Test Driving The Tesla Model S With A Tea Party Pundit: Part Three



“You know Chris, it’s a lot of money for a car,” John told me on the phone. “With the limited range, ya know, I just don’t think I’d ever buy A Tesla.” Fair enough, I thought. This is a guy used to driving long distances for hours at a time, and John isn’t one for sitting around idly. But what about the rest of the car?

“Some things I really liked,” John said. “That’s the best touchscreen I’ve seen in a car. Maybe the best tablet. And honestly, I think a lot of the technology is really cool. It all feels very new, and you know, it feels well put together too.”

That was honestly more positivity than I expected from him, though not the Tesla-loving revelation I was hoping for. He had plenty more to add regarding the whole experience.

“But I think there are a lot of things that would keep me from buying a Tesla, especially that back seat. I can fit seven guys in my expedition, but you couldn’t get four of my friends into that car. And the salesman could have moved his seat up a little bit more for me,” John said. “It was really difficult to get out of too. I mean, I had an easier time getting out of your car,” he said, referring to my 2012 Chevy Sonic. “All that money, and I can’t get out of the back seat?” He sounded incredulous. A long wheelbase version is supposedly in the works, which makes me think John’s is not an uncommon complaint.

“Also, I don’t think the store model is very good,” he explained. “You know, if I had my wife with me walking through JCPennys, we’d be stopping every ten feet to look at something. It’s not how I would try to sell that costly of a car, you know?”

“That brings me to another point; they should have a central inventory available for someone who wants to buy the car right now. I know they’re new, and there’s a waiting list, but I just think it’s a little ridiculous to have to wait that long for a car. A lot can happen in three months for someone to change their mind, and having to get permission to sell a car to someone ready to pay for it? They gotta change that.”

After our mutual experience, I have to agree on some points with John. I think sticking Tesla stores in the middle of the mall is an alright holdover for getting the word out, but ultimately, Tesla may want to adopt a more traditional car dealership look and feel. As clean and as nice as the store itself was, the jarring juxtaposition of a $90,000 tester car stored in the corner of a parking garage isn’t helping sway any fence sitters. With a dealership-type building, Tesla can control the entire sales experience.

“It also wasn’t as quiet as I expected,” John admitted. “But it’s still a cool car, and I think the technology has a lot of potential. I just don’t think it’s there yet, and the people signing up to drive a Tesla right now can probably afford two or three other cars, you know? You and me, we can’t really justify that. And I’m sorry, but even 30 minutes is too long to wait for a full charge. They need to come up with some kind of battery swap system or something.”

“Well John, they’re working on that too.”

“Oh, neat.”

So no, John didn’t magically come around and start loving the Model S. Even if he were a wealthy man, I doubt he’d ever buy one. But he seems to have a newfound respect for electric car technology, if nothing else, and he seems to take it more seriously.

At the very least, I don’t think John will confuse Tesla with Fisker anymore.

You can read Part One here and Part Two here.

About the Author

A writer and gearhead who loves all things automotive, from hybrids to HEMIs, can be found wrenching or writing- or else, he’s running, because he’s one of those crazy people who gets enjoyment from running insane distances.

  • WeaponZero

    Just to point out, you can buy the car directly without wait time. Tesla has loaner cars that double as inventory cars. You can buy them at the service centers.(not the galleries).

    Of course you can’t do that in every state. Only in states where Tesla has a dealership license. And as you probably heard about NJ.

    The galleries are not exactly there to sell cars but to educate people. Most of the actual stuff happens at the service centers.

  • WrongPassword

    It will be interesting to hear his thoughts on the upcoming Model X.

    • r86ad

      Looking at the pictures of the Model X he won’t like the room in the back seat or the $100,000 price tag. I see no reason why Tesla could not build an EV equivalent to an internal combustion vehicle that he does like with a price tag no more than $10,000 above the internal combustion vehicle with tax credits wiping away most of the difference in price with long term savings in fuel and maintenance easily making the EV the winner on cost. The only thing he still wouldn’t like is the 200-250 mile range and 30 minute charge time.

  • JackB125

    I wish that the test drive had been with the P85+ version.

