In Photos: Tesla S Factory Pickup Experience (Fremont)

Factory pickups are rather routine in the automotive world. Unless that car happens to be made by Tesla. The upstart electric car-maker offers its buyers a slice of history–setting foot upon the first all-electric automobile manufacturing in the country. And then, after touring the 5.5 million square foot plant, silently cruising back to highway 880 in Silicon Valley at the wheel of their groundbreaking Tesla S Sedan.

I had a chance to witness the customer pickup experience firsthand over the weekend in Fremont. I watched as a (thrilled) family took possession of a racy red Tesla S 60 (kWh) in the customer staging garage.

After a one hour training session, we headed to the plant for a tour. It’s worth noting that Tesla scored the biggest Groupon of all-time: buying the former $1 billion NUMMI plant for only $41 million.

Already a convert, I came away from the day wanting uber entrepreneur Elon Musk and his team to succeed more than ever. That we are witnessing a car this innovative–designed and manufactured domestically no less–reaching the hands of everyday luxury car buyers with such high quality build, and such sterling performance is simply nothing short of remarkable.

No doubt range anxiety is real. The Tesla is not made for every situation, for every buyer. Range on the top end Performance S model with an 85 kWh battery is 265 miles.

Yes, this is an expensive car. At least, on first blush. Compare it to competitors likely to be cross-shopped, such as the Audi A7, the BMW 6-series, and Mercedes S range, and you quickly realize to the contrary: the Tesla S, with all its R&D and incredible sophistication, is a downright bargain by sports luxury sedan standards.

As a Prius owner I’ve always had keen interest in Tesla. I first got up close and personal with it at the Detroit Car show last year. Even in that early floor show model, it felt as if Tesla had done it “right.”

Prior to my hybrid (and married) days, I strung myself out like so many a bachelor on high performance, wallet incinerating stuff: 1999 Nissan 300zx Twin Turbo (marvelous, but temperamental), a 1999  BMW 323i (excellent build), a 2001 Jaguar XKR convertible (horrible), a 2002 Porsche 911 (why did I ever sell it?!) and a used 2001 Audi A6 2.7T (every service interval resulted in a $1,200 repair bill). The Tesla feels every bit the contemporary (and then some) when compared to all those cars. Of course, it has the most magical of tricks up its sleeve: zero emissions. Amazingly, it does so without sacrificing the driving experience. Musk has double dipped. And we’re all beneficiaries.

STARK INSIDER: Factoids

5.5 million square feet: Size of Tesla Fremont factory–of which about 1/3rd is in use, with the remainder used as storage

$12,000 to $16,000: Cost of replacement batteries

$62,400 USD: Base price of Tesla Model S (after Federal tax credits)

4.2 seconds: 0-60 rating of Performance 85 model

4,750: # of Model S cars sold–about 250 more than the February target

Then there’s the New York Times.

No doubt range anxiety is real. Many buyers would rather not plan trips based on the need for charging (I admit that’s why I’m partial to hybrids like the Prius and Volt, at least until there are more Superchargers online). Fair enough. The Tesla is not made for every situation, for every buyer. Range on the top end Performance S model with an 85 kWh battery is 265 miles. Batteries don’t like the cold. And there’s few Superchargers located across the United States–9 are live today in Connecticut, Delaware and California, with 100 planned for 2015. Playing to our fears, of course, is the oldest trick in the traditional media playbook. It’s shameful. Writers who begin with the end in mind, are surely not applying the 7 Habits of Highly Successful People in a way that author Stephen Covey envisioned.

So when you pickup your shiny, new Tesla from the Fremont factory, you’re getting a fair amount of back-story as a bonus. It’s an iconic car. Perhaps less so for the fact that’s it’s all aluminum, and all electric, and more so because it polarizes and engages politicians, the community, and environmentalists alike.

MYTH BUSTERS: Tesla Edition

You’re not only taking home a new electric car, you’re taking home a piece of American history.

All that to say, here are some photos below documenting the Tesla customer pickup experience.

If you’re in the San Francisco Bay Area and have bought a Tesla (many do it online without the need for a back-and-forth waltz with an in-person sales rep) then it’s part and parcel of the experience, and I highly recommend making the visit to pick up your new car.

One thing you won’t see below: photos from the factory floor.

Cameras are not allowed. What you see here is only half the story. There’s untold innovation, human ingenuity on the other side of these walls. Hopefully soon I’ll be able to have our on-air host Loni pay a visit with permission to shoot a Stark Insider TV segment there with Elon Musk.

IN PHOTOS: The Tesla Factory Pickup Experience

Tesla Factory in Fremont, California. Formerly owned by NUMMI, the 5.5 million square foot plant was worth $1 billion, but bought by Tesla for only $42 million (easily the best Groupon of all time).
Tesla Factory Lobby: Feels like a start-up. How appropriate is that?
Shiny & New: Tesla S 60 sedan ready for pickup. The customer staging area has three stalls and a shared open space for two additional cars. But, I mean seriously, could this thing be any shinier?!
Andrew educates the new owner about the Tesla. One of the perks of picking up a Tesla at the factory is the depth of knowledge (and passion) of the employees.
Pairing the iPhone App. Mobile App: Meet Car App. Tesla firmware updates take 15-30 minutes on average, and since the car is inoperable during the process, it can be scheduled for early morning hours if desired.
With a huge center-mounted LCD panel and gizmos galore, a Tesla S debriefing boils over with information. Fortunately, Andrew was incredibly patient, and on this day spent over an hour with this (happy) family.
Glass panoramic sunroof, a $1,500 option. A thumb wheel on the steering wheel allows precise control of its position, in 1/10 increments.
Customer staging garage was full on this day with 5 families picking up S sedans.
Budding Tesla enthusiasts.
Turning circle: 37 ft. Curb weight: 4,647.3 lbs. Weight distribution (%, front/rear): approx. 48/52.
Here you can see I”m looking for the tailpipes…
Tesla and Tecate – logo brothers in arms (look it up!).
The rear hatch is motorized (but of course).
One of my favorite features are the 19-inch tires. This car means business. Rappers and beatboxers will want to opt for the 21-inchers ($3,500).
Rear LED taillight design is, in my estimation, simply gorgeous. Evokes a bit of Audi, but is striking in its own right.
Gentle curves belie the electric monster within.
Halogen headlights with automatic on/off and LED daytime running lights.
Open up and say “no drivetrain.” If Aston Martin were to make an electric sports car, perhaps the grill would look something like this?

Door handles extend to greet driver and passengers.

Watching a Tesla S training session is like experiencing Cirque du Soleile – no shortage of “oohs and ahhs.”
A few parts are borrowed from the Mercedes parts bin including the shift lever, and turn-signal stalk (seen above), and the power window controls.
Tesla designers nailed it. Look at those lines. Bellissimo.

Posing for Carl’s “mid-life crisis.”
During the factory tour, customer’s Teslas are moved to the parking lot. Finally, the moment of truth!
You’re not only taking home a new electric car, you’re taking home a piece of American history.
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