Me & “Old Blue” — How The Original Tesla Roadster Helped Me Serve “The Mission” Well Beyond Its Production Run

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In November of 2010, Tesla flew me out to their Silicon Valley headquarters for my first spherical of interviews. It was the “Roadster Days,” when Tesla was a fraction of its present measurement. You might simply pull into the HQ and get a parking spot proper up subsequent to the constructing. In later years, getting such a coveted parking spot can be like snagging a seat on a New York Metropolis subway throughout rush hour. Good luck. Again then, Tesla solely had about 1,000 workers — a small ragtag bunch of sensible badasses decided to alter the world for the higher.

I took this image in entrance of Tesla headquarters as I used to be strolling again to my rental automotive after my first spherical of interviews on November ninth, 2010; a sole Roadster in a parking zone with a bunch of areas accessible. There are much more automobiles there now. Picture © David Havasi.

What a distinction a decade has made. Now, greater than 10 years later, Tesla has over 70,000 workers, is probably the most useful car maker on the earth, and is the quickest rising complicated producer in historical past. Inside a decade, Tesla went from a distinct segment boutique startup in California to an industry-leading world powerhouse. To today, Tesla has retained its hardcore tradition of relentless innovation. This tradition of innovation has allowed it to beat seemingly insurmountable obstacles on its path to get to the place it’s at the moment, and to the place it’s going. 

Reflecting on the common-or-garden time by which this image of the parking zone was taken, and the last decade of extraordinary progress that has adopted, I believed I’d take somewhat stroll down reminiscence lane and share some of my private “Tesla Insider” tales about how the unique Roadster, even after its deliberate finish of manufacturing in 2011, continued to assist the Tesla Mission in its personal little methods. However first, let’s begin with some context. 

Within the Starting …

The Roadster was the automotive that began all of it for Tesla. It was the corporate’s first client product, and step one in Tesla’s grand “Secret Grasp Plan,” the roadmap for the corporate’s mission to speed up the world’s transition to sustainable transportation & power. It was an formidable automotive for an formidable purpose. Straight impressed by the AC Propulsion tzero concept car, the Roadster confirmed the world that electrical automobiles might look cool, be fast, have lengthy vary, and be far more than simply glorified golf carts (which was the prevailing notion at the moment). Though it was a low-volume area of interest product, the Roadster nonetheless struck a chord deep down within the psyche of some incumbent auto {industry} gamers. Even Bob Lutz, former head of Basic Motors and considered one of Tesla’s staunchest critics through the years, credit the unique Roadster as being the catalyst for GM to develop the Volt, which went on to be topped Motor Pattern’s 2011 “Automotive of the Yr” and Bob’s swan tune at Basic Motors. 

However whereas Tesla’s first providing did rattle a cage or two, conventional automakers as a complete — nonetheless very a lot content material and unthreatened of their outdated inner combustion methods — dismissed Tesla as a small inconsequential area of interest participant with an costly and unproven know-how. Due to this viewpoint, the big established OEMs didn’t instantly comply with Tesla’s instance, as a substitute ready greater than a decade later to when Tesla’s success would all however power their fingers to go all-in on electrical automobiles. Historical past might present this era of inaction to be arguably probably the most short-sighted and expensive train of existential hubris within the historical past of the auto {industry} … however that’s one other story.

Tesla Roadster Maye Musk and David Havasi
Maye Musk and me, standing in entrance of a Tesla Roadster on the NYC premier of the movie Revenge of the Electrical Automotive on October 21, 2011.

The Tesla Roadster was certainly the broader auto fanatics’ introduction to the distinctive thrill of electrical motoring. For lots of people, the Roadster was what initially turned them on to Tesla and acquired them excited in regards to the firm’s mission and upcoming automobiles. I used to be a kind of excited folks. Listening to of the Roadster’s existence was an epiphany for me. Right here was a cool, viable, all-electric sports activities automotive that was environmentally aware … that you may truly purchase (albeit at a premium value level). It was one thing that had not existed up till that time, and one thing that many thought might by no means exist. Like many different auto fanatics (who have been additionally environmentalists), the Roadster planted a seed of want in my thoughts. In my head echoed the mantra; “Sometime I’ll have a Tesla” — nonetheless lofty that aspiration appeared on the time. Tesla constructed and bought round 2,500 Roadsters between 2008 and 2011, serving to to pave the way in which, each conceptually and financially, for Tesla’s second automobile; the much more formidable Mannequin S. 

