Tesla Model S "Delivery Roulette" Annoys Some Owners, Thrills Others

When you walk into a crowded deli in New York City, you take a number.

Rather than jostle in line and try to elbow (or charm) your way to the front, you take the number from the dispenser on the counter and wait till that number is called. First come, first served.  Even among rude, pushy New Yorkers, it works.

When Tesla Motors [NSDQ:TSLA] first started taking reservations (with $5,000 deposits) for its all-electric Model S sports sedan nearly four years ago, it put in place a similar system.

Each depositor was assigned a reservation sequence number, which represented the owner's  place in line, and, to a certain extent, his/her status in the pecking order for the award-winning Tesla Model S.

When I put my money down in April 2009, I received number P 717.  With the waiting list now approaching 18,000, I'm feeling pretty good about my place in the line to own what by all accounts is a remarkable car.

In addition to the 716 even-earlier-adopters before me, about 1,200 "Signature" customers  put down $40,000 deposits for the right to buy special-edition top-of-the-line cars before the standard P cars went into production.

I never begrudged the Signature owners in front of me--they certainly paid dearly for their right to jump the queue.

But now that all Signature cars have been delivered and P cars have been in production for more than a month, it turns out that the Tesla delivery system isn't working nearly as smoothly as your average New York deli.

The Agony and the Ecstasy

In many cases, production P cars are being delivered  way out of order--sometimes astonishingly so.

This naturally results in equal numbers of customers who are giddy at their unexpected early delivery and frustrated at a maddeningly delayed one.

2012 Tesla Model S display screen [Photo: Flickr user jurvetson]

2012 Tesla Model S display screen [Photo: Flickr user jurvetson]

Enlarge Photo

Count me among the latter.

Just yesterday I saw a post on the Tesla owners' forum from an ecstatic Model S owner who'd just been notified his delivery would be in the first two weeks of February. That's essentially the same delivery window I've been given.

You know when this guy placed his order?  Last August 31! That's more than three years after I put down my money. He's number 11,601 in the queue.

"Essentially FIVE MONTHS from order to delivery!" the guy crowed.

He's not alone. A number of  cars with numbers above 5,000 have already been delivered. According to a Tesla Motors Club forum thread, an unofficial online forum, the highest number delivered as of December 31 was P 9935.

Meanwhile, owners with reservation numbers as low as P 631 have not yet received their cars, according to TMC.

"Reservation holders more than 3500 spots below me have gotten their VIN (a final step just before delivery)," moans one owner on the TMC forum. "Extremely frustrated."

I understand his frustration.

Why should a Johnny-Come-Lately who puts his money down for a few months on a sure thing get his car before a True Believer who gambled $5,000 back when the Model S was a pipe dream and Tesla was a company struggling to even stay alive?

The 85-kWh Advantage

Although there seems to be no rhyme nor reason for many of the out-of-order deliveries, the cause of my delay is clear: I've ordered my car with the mid-size 60-kWh battery.

Because all  the initial Signature cars had top-of-the-line 85-kWh batteries, Tesla started production of that battery first. When Signature production finished in late November, Tesla wasn't yet geared up for production of the smaller 60-kWh and 40-kWh battery options. 

So it continued to churn out 85-kWh production models, skipping over even low-number 60- and 40-kWh buyers like me.

Follow Us

Comments (35)
  1. It was pretty clear that the 60 and 40 packs would be offset at production ramp time so it seems liogical that this would happen not sure how they avoid it.

    I am in the P6000 range and getting a 60 (Feb 1-15) and I don't begrude my buddy with P8000 who is getting his 85 in a week but I can see how at P717 it would sting more ;)

  2. Isn't this clear?

    Tesla is playing "favorite" with those buyers who are willing to pay more. In another sense, "money talks". The 85KWh version probably makes FAR MORE profit for Tesla and help with the cash flow than the lower KWh version.

    So, in reality, Tesla S is intended to be a $100k car...

    The 40KWh version is really one of those "draw you in bare bone version" and 85KWh is really what Tesla intended to sell. 60KWh is basically stucked in the middle.

  3. Xiaolong Li. Clearly...you don't get i!. While profit is important, TM said it would only build 85kWh battery cars in 2012. My middle of the road 60kWh 'S' is scheduled to be delivered in 2-5 weeks!

  4. Meh...you put your chips down, and sometimes reds a winner, sometimes black. New company, new platform, new vehicle, new technology, trying to juggle ramp up of; staffing, engineering, production and new vehicles. For the complainers, it's lucky there is a Tesla still in existence at all. Let alone a car of this caliber and a working process to pull it off at scale.

  5. The analogy between poker chips & model options (style & color) is likely at play. Logistics of coordinating to various options & supplier constrains to obtain timely lot sizes at volume (price points) has to be challenging.

    I'm sure most wouldn't be happy with alternative solution from Henry …
    "You can have any color you want, as long as it's black".

    Clearly Tesla is working to address this when it had customers pick & lockin their options by Jan 1. I'd expect there'd be a chance of price adjustments if a customer chooses to revise their vehicle options.

  6. Most likely George Blankenship's explanation for the delivery order of signature series still applies: car building is a logistical nightmare and Tesla still hasn't all its ducks in a row in that department meaning it has to adjust its delivery order according to availability of parts.

    60KWh and 40KWH versions were always slated for later production of course, so David Nolan doesn't really have anything to complain about, but his "I ordered a Model S and I'm so unhappy because (fill in complaint of the day)" article series on this blog has always struck me as oddly negative for someone claiming to be a "true believer".

  7. Ah yes, the usual "you're not a true believer if you ever criticize anything that Tesla has ever done" nonsense again. Since reading comprehension clearly isn't your forte, I'll help you out. Mr. Nolan didn't complain, as you claimed, about the 40/60KWh models being made later. Indeed, he very publicly acknowledges that. His comment was very specifically about other reservationists with the same model getting their orders before people with lower numbers and Tesla's poor communication on the issue. But I guess even Tesla's own admittal of its poor work here means nothing to a true believer like you.

    You know, one who doesn't own an EV, never has, can't even acknowledge faults that Tesla itself admits, etc... Thanks, Mr. True Believer!

  8. Birds of a feather...yawn...

  9. Just work on those reading comprehension skills, Chris. But again, he and Mr. Blankenship are both wrong about every possible Tesla Motors topic and you're the expert. When Mr. Blankenship admitted the trouble and stated that Tesla would do better, I guess he forgot to clear it with you first...

  10. Nothing gets our resident rage-a-holic foaming at the mouth as objecting to a systematic negative tone in reporting on Tesla on this blog but if you got some of that foam out of your eyes you might have read that Mr. Noland is in fact quite emphatic that when it comes to people being "frustrated at a maddeningly delayed one" he should be "counted among the latter". You see it's you that has the reading problem and Mr.Noland is in fact complaining for no good reason about a well known fact: the smaller pack versions would get a later delivery date.

  11. It has nothing to do with playing favorites and probably has everything to do with Tesla working through challenges in ramping up production. It's easier to produce cars that are similar in bulk, that should be obvious. So in cases where the batteries or other options are different, those reservation holders have had to wait because of parts shortages or other issues in the supply chain, getting through NHTSA and producing similar 60kw or 40kw cars in bulk. Tesla is having trouble commenting because it is a public company and each comment is scrutinized and parsed. Just sit tight, everyone will get their cars, it's now only a question of months, maybe weeks, not years.

  12. As a sig holder who was delivered way out of sequence, I was indeed annoyed. More annoyed, though, that David Noland continues to use the teslamotorsclub.com community to source his articles.

    I can't take you seriously if you don't take your own job seriously.

  13. Also, it's been known for a LONG time that the 85kwh packs would be delivered first, then the 60 then the 40. The 60 JUST got EPA certification and there's nothing on the 40.

    So it should have come as no surprise to you that 85kwh packs would be delivered before yours David.

  14. Funny that you say the reasons are a frustrating mystery for many 'owners', and then go on to say that the VP sent out an email and gave perfectly understandable reasons for why they would reach forward in the queue while waiting for specific interior trims to arrive from certain suppliers. It's a mystery, but it isn't.

  15. Your frustration is valid. Your reasoning is a bit off. There is a huge backlog of orders. Tesla must make a choice b/w going in order and taking significantly longer to fill the backlog of orders, or by building as efficiently as possible and going out of order.

    If you ordered a medium rare roast beef sandwich in the NY deli would you expect everyone who ordered well done to wait if there was prepared well done roast beef but the medium rare was still cooking even if you had an earlier number? No you wouldn't. Do dollars factor in, I hope so. Tesla needs to be in the black. They need to pay back their DOE loan. They need to become profitable eventually. The best way then can do that is to fill the backlog of orders quickly.

  16. TM announced many months ago that they would not produce any 60kWh batter cars until January, and no 40kWh cars until March 2013. TM also announced cars without active air suspension and those painted Sunset Red would not be built until March 2013.

    For 2012 the only steak sandwich available was 85kWh cooked in regular and performance.

  17. I am living this right now...
    Car shipped 12/19, car 200 miles away since 1/1.
    Sitting on the edge of my seat.

  18. I guess we are at that enviable stage of the EVolution of this industry where we can move swiftly from speculating if the company is even going to survive long enough to get a product out the door to complaining about how many more weeks it's going to take to get our hands on said product! Hooray for Tesla, they have succeeded in producing a car that people are climbing over each other to get their hands on, and they are successfully cranking them out by the hundreds every week, albeit somewhat out of order.

  19. I have no sympathy for any of you rich f$&@ks who don't need the 10,000 dollar support of taxpayers who can't afford this rich man's toy.

  20. Do you mind oil companies subsidies? How about nuclear?

  21. Juding from your childish comments, we're all sorry that you're apparently too poor to afford a wonderful car. Sorry also that you're too ignorant to be aware that one can get the same credit on a $40k Volt, too. But most of ll, I'm just sorry that your bitterness against those with more money than you means that you'll never be satisifed.

