When historians look back on the beginning of the electric car age, many of them will point to the Tesla Roadster as the vanguard of electric vehicles. But two months from now, the last Roadster will roll off assembly lines.
That means we are at the beginning of the end for Tesla’s flagship model. And it had to end. Even at $109,000 per vehicle, Tesla has yet to turn a quarterly profit as they sink millions of dollars into research and production for their upcoming electric sedan, the Model S. Thus the Lotus Elise-based Roadster’s production cycle is nearing an end, though I doubt this is the last sports car Tesla plans to produce. They have certainly proved there is a market for upscale performance EV’s, and the big automakers have taken notice. Electric cars are viable…to the right buyer.
Would-be Roadster buyers have just two more months to place their orders before production ceases and Tesla’s facilities are retooled for the Model S, due out in 2012. First hitting the roads in 2008, to date Tesla has sold over 1,650 Roadsters across North America, Europe, and Asia, which is pretty impressive for an electric car upstart that does zero advertising. Between these vehicles, Roadsters have racked up over 10 million clean miles between them…so the technology definitely works. And while Tesla has yet to turn a profit, the company has been able to leverage the publicity (if not sales) success of the Tesla to form partnerships with Toyota, whom they are developing an electric Rav4 with, as well as Mercedes, whom they sell batteries to.
However, I find it more than a little worrying that in two months time, Tesla will be a car company without an electric car to sell. And given that the Model S has been delayed numerous times already, Elon Musk’s EV upstart has a very narrow window for success. Rush an unfinished product out and your reputation suffers. Take too long to deliver, and lose much-needed customers. The next year is make-it or break-it for Tesla. Will the underdog survive?
Chris DeMorro is a writer and gearhead who loves all things automotive, from hybrids to HEMIs. You can read about his slow descent into madness at Sublime Burnout or follow his non-nonsensical ramblings on Twitter @harshcougar.