Enter Mannequin S 

With the Mannequin S, Tesla constructed on the spirit of the Roadster’s electrical powered efficiency pedigree, whereas including the weather of luxurious, practicality, and performance. It was a full-size luxurious sports activities sedan, designed to show that an electrical automotive could possibly be higher than a gasoline-powered automotive might ever presumably be in virtually each metric. Its modern “skateboard” chassis and powertrain structure gave the Mannequin S efficiency, storage, effectivity, and security traits that no gasoline-powered automobiles of its class might ever presumably have. Its mixture of on the spot electrical acceleration, revolutionary automobile structure, an enormous touchscreen person interface, and the flexibility to get free over-the-air updates (that proceed so as to add varied efficiency and performance enhancements all through possession) rocked the auto world to its core. It was far more than only a new entry within the automotive historical past e book — it began a complete new chapter. 

The Mannequin S would grow to be the automotive that moved Tesla from the facet tales within the car magazines to the duvet tales. It turned probably the most award successful automotive of 2013, together with Motor Pattern’s coveted “Automotive of the Yr.” Later, Motor Pattern would go so far as to dub the Mannequin S the best automotive that they had ever reviewed of their 75 yr historical past. A recognition of the very best status. 

For the subsequent few years, the Mannequin S would have the limelight because the lead character in Tesla’s unbelievable success story. To many, this new chapter is when the Roadster’s contributions to that success story got here to an finish — the baton handed to its new four-door brethren. However from my expertise, the Roadster’s contributions to Tesla’s success story have been removed from over.

Serving to with the Newbies 

As I discussed earlier, Tesla had flown me out to California for a sequence of interviews in November of 2010, however I didn’t formally begin working there till the Mannequin S launch program in 2012. On the primary day of my orientation on the Tesla Fremont manufacturing unit in California, all the new recruits have been lined up outdoors and every given a sizzling lap on the check observe in a “Glacier Blue” Tesla Roadster. The expertise was like driving a thrill experience at an amusement park. It was the last word serving of the proverbial Kool-Support. The message was clear: “We construct badass electrical automobiles which can be going to alter the world.”

Nathan and me on “Day: 1” of coaching on the Tesla Fremont manufacturing unit, about to launch within the Roadster for the primary time.

In a continuation of our coaching, a day was reserved for us to every get some severe time behind the wheel (of one other “Glacier Blue” Roadster) and discover the glory of electrified on the spot torque by means of the hilly backcountry roads that twisted round Tesla’s Silicon Valley headquarters.

Andrew and me pulling out from Tesla headquarters to whiz by means of the roller-coaster backroads of Palo Alto.

It was an superior method to practice, serving to to present us a deeper appreciation of Tesla’s product ethos, and likewise a extra in depth experiential information of that ethos. I turned very shut with the automobiles, and after I say “shut,” I imply that actually. At one level throughout that summer time, there wasn’t sufficient workplace furnishings at Tesla HQ to accommodate the inflow of latest workers coming onboard in preparation for the Mannequin S launch and manufacturing/supply ramp. The n00bs like us usually needed to make do with any area we might tuck ourselves into. For me, that area was usually in a Roadster rolling chassis that was on show in the principle gallery of Tesla’s Deer Creek headquarters.

At my “desk” at Tesla’s Deer Creek HQ.

Right here Comes the (Electrical) Cavalry! 

