Tesla Builds First 50 Model S Sedans, Stays Optimistic Amid Various Challenges

Since the first Tesla Model S deliveries at the company’s Fremont, Calif. factory celebration on June 22, the company has produced 50 units and is tweaking last-minute design details on the car as it also refines its assembly line quality control.

“Our focus on quality has paid off as we moved from building three cars per week, to five cars per week, to ten cars per week,” said George Blankenship, vice president, Worldwide Sales and Ownership Experience in an Enthusiasts’ blog post yesterday. “We have now produced 50 cars that received unanimous signoff from Elon and the entire quality team.”

Of these 50, some are being used on the Get Amped Model S tour, and 29 units have either been delivered or are in process of being delivered to customers.

Blankenship said these first cars have already accumulated 39,000 miles, many of which have come from the Get Amped fleet which has shared 3,500 test drives, has three weeks more to go, and will make it at least 5,000 test drives before they’re through.

As for those last-minute details, Blankenship said the company deleted from its Specs page Lighted Vanity Mirrors and Second Row Reading lights.

“The original beta Lighted Vanity Mirrors on the front sun visors were simply not acceptable to us from an appearance, function or size standpoint,” Blankenship said, “so we rejected them and immediately started working on another solution.”

The reason for deleting the second row lights was they’re working on a better light setup, and found a way to add a few millimeters rear head room as well.

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So, first Model S owners are taking their cars without these accessories that will later be standard once Tesla gets it all worked out. These first owners will be able to have them retrofitted at no cost, and this is said to be not a big deal, as the wiring is already in place.

As you might expect, customers on the 10-month-plus-long waiting list have asked how they can get their cars sooner. Blankenship said they know their customers have high expectations, and are doing all they can.

“We have produced 50 cars to date and our plan is to double that number in the next two to three weeks,” he said painting a positive picture that avoids many specifics while trumping achievements with a well-chosen superlative. “Production will then continue to escalate even more significantly every two to three weeks thereafter.”

Without a doubt, it will have to significantly increase numbers and Tesla has previously said it may increase production from a projected 20,000 in 2013 to 30,000 to meet high demand – and unquestionably, to also appease investors as it seeks to get into the black.

However you’d not know the pressure was on by the rosy account relayed in the enthusiasts’ blog post.

And aside from the voluntary disclosure of a progress report, Tesla has otherwise chosen to not regularly divulge monthly Model S production numbers, as is true also of Fisker Automotive and Coda Automotive.

But other significant numbers were reported this week. Bloomberg observed the company’s second quarter loss widened to an adjusted loss of 89 cents per share compared to 53 cents per share a year prior. Its loss nonetheless beat analysts’ expectations of a 94-cent loss. Its revenues were $26.7 million, a 54-percent decline and its total net loss was reported at $105.6 million.

And in another less-than-rosy story this week, as told by Wired, the start-up automaker is also being sued by Rio Real Estate Investment Opportunities of New Mexico. The suit alleges Tesla reneged on a binding agreement made in February 2007 to develop a 150,000 square-foot assembly plant. The New Mexico plant was to be built over a 10-year period at a reported cost of $1.35 million per year.

This was before Tesla got the sweet deal in 2008 to buy the former Toyota/GM NUMMI facility in Fremont for just $59 million.

The New Mexico development company however says it invested in environmental reports, local approvals and engineering resources.

Filed earlier this year, the lawsuit accuses Tesla of fraud, breach of contract, negotiating in bad faith and negligent misrepresentation. It further says Tesla was pegged for $20 million in state incentives for securing a facility in New Mexico.

The first hearing is September 18, and Tesla did not comment saying it does not do so for pending litigation.

These and other reality checks have been reported here and there, and contrast with happy enthusiast news blogged by the Silicon Valley manufacturer, but this may be an effective strategy.

The company has done an admirable job building on successes by its limited-production Roadster, and stoking the flames of the first Model S fans, some of whom have said they are watching paradigm-shifting history in the making. Above is a video put together by some of them.

Although its Model S production is now a trickle, the 89 MPGe combined electric cars – just 10 MPGe down from the smaller and less powerful Nissan Leaf – are being positively reviewed as well-designed upscale sedans, and Tesla has said production will be gushing by next year.

Given its plans after the Model X launch in 2014 to also begin producing less-expensive cars as soon as 2015 and maybe even a pickup truck later this decade – and its influential role now in creating momentum for the plug-in industry – electric car fans can only hope Tesla’s chutzpah and intentions prove well founded.


  • dutchinchicago

    I can’t wait to read the first owners reviews.

  • Adolfo

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