At nearly $100K per car and with only 40,000 or so Tesla Model S’s having been ordered, anyone ordering the Model S is still an early adopter.The car has only been in production for less than 2 years and it is a big leap of faith to buy a very expensive car from a small company with very different technology and needing totally different infrastructure when the entire concept has not been proven for the expected time you’ll own the car.
Can the Model S last 7 years? Can you drive it to 200,000 miles? Those questions and more have yet to be answered. People buying the Model S believe it is just a matter of time and are willing to take the leap of faith.
In fact many people buying the car are so excited about it they can’t wait to take delivery and they go through stages of waiting for the Tesla Model S. This is their story.
Research and Test Drive
Tesla Motors does very little marketing and most people hear about the Tesla and the Model S through word of mouth or at one of the rare stores in shopping malls around America. Once you hear about Tesla and the Model S it is hard not to think about it. I first heard about the Model S (and its price!) about 6 months before I started down the path to ownership. But that seed of information — pure electric, pure speed, grace, quiet — grew over time and led to a phase of research culminating in a test drive. People approach research many ways and there is a ton of good information out there on the Tesla forums, Tesla news sites, and independent bloggers. For many, the finances are also a big hurdle but the cost of ownership can make sense.
Once you’re convinced you have to have a Tesla, its time for the order which starts with a fully refundable deposit of $2,500. That can be done right after the test drive (in some places not including NJ), or from the comfort of your own home. While the local Tesla store does get some form of credit for cars sold, it is not a traditional commission model. Also, there are no negotiations on the price. Configuration is simple and always done through their web site and you can configure and reconfigure your car as much as you’d like up until you place your deposit with your credit card. I ordered in store in MA right after my test drive.
Once you place your order a count-down clock of 2 weeks starts. This is the time period where you can decide if you want to cancel your order and get a full refund or not. You can also confirm your order online (and waive any chance of getting your deposit back) any time in between. If you’re sure of your choices and are sure you want the Tesla, confirm as soon as you’re ready and speed up your time to delivery by up to 2 weeks. I ordered and confirmed on the same day. Usually shortly after confirming you will receive your Tesla VIN.
This is the longest and most painful part of the wait and starts right after confirmation. There’s not much information in this area of what is going on at Tesla and with your car, but you’re basically in line to get built. Don’t expect the delivery or sales teams to be very engaged or useful at this stage since they’re working with people in the pipeline before you. They’ll help you get long lead items going (financing, insurance) but won’t be helping you with much else. In the background, Tesla is coordinating a bunch of things including batches of car colors (all blue today for example), or all performance plus models, etc. This is currently taking about 4 weeks in the US but the times have been much longer for international orders. During this time many future owners second guess their choices and sometimes make changes. Tesla is pretty flexible in this stage and changes are sometimes made (and the price adjusted).
After what seems like a very long wait the car enters production where it is actually getting built. National Geographic has an excellent overview of the Tesla factory. New owners are often thrilled thinking of all those robotics working on their personal Tesla. The robots and factory crew bang through this stage in about 2 days.
Waiting for delivery
The final and somewhat painful stage for owners is after their car has been built and they’re waiting to pick it up or have it delivered. It is very hard to think about the car you had custom designed sitting somewhere waiting for you. For those overseas this wait involves transatlantic shipments, boats etc and a lot more time. For those on the East Coast its waiting for the next batch to leave CA heading eastbound on a car carrier. For us East Coast guys, this transportation process takes about 2 weeks.
Delivery for most people involves a visit to the Tesla factory in CA (if they are close enough) or a visit to their local Delivery Center (in the same place as their Service Center). During delivery Tesla goes through a full walkthrough of the car similar to what they have in their videos. If you’re fortunate enough to take delivery in California you can also arrange a factory tour at that time. Usually at this point the new owners slow down some of their excessive blogging (…), forum trolling and get down to the business of enjoying the best car on earth. But don’t worry, Elon is already working on the next one for off-earth for us to salivate over next.
The steps in summary with some typical timelines are as follows
- Research and Test Drive – Time varies greatly, start now!
- Order – For most this is often the same day or within a couple days of the test drive.
- Confirm – By default this is 2 weeks from the order time. Many don’t know this can be accelerated, but for those that do its usually the same day. So its usually either 2 weeks or zero time.
- Sourcing parts – currently this seems to be taking about 4 weeks.
- Production – it takes Tesla about 2 days to build the car to your specifications
- Delivery – From production complete to delivery is up to about 2 weeks in the US.
The total time from order to delivery with quick confirmation is about 6 weeks in the US.
Tesla has their own words around what to expect while you’re waiting for Tesla Model S that excludes much of the timing information but is well worth reading too.