Tesla just announced the pricing and range of options for its Model S Sedan -- the electric vehicle model that will determine if Tesla can transform from boutique collectors' car shop to full-scale auto manufacturer.
Tesla has received more than 6,000 reservations at $5,000 per for the Model S, a four-door sportback sedan with room for five adults. Tesla intends to start delivering the Model S sedans to customers in mid-2012 with a target production of 5,000 units in 2012 and 20,000 vehicles per year after that.
It's whether Tesla will be able to get to those 5,000-vehicle and 20,000-vehicle benchmarks that will inspire Wall Street love or displeasure.
Earlier this month, Morgan Stanley analyst Adam Jonas downgraded Tesla shares due to soft electric-vehicle adoption rates, which the financial services firm called "mixed, at best" and "unimpressive." This wasn't exactly a dismissal of Tesla, but rather an acknowledgement of global EV sales in 2011 at 47,000 units versus prior estimates of 64,000 units and disappointing Nissan Leaf and Chevy Volt sales. Jonas noted that Tesla had shown "near flawless execution" during the Model S pre-production phase but was moving from a "concept stock to a reality stock," adding, "We expect the Model S to launch on time in July, but to ramp up slower than consensus expectations as the company prioritizes delivery quality over quantity."
Judging by company announcements, Tesla has the BMW 5 Series squarely in its sights -- claiming the Tesla has better interior features than the BMW 535i and "better handling than the 550i."
Tesla's most recent announcement says that the firm will warranty its "batteries for up to 8 years and from 100,000 to unlimited miles, depending on the battery."
Recently, Greentech Media was invited by Tesla to take a test drive in the new Model S beta at the firm's Palo Alto, California facility. (The beta is the phase of vehicle development before it reaches full production.)
Despite my pleading, the firm did not allow to me to drive; I had to settle for being driven around the suburban neighborhood surrounding Tesla's headquarters.
The car is plush and elegant, and starts at the touch of a push-button control. The car was also amazingly quiet: Tesla has worked hard to minimize NVH (that's noise, vibration and harshness).The console is dominated by a 17-inch touch screen which controls all car functions from climate to music to navigation to communication. The screen does seem like it could be a distraction, however. The charge plug is smartly hidden behind one of the taillight lenses; it responds to driver and plug proximity.
According to the firm, in the U.S., the Model S starts at $57,400 or $49,900 after the federal tax credit. The 230-mile Model S starts at about $10,000 more and the 300-mile Model S starts at about $20,000 more than the base price.
Here's a look at some of the electric vehicle's battery, roof, and wheel options: