The Tesla Diaries: 1. Dreaming

When I first became aware of the existence of Tesla Motors and their goal of making electric cars that everyone could afford, I went out and bought some Tesla stock. I did that because I couldn’t afford to buy a Tesla car, but I was super-excited about the idea and wanted to support it.

That was in June of 2013, about a month after Consumer Reports rated the Tesla Model S the best car ever tested. That’s probably what put the company on my radar. Too bad I didn’t get in before the stock price tripled right after the Consumer Reports announcement.

This story is about the car, though—not about the stock.

That summer my spouse and I began to dream about owning an electric car. The Model S was beyond our reach; the price tag well outside our comfort zone. Who besides the incredibly wealthy could spend $100k on a car? I’d lived in houses that cost a lot less.

Our dreams were pinned on the promise of a less expensive Tesla down the road. Elon Musk’s plan was to build a ridiculously expensive sports car (the Roadster), use the proceeds from that to create a slightly less expensive luxury sports car (the Model S), and use funds from that to eventually build a car that people who weren’t incredibly wealthy could at least aspire to own. It would take a few years to get there.

From the time we first learned about Tesla, we were thrilled at the idea of owning an all-electric car. It would be a step toward cleaner energy. Even if the electricity it used was created by burning fossil fuels, the car would have less impact on the environment than a gas-powered car, and would be much safer. (As Matthew Inman of The Oatmeal points out in his wonderfully profane blog post about Tesla cars, the level of a driver’s happiness increases in direct proportion to the distance of explosions from the driver’s crotch.)

In fact, that best-ever rating for the Model S included the fact that it was the safest car ever tested. That had huge appeal for us.

The other thing about the Tesla Model S was that it offered over 200 miles of range. Living where we live, in rural New Mexico, that was essential. My spouse’s commute is a 70-mile round-trip. No electric car that we’d heard of had enough range for that, until the advent of the Model S.

We had friends who owned hybrids. We looked into that less-expensive solution, but for us, it wasn’t worthwhile. Again, range was the issue. A hybrid car is designed to operate efficiently in city traffic. Most of our driving, including my spouse’s commute, involves a lot of highway miles. So we’d just be burning gas to haul around an electric motor most of the time. Not efficient.

We watched the news about Tesla, while the company and Elon Musk accumulated a bunch of awards. We watched the stock price swing wildly (but we had been in an investment club and learned about long-term investing, so we weren’t freaked out). We watched, we waited, and we dreamed.

On the Tesla website, there’s a page where you can configure your dream car: the Design Studio. No obligation, no commitment. You don’t even have to cough up an email address. We spent a lot of time on that page, playing with our dream car, adding and subtracting options and seeing what that did to the bottom line. The price remained ridiculously high, but it was fun to play and to dream.

In August of 2013, we needed to replace my spouse’s commuter car. Alas, we had not won the lottery, so a Model S was out of the question. Instead, we bought a brand-new Camry LE, on which we spent the breathtaking sum of about $28k.

That felt so extravagant. The car had luxury features we’d never enjoyed before: built-in GPS, a rear-view camera for reverse (soon to be required equipment, but a luxury then), a sun roof, satellite radio. We were really spoiling ourselves. What we didn’t realize was that we were practicing to become Tesla owners. The Camry was an incremental step toward our dream car.

While we were getting accustomed to driving a really comfortable, nicely quiet, reasonably powerful car, we continued to play with Tesla’s design studio. We traveled long distances to take test drives in the Tesla Model S, and were blown away by its silence and its power.

Fast-forward a couple of years to the summer of 2015, when two things happened: one of my novel series started to generate more income than I had ever earned before, and Tesla Motors brought out a new color for the Model S: Deep Blue Metallic.

Don’t laugh. When you’re shopping for a car, color is important, even though it’s probably the most likely option to go out the window for the sake of compromise. There are certain colors that are deal-breakers for me. I won’t buy a car that color, period.

For example, my spouse and I refuse to own a car with a black interior. Why? We live in the Southwest. Cars get really hot, really fast in the summer. A black interior absorbs a lot of heat.

When we were shopping for the Camry, we wanted a manual transmission (which we’ve always preferred), but the only cars that had them in our area all had black interiors. So we compromised. The Camry had an automatic transmission, but at least the interior was a light color. We also had to compromise on the exterior color, accepting a gray one when we would have preferred a different color that wasn’t on the lot with the options we wanted.

See, with Tesla’s design studio, that never happens.

When you buy a car from Tesla, you design it yourself. Battery size, sound system, interior, and all other options including color.

And then when you commit to buying that particular configuration, they build it for you.

Think about that.

No more wandering around a dealership lot looking at stickers, hunting for the features you want. No more salespeople pressuring you. No more haggling. No more compromise.

You design the car you want, and then they build that exact car.

No wonder the traditional automobile industry is terrified of Tesla Motors.

So, anyway, Tesla brought out Deep Blue Metallic for the Model S. And we said, “Ooooohhhhh.”

This was the color we wanted. Other available colors were black, red, white, champagne. There had been a color called Dark Blue, which was such a dark navy that it looked black in all but the brightest sunlight. We didn’t care for that.

But Deep Blue was a delicious, jewel-tone blue. And it tipped the scales.

We went from dreaming about owning a Tesla to knowing we must have one. And it had to be Deep Blue.

(On to part 2…)

Tesla has again updated their referral offer! If you use a referral code from an existing Tesla owner, like this one: (good for five referrals, after which it expires) to order a new Model S or Model X, you will be eligible for free Supercharging as long as you own your Tesla. The same code is also good for a 5-year extended limited warranty on a new solar energy system installation. This offer ends April 30, 2018.

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