Ignore The NY Times; Does Tesla Model S Own Silicon Valley Already?

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2013 Tesla Model S

2013 Tesla Model S

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Yes, there's a big imbroglio going on right now over an article in The New York Times, followed by some tweets (1, 2, and 3) from Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk contradicting it.

We're ignoring that, for the moment.

Instead, we're bringing you an idea that made us chuckle.

That idea is that the Tesla Model S has already beaten the BMW 7-Series and Mercedes-Benz S Class among buyers of $100,000 luxury sport sedan in one very important market.

That market is Silicon Valley.

It's where Tesla Motors [NSDQ:TSLA] is headquartered, where Stanford University opened its doors in 1891, where much of this country's technological innovation since 1960 has arisen.

The source for this rather broad claim is a very, very unrepresentative survey done by electric-car advocate and analyst Anton Wahlman, who writes regularly for The Street.

His article essentially says that he sees at least a dozen Tesla Model S cars a day in the heart of Silicon Valley, but in "a month or two" of careful observation, he's seen exactly zero new S Classes or 7-Series.

Because our parent company, High Gear Media, is located there as well, we can confirm from first-hand experience that there are increasing numbers of Model Ses on the streets.

We have a few caveats, though.

There are also older S Class and 7-Series cars around, if not brand-new ones. But those full-size models have never been the big sedan sellers for Mercedes-Benz and BMW.

Tesla opening second store in Silicon Valley as production ramps up

Tesla opening second store in Silicon Valley as production ramps up

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The higher-volume cars are the mid-size E Class and 5-Series cars, which start at about half the $100,000 price Wahlman uses for his "analysis".

We doubt he'll be able to make the same claim about the $60,000 and $70,000 versions of the Model S against the smaller German sedans.

Wahlman is careful to note that Silicon Valley has the right climate for plug-in electric cars, and an eager desire for the latest and newest in technology--including in its cars.

But there's a case to be made that as Silicon Valley goes, so goes (some of) the rest of the nation later on.

The Toyota Prius was popular in California long before it succeeded nationally and became Toyota's third-best selling car line.

What do you think: Is the Tesla Model S a viable competitor to German luxury sport sedans?

Leave us your thoughts in the Comments below.

Oh, and about that New York Times article? We'll have more on that too. Stay tuned.


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Comments (25)
  1. I have a deposit on a Tesla S and the times article has given me second thoughts of taking delivery

  2. Andrew, make sure you read the follow up and watch for the vehicle logs from Tesla. Indications are that the range failure was staged by the author of the article. If he actually wanted the range he was looking for, it wouldn't have been any problem.

    The only real value of the test is to show that you can't drive a plug in like you can an ICE, as in, leave for a trip with less than a full tank and stop along the way to put a few bucks in the keep you going. But we all knew that already.

  3. Andrew, do not worry, I have one and live in Boston. The cold does affect the range, so you need to use common sense, plug in whenever possible to reduce the loss of energy due to the pack heater running. Do a "range" charge if going on a long trip (265 miles versus 240 for the 85KW full charge). Believe it or not, there's a large group of people/companies actively trying to make EVs look bad/fail, it's called the "oil and gas industry". Do not be influenced by their shills.

  4. Really? Why? You realize they didn't fill the car up all the way and Tesla will be adding additional super chargers right?

  5. There are more comments in this thread
  6. Having just test driven a friend's Model S I'd say yes it is a viable competitor. Actually I think the Model S is the best car I've ever driven, though I am still going to buy a BMW i3 as a secondary car, I think I need to get a Model S to replace my big BMW. The Model S makes my BMW feel clunky, I'm sure it's because of the Model S's smooth electric drivetrain, but no one will be able to match the smooth power of a Tesla until they step up and build something competitive.

  7. As a longtime fan of and often driver of German cars, Tesla is absolutely a credible contender where it competes now. Yes, Tesla has work to do to make more vehicles and models, but what they're making now is absolutely competitive.

    As for the NYT article, let's see what the evidence tells us soon. The author seems to have a long-term dislike of EVs and, as noted, may have been dishonest about what he really drove. I won't call him a liar, but again, I'm fairly sceptical at this stage. Considering the reduction in my Volt's EV range in a Michigan winter, a similar reduction is natural, of course. That's why actual Tesla and other EV drivers adjust accordingly. Mr. Broder apparently prefers to attack, instead.

  8. We had the pleasure of visiting the Tesla Store at the Fashion Mall in California to see them for the very first time during our vacation. It certainly did not have the high-pressure feeling you get as soon as you visit a car dealership. People were really excited to be in there and sit in the cars. I met a 4 week old Model S owner charging outside. He was still like a kid on Christmas morning over his car. I spotted two Model S' driving in the wild and it was like spotting celebrities! Andrew Feldman- I would suggest going on the Tesla Motors club and converse with actual owners of the S, not just what some journalist wrote. If you base your decision on the journalist, then I don't think you were all that serious about the Model S anyways.

  9. Maybe Tesla isn't quite ready to beat the German überwagens quite yet, but Model S certainly has a neat party trick up its sleeve: to be able to drive coast to coast for free using the supercharger network. Try that with a bimmer or a merc!

