An American Revolution: Tesla Motors
We are witnessing history. OK, perhaps I am exaggerating. Perhaps I am jumping the gun. I however personally believe we are witnessing something special. Tesla Motors yesterday has delivered the Model S to its first customers. Some people's first initial response may be "who cares, this is a tech site". Wrong. Well, OK right/wrong. The Verge covers technology and technology culture. While in the past the world of auto may have had it's own orbit, it has slowly started to drift into the world of technology over the past 10 years. Actually, more careened. Cars now-a-days have very quickly become the biggest gadgets one can own. Half of what car makers are introducing in their dash is to incorporate navigation, music, information and much more. That aside however, enters Tesla.
I'll admit I hopped on the Tesla bandwagon early. Long before I was a tech nut, I was (am) very much a gear head. When I first heard about the Roadster, what it was capable of, what they had planned for it, I was impressed. It was the idea behind it that impressed me the most. It was also the sheer audacity. They were trying to start a brand new automotive company in the U.S.A. Let me say that again, start a NEW auto company. Not join one. Even more amazing than that, their first entry would be a car that ran on a charge. I mean, do you have any idea how hard that is? The nearly insurmountable obstacles that stand in the way? Yet with the introduction of the Roadster they pulled it off. They sold a $100,000 car in the middle of a struggling economy. I still find it hard to believe they even built it. An electric car that accelerates from 0-60 in 3.7 seconds, and has a 245 mile range?
That would be just the beginning. They laid out their plan for all to see. The next car would be $50,000, the following even less. The 4th would crack exactly where Elon Musk wanted to crack, the $30,000 barrier. Even getting that far would be a challenge. The Roadster had minor contributions from the likes of Lotus. It would however fall entirely on Tesla as a whole to design, engineer and sell a car made completely on it's own. It'd have to appeal to Men and Woman equally. It'd have to denounce the idea of what had eventually become known as "range anxiety". It'd also have to fight the concept that electric cars are "still not ready yet". It'd have to fight the idea that they are slow, unattractive, meant for tree huggers. The idea that they have to be small and impractical. That EV's are not meant for someone who actually enjoys driving, let alone outperform their ICE counterparts. Perhaps most damning opposition would be the previous entrants that came into the category previously, yet where unsuccessful.
Yet 9 years after Tesla's introduction they have seemingly delivered on their promise. They made.....a car. A car that is attractive. A car that is quick (0-60 = 4.4). A car that is practical (seats 5 + 2). A car that has range (up to 300 miles). Even as astonishing as it is, some of the more historic news came two years ago. Tesla automotive went public. The 1st American car company to do so in 5 decades. The last was this little car company called Ford in 1956. As soon as they announced the IPO I wanted to invest. I wanted to invest for what it said about trying to come in and disrupt a market that have been on a set path for over a century. Now that the Model S is out the gates and running I don't consider them a runaway success. Who can in all honestly. However as a car nut, I like the idea that a company came from nothing to say "no". No the Prius, Volt, Leaf, iMiev, is not the path the industry HAS to be set on.
That's why I've been bullish on Tesla. Every editor who has written about actually driving the Model S has said the same thing, "it's fun to drive". Think about that. That's what was missing from the aforementioned cars. It's almost as if you could see the man who engineered the Prius thinking about it as they said it, "hmmm.....'fun'....". Everything Tesla is, everything I hope them to be, is embodied in the Model S. It's the difference between a Fiat 500 and a electric Smart car. A Fiat 500 is just a fun, enjoyable, little car.The type that puts a smile on your face whenever you step in. An electric Smart will get you there, but with no fuss, not a whisper of a thrill. The same can be said for a Prius. I was in the Bay Area just this April. We left Oakland and instead of going the most direct way, we went through Mt. Diablo. Some of the curviest roads I've been on. Of course I was in my aunts Prius, so it just felt wasted. Now you say, "that isn't what the Prius is for". I disagree. Economical and "boring" aren't mutually exclusive. That I think is Tesla's message. A EV doesn't have to compromise.
They didn't. They didn't compromise with the Model S. They even already have their next vehicle (the Model X) on tap. Going after a, soon to be, hotly contested segment in luxury SUV/CUVs. As I said, I think we're witnessing something special. We have the "Big 3" in Detroit. I do find it nice however to think that another challenger approaches. One that is trying it's hardest to disrupt what has been going on. If this is the 2008 Boston Celtics, and Ford, GM, and Chrysler are the Big 3 then Tesla is Rondo. Small, quick, trying to dart and navigate through something that has already been established. Someone not looking to suck up to anyone, but carve their own path as well. As I said I don't deem them a runaway success. I do feel though that they should feel proud bringing a practical, livable, drivable, attractive car to the market. An electric one. Not even the Big 3 nor any of their established competitors have done that. I don't feel Tesla is a start up doomed for a quick run that will fade away. I feel they've put themselves in a position to be one of the most important stories of the next decade and beyond.