    My brother-in-law is very similar to John — loves old classic gas muscle cars, very conservative politically. I can’t drive right now due to medical reasons & I really wanted to see what the Model S was like. So, I talked my brother-in-law into taking a test drive with me as a passenger. Purely as a favor to me (he had ZERO interest in any EV before the test drive), we went on a test drive in a P85 version. His response was very positive & he’s thinking now about getting the Model S 2.0 (rumored to have AWD & 0-60 in 3.2 sec). He was surprised at his own positive reactions due to the test drive & the thing that he repeatedly talked about the most was the acceleration. I think that this may have flavored his overall impression of the car.

    I can’t help but wonder if John would have had a more positive response with the P85+.

    • Christopher DeMorro

      @ JackB125

      His reaction almost certainly would have been different. While a 5.9 second 0 to 60 MPH isn’t exactly slow, the faster version with more range almost certainly would have presented a more convincing argument.

      That said, these things don’t always work out that way.

  • Sam Rai

    fascinating article and idea! something i’ve wanted to do myself…and probably will someday. Of note, i doubt the 60kwh version you drove was really $100,000. That model starts under 70k….i think it’s actually impossible to get a 60kwh over 100k.

    • Christopher DeMorro

      @ Sam Rai

      I’m only quoting our salesman, but remember that the 60 kWh Model S actually starts at $72,500 if you don’t factor in the tax credit. Add leather seats, the panoramic sunroof, the Tech Package (a must if you ask me) and the Smart Air Suspension, and you’re already over $85,000. So it is definitely possible to spec a 60 kWh Model S to over $90,000.

  • Simon

    Where’s the links to the parts 1 and 2?? I just stumbled on this by googling ‘tea party tesla’.

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  • James Van Damme

    I buy lots of stuff on the internet. Why not a car? Why do we need dealers?

  • wattleberry

    The somewhat dated fastback shape is responsible for the restricted rear seat space in a car which, together with its width, is too bulky for European pokiness [apart from the frigid spaciousness of Norway, apparently]. This is why the Ka never outsold the Fiesta and the new Beetle the Golf etc.

    It’s time to greet the new motive power with some novel shapes because, like it or not, the car is becoming as utilitarian and indispensable…..as a washing machine.

    • Huh? You’re referring to the “dated” fastback shape that is found in the relatively new Mercedes CLS and CLA class cars, the fast-selling Audi A7, the Volkswagen CCs, and pretty much every other high-end offering out there? That dated shape?

      As for the Ka, I think the fact that the Fiesta and Golf had 4 door options, more power, not too much of a price penalty, and were generally considered to be better looking had more to do with the Ka losing that sales race. The VW Beetle is a mystery, however- not sure how they sell those at all.

      • wattleberry

        Sorry, but these are not exactly mainstream examples and will always be outsold by their more prosaic [and cheaper] brethren. I doubt whether our teaparty man would have been very taken with them either.

        Also, in their pursuit of performance with tolerable fuel economy, they have to be aerodynamic, not so important with EVs.

  • Stephen Pace

    Since you weren’t serious about buying the car and wanted to impress your friend, you should have booked in advance to ensure you could have driven the P85+. The 60 is still a good car, but with three adults in it, acceleration doesn’t have quite the wow factor of the P85. Also, while still opening new mall locations (like North Park in Dallas), Tesla is also opening some ‘traditional’ dealer locations like their Longwood, FL location that combine a showroom and service together. These locations will still be quite a bit smaller than a mega-dealership you are used to, but they can still be nice and have a few inventory cars available. Most people will still likely order via the Internet to get exactly the car they want, though.

  • s86ad

    I’m not a fan of the style of cars Tesla is making, and the cost which is understandable being first type generation. I am glad there is a market above their supply willing to pay that amount as they are innovating and lowering the cost of the EV industry. After they get the mega battery factory built and they start making $35,000-40,000 vehicles, hopefully with styles that maybe Elon doesn’t like but people like me like, I’d definitely would prefer that over similarly priced internal combustion, and I think most people will. Put tesla technology into one of these at the 35-40 grand, and they would sell like crazy: https://plus.google.com/photos/110924892937009386100/albums/5986500764963031457