    I don't drive a Tesla, at least yet, but I'm happy to subsidize an emerging industry that will greatly benefit us all. How's that war-of-the-week alternative doing these days? Did we win in Iraq and at what cost? How much more does the U.S. taxpayer pay already for incentives for oil/gas/nuclear/biofuel/ethanol than it will ever pay for EVs? Why don't those subsidies bother you?

  22. All Electric Cars: The solution that our children and grandchildren are forced to subsidize to a problem that doesn't exist. All electric cars are their own worst enemy because if they ever do become popular (~20% usage in any area), their use will necessarily be restricted or banned as they will cause random cause prolonged grid outages.


  23. @Chris: Actually, not so much:


    The incremental load from plugging in cars to recharge is both miniscule against overall capacity and relatively predictable. And the issue, as explained in the article above, is more one of neighborhood transformer size than overall grid capacity.

  24. @Kim Richardson: The Model S is a project which allows Tesla to scale up production to a level, where they can massproduce cheap cars for everybody. The rich folks help Tesla with their money to grow to that level.
    @David Noland: Tesla has always communicated, that they will push back manufacturing of the 60kWh cars behind the ones with a 85kWh pack. So, I think there's no reason to complain about that. If you would have ordered a 85kWh pack you most likely already would have gotten yout car by now.

    On the other hand I know what it feels like to have a low seq# and not have gotten the car yet (I'm EU Sig #14). Tesla does this for the same reason; they can make faster profit, when they deliver to U.S. customers first.

  25. "Tesla does this for the same reason;" they can bring in cash flow quickly enough to survive as a young growing company in a capital intensive industry, where no start-ups have ever survived before.

    Considering such a dire history, (recently GM and Chrysler bankrupted, nearly taking the entire NA supply chains with them) I find the present concerns to be less than trivial.

  26. Im from NYC, i really get sick and tired of all the bashing, i prefer to be here with real people (rude, nice, or in the middle) than with fake smiles all the time.
    If you dont understand that, and start a story with some easy "NY bashing" analogy, its easy to see how you dont understand basic production line economics.

  27. @Eddie: I edited this story and I live in NYC now. I wasn't offended by it. FWIW.

  28. Yes, Eddie, because there's clearly such a strong correlation between local attitudes and knowledge of production line economics. And thanks for letting all of us non-New Yorkers know that we're not real, too... Yeah, outside of your little NY bubble, it's 100% fake smiles, correct... If that's what helps you rationalize the notoriously horrendous manners in NYC, more power to you, I guess.

  29. @Robok2: As the t-shirt says:

    New York City
    Where we eat the wounded

  30. I just saw the first Tesla in my town. Holy poo, what a great looking car!

  31. Already saw my 6th one... :)

    1 Grey, 2 black, 1 maroon/red, 2 white Tesla.

    One even had a child seat in the back. It is a pretty cool car. Wish I had the money...

  32. it is funny how upset we get when one little thing does not happen as promised despite it being promised 3 years in advance. back in 2009, what date were you promised? I am only familiar with one person who has received their (85 KW of course) Tesla and the delivery date given to him 2 years ago (ya, his number is way above yours as well) was actually very close to his mid December delivery date...

  33. Mr. Noland, I disagree with you, I too am am a 60kWh reservation holder (P3916). TM said that they will NOT produce the 60kWh battery until January and there would be further delays if you did not order the air suspension and/or the Sunset Red. TM focused on making sure they manufactured 3,000+ 'S' before the end of the year. While I was not happy to see reservation holders with higher numbers and 85kWh batteries put ahead of me, I understood.

    When TM said they would build 60's in January I figured it would be late January. On 12/30/12 my delivery button activated and I was give an ETA of 1/19 - 2/2/13. My only complaint, TM should have e-mailed me to complete the delivery questionnaire instead of reading about this on the forum.

  34. Actually, I don't think we disagree at all.

    You say "While I was not happy to see reservation holders with higher numbers and 85-kWh batteries put ahead of me, I understood."

    That pretty well sums up my feelings as well.

  35. Reminds me of the facebook posting of the girl who is crying as she opens the gift of a white iPhone and screaming she wanted a black one. You know, the girl we want to slap for being so spoiled?

    I appreciate that you paid your money, got your estimated date and are now seeing the mongrels who came in after you getting their car first. It's like being at the doctor's office and seeing people checking in after you getting seen first, or the old parable of the men who were disgruntled over getting the same wages when they started early in the morning as ones who started after lunch. We kinda have to deal with this kind of thing all the time. Many posts here seem to explain the reasons for it.

Commenting is closed for old articles.

Get FREE Dealer Quotes

From dealers near you

Find Green Cars


© 2015 Green Car Reports. All Rights Reserved. Green Car Reports is published by High Gear Media. Send us feedback. Stock photography by izmo, Inc.