    Of course one does need to charge it properly to make it to the next charging station as long as the network isn't that dense rather than half charge it, exceed the speed limits and make sneaky detours to prove your point that BEVs don't work, especially not in a vehicle that records every thing you do and sends tell tale logs back to the factory.

  10. I concur with that observation in the "wine country" as well. I have seen far more Tesla S than any of the so called traditional European Luxury cars. But then again, every rich person here want something that is "latest and greatest".

    Tesla fits that pattern, the latest and greatest high tech automobile. European Luxury cars are so... last decade. =)

  11. To begin I must say that Burbank and some other areas around the south are getting in to the Model S, and not looking back.

    As for the NY Times idiot - Let me ask how many people would not smile as they drove past a gas station? If you would not smile, you are indeed not some one that represents most of the world. I won't listen to some one like that, and clearly this was as much an opinion piece as a review of the vehicle. This reporter has no clue what most people feel when they drive past a gas station, free from the addiction!

  12. Amen to driving by the gas station. I am enjoying watching the gas prices rise here in LA. Both our Leaf and Volt are literally paid for (cheap lease deals) by the gas savings. Granted we weren't driving little economy cars before. Couldn't stand them. But the Leaf and Volt are a pleasure to drive. We do 800 to 1000 miles a month each, and electricity is about $50 a month, compared to about $600 a month in gas previously with a minivan and a Thunderbird. Not to mention other maintenance costs on the gas cars. The recommended maintenance on the Leaf for the life of the lease is rotate the tires, and check the air filter for the cabin air every 7500 miles.

  13. "This reporter has no clue what most people feel when they drive past a gas station, free from the addiction!"

    Go easy on the reporter this time. As long as the human race does not implement a way to get unlimited free energy, we will never be free of the "addiction". It is pure naivete to believe that just because one can pay for one's electric bill, that the said electric energy is coming out of thin air.

    Paying electric bills fair and square does not cut it any more: the way we live is not sustainable.

  14. The fundamental problem with the NY Times article is that the author never once fully charged the car, and yet wrote as if he was operating at the physical limits of the car, as opposed to the physical limits of his own ignorance.

  15. If I have 80-100k to spare, I would definitely get a Model S over the 7 series or the S class. Commuting between SF and SJ, I will need to at least get the 60kWh battery to feel comfortable without the need to charge at work. But then I don't have that much $ to spare, so I got a Volt. I can run mostly on electric but still have the extended range gas engine to bail me out when I run out of electric range. Charging infrastructure is not yet ready for prime time, as I see folks are fighting over charging stations at work. :-(

  16. I agree, the Volt is a fantastic car. I got one for my wife when she was a little paranoid about the range on our Leaf. She runs 99% electric. Gas kicks in when we have to buzz down to San Diego. We've had to gas up twice since buying it in September, a total of 12 gallons. To be fair the tank was full when the dealer delivered it, so we've used 18.

    I rarely charge other than at home. But I have noticed that the 2 chargers at the golf course have been taken on weekend mornings lately. I used to like to get some free juice when I went to walk the dog around the park. Now it is hit or miss. But 2 new free chargers were just installed a a park-n-ride lot down the street, they are almost always empty.

  17. I've always been a "car guy", owning and enjoying great cars. But a funny thing happened. I got a Leaf to commute to work in. Now after 5 months and 5000 miles, the only new car I am interested in is a Tesla S. I'll see a new BMW, Porsche, any nice car really, and think Oh that looks great, I'd like that. But then I realize I'm not really interested since it isn't electric. Driving my gas car now feels like driving a horse and buggy. It is fun on a nice sunny day with the top down, but it is really like going back in time.

    I never understood why all the GM EV1 drivers were so upset they couldn't keep their cars when the lease was up. Now I understand. To have to go back to a gas car now would be very depressing

  18. The Vehicle the Tesla S most reminds me of is the Jaguar XF. I am fortunate to own an XF and hyper mile-ing my XF has on one occasion got me 62 miles on one UK Gallon. Although that is great for a big twin turbo 3 litre V6, I expect the Tesla "S" delivers similar performance and refinement but with economy far in advance of the Jag. Tesla is treading a fine line as the Tesla "S" is a prestige car along with the Jags Beemers and Mercs of the world - this type of car buyer does not necessarily have economy high on their list of options.
    What Tesla needs to do is transfer this brilliant technology to the mass market and then watch every other car manufacturer follow suit.
    I also applaud the Chevvy Volt, a very real world alternative.

  19. "What do you think: Is the Tesla Model S a viable competitor to German luxury sport sedans?"

    Yes, because there is nothing that the Germans sell here that is more exciting or fun to drive than a Tesla. They are on a level playing field.

    I would argue, from the type of audience that buys up 7-series and S-class that they are not auto enthusiasts, but rather after an image.

    Perfect audience to a $100,000 Tesla model.

    Now, whether the 7-series, the S-class or the Tesla are desirable cars from a car enthusiast's point of view is a whole different story.

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