Over the subsequent yr, each waking second for me and my workforce was spent in and round Tesla’s new star, the Mannequin S. We personally delivered every of them (through truck and trailer) to the properties of their anxiously awaiting homeowners all through the New York tri-state space. The challenges have been many and the sources have been few. Success hinged on the tenacity of my workforce and our capacity to creatively overcome obstacles as they arose. 

The harmful aftermath of Hurricane Sandy within the fall of 2012 left all fuel stations within the better New York Metropolis space out of fee for weeks. Even after electrical energy was ultimately restored to the world, a overwhelming majority of fuel stations remained offline for weeks longer. In an ironic coincidence, this meant that we had no diesel gasoline to gasoline the supply vehicles that towed the electrical automobiles to our prospects. As an answer, we devised a plan the place we might (with the shopper’s permission) drive the Mannequin S to the shopper’s house. We then had to determine tips on how to get the Tesla teammate again to base after the supply. Clients’ properties have been usually outdoors the territory of New York Metropolis Transit, and vehicular choices like cabs and (new on the scene) Uber weren’t viable because of the gasoline scarcity. To resolve this, we devised a plan the place considered one of us would drive the Mannequin S and considered one of us would drive in a chase automobile to present the teammate driving the S a experience again after the supply. The one chase automobile accessible and able to this distinctive activity was a Roadster that somebody had only in the near past traded in for a Mannequin S. 

Clients loved seeing the Roadster make a cameo at their already extremely anticipated Mannequin S supply. They considered it as an additional little bonus to their supply expertise to have the famed authentic Tesla be current for them getting their Tesla — a sentimental “passing of the torch” of types. It was a neat taking place born out of logistical necessity, an operational strategy to downside fixing rooted within the first-principles pondering that’s stamped into Tesla’s firm DNA. 

Caravanning the Mannequin S and Roadster to prospects’ properties was a surreal scene: two electrical automobiles quietly whirring by means of the eerily empty streets of the normally bustling New York Metropolis; zipping previous mile-long strains of fuel automobiles queued up on the few fuel stations that have been allotted to function beneath an emergency fuel rationing protocol instated by Mayor Bloomberg. Destiny does certainly love irony.

Armen and Pearse within the Roadster “chase automotive,” with the automobile supply trailers sitting idle within the background. Picture © David Havasi.

Use What You’ve Bought 

My spouse, whereas down in Sarasota, Florida, for work through the winter of 2013, despatched me an image of a “Glacier Blue” Roadster that was stopped in entrance of her in visitors. Little did I do know that destiny would convey me to grow to be acquainted with the proprietor of that very Roadster only some months later. My spouse and I had been exploring the potential of relocating to Sarasota ever since visiting my in-laws at their winter house there. I considered my spouse’s Roadster sighting as an oracle-like signal that the potential of relocating down there must be additional explored. In the summertime of 2013, future would manifest that chance.

This isn’t the precise image that my spouse texted me, however that is the precise automotive she noticed. I couldn’t discover the pic she despatched, so I used a pic that I ultimately took. Picture © David Havasi.

That summer time (2013), I turned a part of Tesla’s “Asset-Lite” program; a small expeditionary unit of Tesla’s gross sales workforce. I affectionately nicknamed the function the “Johnny Appleseed of Tesla” — a lone pioneer, planting the seeds of rEVolution throughout the land. I used to be tasked with establishing Tesla’s everlasting gross sales presence on Florida’s gulf coast. My spouse and I packed up and moved from New York Metropolis all the way down to Sarasota, Florida. On prime of wanting to maneuver there anyway, Sarasota was an excellent strategic location to function out of, contemplating the mission at hand. Sarasota is an upscale metropolis that sits on Florida’s paradisiacal “Suncoast” between Tampa to the north and Naples to the south. I used to be given a top-spec Mannequin S advertising automotive to facilitate check drives, host advertising occasions, and use as my private day by day driver.

I dubbed my first Mannequin S advertising automotive “The Gray Ghost.” Picture © David Havasi.

