2014 Tesla Model S
We love it, and we love to hate its marketing almost as much as we despise the overzealous, often ignorant coverage in the press.
First, Tesla insists on listing prices with government incentives--which buyers don't always qualify for--already deducted. Then we didn't get the more affordable 40-kWh Model S. Then we were told the Model S could cost as little as $500 per month (it doesn't). Then Tesla said it had earned a 5.4-star rating from the NHTSA (it didn't). And all along the way we've been assaulted from all corners with pre-order-inflated sales figures showing the Model S trouncing the luxury market's best alternatives month after month. Even Audi got annoyed by this.
But Tesla [NSDQ: TSLA] says the Model S isn't a luxury car (Automotive News--sub. req.)--so why the comparison?
In truth, stitch-for-stitch and stalk-for-stalk, the Model S isn't a luxury car at all. It's well-built and comely, even inside, and it does have a desktop-sized screen in its dash, but against the Mercedes-Benz S Class and BMW 7-Series, the Model S comes off as more of an up-market mainstream sedan in materials and design. Think premium Accord rather than Audi A8.
Nevertheless, the comparisons continue, with a new article at Slate showing how Tesla's Model S sold more examples than its vaguely equivalent luxury alternatives (and a handful of non-luxury brands) in California in the month of June. The Slate author wisely cautions readers that California is not necessarily a representative case (but hints it may be).
The raw numbers are impressive: 1,097 new Model S sedans were registered in California in June, and year-to-date, the company has seen more new registrations in the state (4,714) than Land Rover, Jaguar, Porsche, or Volvo individually.
Most of those brands sell cars that are not only higher-performance than the Model S, but also far more luxurious. They're also often far more expensive than the roughly $60,000-$100,000 price range of the Model S.
Looking at a frequently-mentioned "competitor" in the luxury class, Mercedes-Benz sells fewer $140,000 S Classes than Tesla sells Model Ses, but it still sells about eight times as many cars as Tesla does in California each year, because it sells many less expensive cars, too. Does that mean Mercedes-Benz is eight times better than Tesla? No, it doesn't. It's just different.
In other words, Tesla Motors and its support base: Please stop trying to make the Model S out to be more than it is. Please stop stretching the truth, the parameters, and the analogies. It's good enough as it is, without any varnish.