Sunday, April 22, 2012

Tesla won't sell me an electric car

I mentioned in an earlier post that I wanted an electric car and was having trouble buying one. My first failure was with Tesla Motors.

Led by celebrity CEO Elon Musk, Tesla has been selling a roadster for some time now. Last year, they announced a sedan, the Model S, that looked like just the ticket for me. Luxurious, easily capable of carrying four passengers in comfort, with a performance edition that would go from zero to sixty in 4.4 seconds and have a 300-mile range, this baby was both a great car and just the ticket for out-smugging Bill in his LEAF.

So, even though the price was crazy high, I tried to order one.

No luck. They're going to sell only 5,000 of these in 2012, and already 8,000 people are on the waiting list for the 2012 units. They told me this in January.

January. That means that between January and August, when the first Model S units are due to appear, they could not figure out how to boost their production capacity. Given the price of the car, they are leaving something on the order of a couple hundred million dollars on the table.

I promise you that if you guaranteed me in January that our company would have 60% more work by August, we would be ready to do that work.

Consider Tesla's financial state. The company has had to go back to investors for more money. Lots more money. It took hundreds of millions of dollars in bail-out money from the U.S. government, i.e., from all of our pockets. Yet it cannot find a way to make more cars.

This is appalling. I'm sure there are many complexities I do not understand, but surely Musk and his team can find a way around them and take our money--and succeed more. Perhaps they need to hire more Americans to build the cars; fine, with all the money from the orders and the bail-out, surely they can do that.

But, no. Instead, thousands sit on a waiting list.


So, no Tesla Model S for me.

By the way, Elon, if you and your team read this post and want to sell me an early unit, I'll consider letting bygones be bygones--but I'll still be right that you should do the same for everyone else on the waiting list.


Bill Catchings said...

You can't out smug me until you actually get an electric car! In the meantime, I've got almost 5,000 miles on my LEAF and have not had to buy gas since October. I've got a lot of smug for you to overcome!


Mark said...

Very true, sadly, very true.

Anonymous said...

Wha?? Do you have any idea what it takes to bring a vehicle from 0-certified, street legal car? You're living in the 50's. And how foolish would it be to hire thousands of people to pump out cars. Supply and demand, my friend. If you deplete the supply in 1 month because you have the workforce, what will you do with the idle(read EXPENSIVE) workers? Yes, if this cars turns out to be wildly popular it would be wise to hire great numbers, but Musk is wise to tip-toe into it. That is why he is a billionaire, and you are not.

J. Griffin Barber said...

My dentist and hunting buddy is getting one. I believe the bottleneck is batteries.

Mark said...

Griffin, good for your friend. Please let me know what he thinks. I don't know if the bottleneck is batteries, but that is not what the Tesla rep told me.

Anonymous, we will have to agree to disagree. I do not believe I am living in the 50s. This is not their first car. I do believe that there are many alternatives to depleting the supply in one month, such as, for example, doing so over all of 2012--and fulfilling all of those orders--instead of making only a fixed quantity. As for why he's a billionaire and I am not, I suspect there are many, many reasons.

Anonymous said...

Dear Bill (and Mark)
This is a test of my ability to leave a comment more than anything else.
Electric power after it's transmitted to the user over an AC grid is by far the least efficient form in terms of fuel. Now--it probably won't be fuel oil, and it may not be natural gas (which I think usually isn't listed when they're talking about petroleum depletion.)
Natural gas still creates CO2, and I think global warming will get us before we run out of oil. (Well, not me: I'm 66. But you get the point.)
If it's not natural gas, it's coal you're pumping into the atmosphere to run your Leaf; or it's nuclear power charging your batteries.
Personally I've always been a supporter of nuclear plants, but I'm willing to bet that's not the case of most Leaf/Prius buyers. And even if we suddenly embrace nukes as a nation/world, it takes literally decades to get one on line.
I will continue to be green in my small ways; but I think that with the rising population--well, our grandchildren are going to have to solve the problem in their own ways. Or not. It's out of our control.
Dave (Drake)

Mark said...


You succeeded at leaving a comment.

I share your concerns, but I still believe this is the best path available to us.

J. Griffin Barber said...

And it can't be bad to be aware of the possibilities, and support those vendors that are trying to offer products that ease some of the impact of our lives on the environment.

I bought my hybrid simply because I hated burning through my money while sitting still in stop and go traffic.

Mark said...

I do like the savings from my Prius.


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