In lieu of any brick-and-mortar gross sales areas in that space, the check drives have been normally carried out both on the buyer’s house/work or on the authentic boutique-sized Tesla service middle positioned within the Tampa space. Whereas most gross sales at that time have been customized orders, periodically both I or considered one of my colleagues elsewhere within the nation would promote my precise advertising automotive as an “stock automotive.” This recurring occasion not solely quickly left me with out my major promoting device; it left me with none wheels in any respect. At the moment, I didn’t have a automotive of my very own outdoors of the Mannequin S that Tesla offered me. At any time when it bought, it might take a couple of days to both get a newly constructed alternative to be rerouted to me from the manufacturing unit in California, or for me to bogart one from the Miami workforce’s check drive fleet. 

As destiny would have it, the treatment to those gaps in my mobility got here within the type of one more “Glacier Blue” Roadster. Somebody had traded it in for a Mannequin S a while in the past, and ever since then, it had been tucked within the nook of a storage space on the Tampa service middle. Despite the fact that I didn’t have a Mannequin S to promote, I had each intention to proceed serving the Tesla Kool Support with that Roadster, which I affectionately nicknamed “Outdated Blue.”

Me with “Outdated Blue.” The Roadster was made in a myriad of colours, however by some cosmic coincidence, those that crossed my path tended to be “Glacier Blue.” I grew fairly keen on the colour. Picture © David Havasi.

Apart from each having an electrical powertrain, the Roadster and the Mannequin S have been radically totally different automobiles. One was a small, uncooked, seat-of-your-pants two-seater; and the opposite was a full-size, four-door, high-tech luxurious sedan. They have been the auto equal of apples and oranges. However the necessary factor was what that they had in frequent: the moment torque and uninterrupted linear thrust that an electrical motor offers. That was all I wanted to unfold the Tesla gospel.

Simply as with the Mannequin S advertising automotive, in all places I went (even with my spouse, who had the endurance of a saint), if any individual confirmed curiosity in Outdated Blue, I might give them a fast demo experience. It didn’t matter the place it was; the theatre, the grocery retailer — wherever. Each observer was a possible buyer, or no less than an EV convert to-be. Whether or not it was family and friends visiting from out of city or complete strangers on the road, I used to be all the time on the clock, serving that candy Tesla Kool Support to anybody who needed a style. I used to be shameless. 

When my spouse and I went out to eat, I might “park it like a pimp” proper in entrance of the restaurant each time doable. Heck, I might park it on the sidewalk if I might get away with it. I needed folks to should virtually journey over the automotive to be able to get into the constructing. The Roadster was a rolling billboard that I always jockeyed for optimum publicity. And it labored. Wherever I went, whether or not I used to be coming or going, onlookers would usually cease and ask about it, which then sparked a dialog about the advantages of electrical motoring. This both led to a fast demo experience or an trade of contact info to schedule a check drive within the Mannequin S for when my subsequent one arrived. I might additionally wedge a couple of of my enterprise playing cards within the window seal of the driver-side door of the Roadster for anybody who occurred by the automotive whereas I wasn’t there. This, too, straight led to reserving extra check drive appointments, and later down the road, gross sales of Mannequin S (and even Mannequin 3 — extra on that in a bit).

Parking the Outdated Blue “like a pimp” whereas out to brunch with my spouse in downtown Sarasota. Picture © David Havasi.

Pole place at inexperienced lights have been one other alternative to present the automobiles round me a fast demonstration of electrified on the spot torque. So far as I’m involved, it’s my diplomatic responsibility, as an envoy to the EV know-how, to blow away fuel automobiles on the gentle (simply to the velocity restrict, in fact). I can’t inform you what number of instances somebody got here into the Tesla retailer over the next years to purchase a automotive, and after I requested them what motivated them to come back in and make the acquisition, they’d inform me about how they tried to tug race a Tesla of their high-end sports activities automotive; solely to be left within the mud. At that second, they thought to themselves: “I’ve acquired to get a kind of issues!” Now, I’m not saying that all of these little visitors gentle drag races have been me — in fact not — however I positively fostered this observe of “exhibitionist ambassadorship” amongst the native Tesla neighborhood.

