to have these available in 2011, and they haven’t even picked a site for the factory yet!? It’s halfway through 2009, and they don’t even have an architect. If they started full force tomorrow on getting the factory built, they would be lucky to be running at capacity in 2013.

    I have a feeling they can’t approach the factory process unless government loans come through.

  • avatar

    Not sure why TTAC has such a hardon for Tesla. From “they will never deliver” rants until and even after they started to deliver to constant criticisms of a concept car. It is not like empty cars haven’t been shown before by major manufacturers.

    I don’t believe for a second that the price will be where they say it will given what they have promised – but then again, they could just take a Corolla, restyle it and do a similar conversion as they did to the Elise, and call it a day in that price.

    But, I don’t think I need every other day reports talking about it either.

    And, at least, they got the hatchback sedan styling right, something that Porsche apparently cannot.

  • avatar

    akatsuki, surely there havent been THAT many articles on Tesla lately. Maybe the skepticism is because Musk is a good manure spreader, and full bore production was supposed to have been underway as of last March if I remember. And lies about battery performance. And wheels that now cost extra. And the cord that charges it, extra too? I also would like to see an affordable (somewhat) sporty electric, but this project has stunk of b.s. and a lack of honesty from day 1.

  • avatar

    A number of things piss us off about Tesla:
    1) arrogance, ignorance and attitude
    2) asking for government money
    3) taking “deposits” as a front for raising operating capital.
    4) Taking deposits for cars advertised with “standard” equipment then making that equipment retroactively “optional” when they realized they didn’t get the accounting right (see “arrogance” above)

    Other than that, it’s a cool car.

    Re the 7 seats, one article on the Model S launch noted thay 2 seats were rearward facing jump seats that fold up out of the floor. I think that’s as optimistic as calling the old Porsche 911 a “2+2”

  • avatar

    I don’t understand why Elon wants to go this route for the Model S sedan. He is wayy overambitious here.

    He should have done what Tesla did for the Roadster. Take an already existing platform, put their battery and engine into it with the help of the OE manufacturer, and add a new body. The manufacturing should also be done primarily by the OE manufacturer. As we saw from the Roadster, that alone is quite a difficult and expensive task.

    Designing an all new mass production vehicle, with off the shelf technology, takes experienced automotive companies 3-5 years and ~ $1 billion dollars.

  • avatar

    I can remember in the mid-90’s Ford BRAGGED about spending $4 billion to develop the Mondeo (Contour and Mystique in the US).

    That’s why I’m impressed that Tesla has come as far as it has on as little money as it has raised privatey.

    That’s also why i am sceptical that Chrysler will be able to turn the whole product line around on an initial capitalization of $10 billion. They have to pay not only to retool factories, but also operating losses on the magnitutde of $1 billion per month for a year and a half until new croducts come in.

  • avatar

    I don’t understand why the S will be lower cost than the original roadster. The S will be bigger & heavier, which will necessitate larger capacity (more expensive) batteries. The roadster was based on the Lotus, but I thought the S is based on a Mercedes E-class, which costs even more than a Lotus.

  • avatar
    Kyle Schellenberg

    I’m scratching my head here. I watched “Who Killed the Electric Car?” last week for the first time and although I don’t necessarily buy into all the controversy of these types of docu-dramas I found the info on the EV1 very interesting. My overall thought was that it didn’t seem so complicated to make an electric car. Many people owned the EV1, liked the EV1, the performance was there, the range didn’t seem to be a huge issue, etc, etc.

    Why is it now that we have all these “pioneers” creating the electric car? It’s possible that the EV1 came at the wrong time I can see that, but shouldn’t it have been easy to just pick up that torch and run with it again without the $100,000 price tag?

  • avatar

    Kyle, it’s true that the people who bought the EV1 loved it, but the problem is that few people bought it.

    When you have a self-selected group who knew of the poor range before they bought it, you have a group that doesn’t care about range.

    Unfortunately for electric car developers, the general public does care about range.

    I think EV1s cost about $100k each to make and the EV1 program therefore lost enormous amounts of money.

    I do think they should have allowed customers to retain the cars at the end of the leases, however. The fanatical owners would have figured out a way to keep them running, with or without GM.


  • avatar
    Kyle Schellenberg

    Range anxiety could be reduced with GPS. Set a coordinate for your house and have the car tell you it’s time to turn back by comparing your distance from home and battery remaining.

    The buying group for electric cars should naturally be inclined to understand the principles of limited range. Have we not all used a cordless phone or an electric shaver before? I don’t think GM’s reverse-hybrid Volt concept makes as much sense as the current realm of ‘full’ hybrids.

    Why not just actively market EVs as having a limited range but cheap to run and environmentally friendly (whether that’s really true or not) and Hybrids as long range, almost as cheap to run and still relatively environmentally friendly? People in that market can decide which compromise they’re willing to make.

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