2012 Tesla Model S SignatureEnlarge Photo
But if you'd chosen a standard car instead, your number in the queue would have been about 12,000--and you'd be getting delivery next summer at the earliest. Is that a benefit worth $5,000? For a lot of people, it is.
The frustrated Signature owners seem to be mostly those in the middle of the pack, who are now watching their early delivery advantage fade.
Middle of the pack
One of them, Arnold Panz, of Miami, Fla., had this to say on the Tesla Motor Club forum:
The fact that we, as Sig holders, have gotten absolutely no special treatment has been a huge miss. (We) were mostly Tesla's truest of true believers, plunking down $40,000 for a car that we had no guarantee would ever be made, let alone be a great car. How was that blind faith rewarded? I'm still trying to figure that out.
A lot of this is basic psychology. Why are people who are paying almost six figures for a car complaining about $600/year in maintenance? The same reason high rollers who gamble $1,000 a hand in Vegas demand free rooms, tickets to shows, and free meals....and choose their hotel on who provides the best "perks".
BMW bakes the cost of maintenance into the cost of the car and everyone thinks they're getting "free" service! Tesla...just didn't understand the basic psychology that makes BMW's program so popular.
The same is true for Sigs...Additional swag, 'insider' informational e-mails, free satellite radio, and free maintenance (still) wouldn't make the Sig premium cost-effective.....But (it) would have psychologically given us all the warm and fuzzies...We would have felt like we were getting special treatment that made the excess cost worthwhile.
A role in history
In the end, the Signature program has proven to be a good deal for Tesla.
It got the company $40 million cash up front, and assured that the first 1,000 cars out the door would be maxed out with options, bringing in nearly $100,000 each. (That's $100 million in badly needed cash.)
2012 Tesla Model S, brief test drive, New York City, July 2012
2012 Tesla Model S, brief test drive, New York City, July 2012Enlarge Photo
Tesla clearly could have done a better job making its Signature buyers feel special. But all 1,000-odd available Sig cars have sold out.
At some level, the market proves that the "Sig tax" is perceived as value for money--by at least 1,000 or so people.
"Definitely worth it," explained one Sig depositor. "I feel I am playing a minor role in history....I am proud to be helping, in a small way, [to] usher in the age of vehicle electrification."
On a less philosophical note, an envious non-Signature Model S depositor summed it up nicely: "The value is simple: They are getting cars right now. The rest of us are waiting."
David Noland is a Tesla Model S reservation holder and freelance writer who lives north of New York City.