2013 Tesla Model S cockpit

My Tesla Model S Experience: Driving the 2013 Motor Trend Car of the Year

I recently got to test drive the Tesla Model S.

This car was recognized as the 2013 “Motor Trend Car of the Year,” Automobile Magazine’s 2013 “Car of the Year,” and 2013 “World Green Car,” an automobile award selected by a jury of 48 international automotive journalists from 22 countries.

To some this comes as a surprise. But, if you look at the core idea the car makers took to creating distinction in the market, it’s no wonder they’ve turning heads everywhere they go.

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This post is about my experience driving the car and understanding the branding behind it.

Have You Seen an Advertisement for Tesla Motors?

I haven’t.

In fact, on all the videos and searches related to Tesla Motors, I see ads for different car makers. I don’t blame them for trying to insert themselves in front of where the buzz is. I would too if I were them.

I believe Tesla Motors is a prime contemporary example of creating distinction and standing out as a brand in a highly competitive and mature marketplace.

In other words, the car is so f***ing awesome, it can tell folks like GM and Toyota, “Step aside b*tches!” and be respected while saying it!

GM’s former Vice Chairman Robert Lutz was quoted saying,

“All the geniuses here at General Motors kept saying lithium-ion technology is 10 years away, and Toyota agreed with us — and boom, along comes Tesla. So I said, ‘How come some tiny little California startup, run by guys who know nothing about the car business, can do this, and we can’t?’”

The disruptive nature of this start up makes it ripe for being on a relentless pursuit of publicity. That publicity is shaping the world’s positive perception of Tesla Motors and the people behind it. And, it’s exactly what a smart start up should be doing.

One of the challenges that Tesla has ahead of it is building the super charging station infrastructure. As of Summer 2013, you cannot go across the country in a Tesla car. However,  by Summer 2014 they expect to have enough stations setup across the continent to allow you to do so.

In case you didn’t know, Tesla has Daimler (Mercedes) and Toyota as long-term investors. And, this has brought about a strategic partnership where they’ll be selling their powertrain systems to used in the Mercedes A Class and Toyota Rav4.

The company was founded by PayPal co-founder Elon Musk who attracted the likes of Google co-founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page, and former eBay President Jeff Skoll as investors as well.

How In The World Do You Purchase a $90,000 Car?

I’ve personally been keeping up with Tesla Motor’s progress since the release of their original roadster. But, I never considered ever owning one until recently.

I know! Crazy, right?

It’s interesting how Tesla has outline various incentives and steps that layout the true cost of ownership on their website. Here’s how you save on of the cost of purchase:

  • $7500+ tax incentives based on the state you live in
  • Paying $0.11 per kWh for charging versus ~$4 per gallon of gas
  • Guaranteed top residual value comparable to any premium sedan brand (Audi, BMW, Mercedes or Lexus) after three years of ownership
  • Business tax incentive is purchased under a business entity which can be deducted as depreciation, operating expense, etc.

All of these things drive your monthly true cost of ownership down to the cost comparable to any other premium luxury sedan.

I wonder what monthly insurance costs would be.

Personally, I’d probably need to initially have additional $900 to $1500 of monthly positive cash flow before I can realize the savings and tax incentives on the back end. Or, set a goal to generate about a seventy to a hundred grand worth of new business over the next few years.

Now that’s exciting.

Go Test Drive the Tesla Model S

Lately I’ve been seeing a lot of Tesla Model S cars driving around. Several dealers have popped up around the DC area.

This month, they opened a dealer in the Montgomery Mall. When was the last time you saw a car dealer in the mall?

Tesla Model S Dealer

My wife and I went in. When inside, you see a couple models you can sit in and explore. Several representatives are ready to give you a tour.

What’s amazing about the car is when designing the vehicle, they literally rethought everything. They reinvented the car.

The only thing Tesla Motors has in common with your traditional car is that it’s got four wheels, brakes, suspension, seating, a steering. Other than that, everything is different.

There’s no engine, transmission, fuel, nothing. It’s got an electric motor an batteries positioned in the center of the car, allowing for center balance which traditional cars lack.

You have storage space under the hood like a classic Porche, and space in the trunk. If you want you can add two additional seats in the trunk that can seat a couple children.

Visually it’s spectacular. Looks classy yet contemporary.

The next day I went on to the Tesla Motors website, and submitted a request for a test drive. They got back to me, but due to the volume of requests, the earliest test drive I could get was the following week.

A day before the scheduled test drive a representative called to confirm that I’m still on. I said, “Absolutely!”

When I arrived the next night, they took down my drivers license information and walked me to the car. We got in and went over the basic controls of how to navigate the menu.

All the bells and whistles were cool, but the highlight of the test drive wasn’t until we got on the highway. As we got on the ramp to I495 South, he tells me, “Floor it!”

The only time I experienced whiplash like I did in that moment was riding Kingda Ka at Six Flags great adventure. I felt like my face was about to peel off. 0-60 in four seconds is no joke.

The drive lasted about 35 minutes and I can still clearly recall the feeling of exhilaration. I’ve never been in a vehicle that’s felt the way this car has.

Find out if you have a Tesla dealer near you. If you do, go ahead and schedule a test drive. You won’t regret it!

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