Frolicking with a Ferrari. Picture © David Havasi.

In fact, I needed to truly promote automobiles within the close to time period in order that Tesla might pay the payments and proceed to develop, however the conventional “make the short sale” thoughts body was not how I approached introducing somebody to Tesla. I considered it extra as a VIP glimpse to a tremendous new world of transportation. It was a celebration, not a gross sales pitch. It didn’t matter if I had the Mannequin S that I might promote them proper then and there, or the Roadster that was not on the market. It didn’t matter if the individual was at present available in the market for a automotive or not. It didn’t matter if the individual drove a high-end luxurious sports activities automotive or a reasonable base financial system automotive. I used to be enjoying each a brief recreation and an extended recreation.

The “Gray Ghost” and “Outdated Blue” in a pre-staging space earlier than being displayed on the “Vehicles & Couture” luxurious automobile and trend present at Tampa’s Jet Middle, October 2013. Picture © David Havasi.

I knew full effectively that a few of the folks I gave rides to have been in no place to drop $70K to $130K on a automotive at that second (or ever), however I noticed myself in them. I knew that (like me) after they skilled the awesomeness of Tesla electrical motoring, that very same “seed of wantthat was planted in me would then be planted in them as effectively. The drive to plant this seed in as many individuals as doable is what fueled me. Whether or not the seed sprouted that day, or within the subsequent 10 years, I knew that there was a great probability that the identical mantra that had echoed in me would additionally begin echoing in them; “Sometime I will have a Tesla.

Whether or not I used to be sitting within the driver’s seat giving a experience, or sitting within the entrance passenger seat throughout a check drive, I witnessed that particular second when the “seed of want” was planted — hundreds of instances. It was by far probably the most rewarding job expertise of my time in company life.

“Outdated Blue” was proper at house in downtown Sarasota, a spot the place the streets are lined with costly automobiles parked in entrance of pricey eating places. Picture © David Havasi.

The “Seeds of Want” Blossom 

On the morning of March 31, 2016, hundreds of individuals lined up (some even camped out in a single day) outdoors Tesla retail areas worldwide to place down a $1,000 reservation for Tesla’s lengthy promised reasonably priced “automotive for the plenty,” the Mannequin 3. What was much more wonderful was that none of them had ever even seen or pushed the Mannequin 3 but. The variety of reservations for the Mannequin 3 would in the end prime over 400,000, a pre-order demand no different automotive in historical past has ever even come remotely near attaining (besides maybe the upcoming Tesla Cybertruck).

The lengthy line of individuals outdoors of the Tesla retailer in Sarasota, FL at 8:00 AM on March thirty first, 2016; every ready for the shop to open so they might put down their $1,000 reservation for the Mannequin 3 earlier than its unveiling that night time. Picture © David Havasi.

Clearly, all that Mannequin 3 demand wasn’t drummed up simply by little outdated me giving thrill rides within the Roadster by means of the streets of Sarasota. It was the cumulative results of the tireless dedication proven by your complete Tesla Group, augmented through the years by the legions of ever-growing enthusiastic Tesla homeowners who have been greater than prepared to indicate off their automobiles to anybody, anytime, wherever; planting the “seed of want” like honorary Asset-Lites.

This has been a chronicle of how the Tesla Roadster influenced my very own private journey to speed up the world’s transition to sustainable transportation. It’s however one chronicle within the huge annals of Tesla’s temporary but epic lore — a lore that each one started with the Tesla Roadster. As rewarding because it was through the years to have somebody place their order for his or her top-end Mannequin S proper after their check drive, it has been much more rewarding to have a few of the folks that I gave impromptu demo rides to within the Roadster attain out to me years later to inform me that they simply positioned their order for his or her Mannequin 3, largely influenced by the experience I gave them years earlier within the Roadster. Bravo, Outdated Blue. 

Tesla’s first automotive was destined to be far more than only a high-priced, small-volume plaything. Though it was a high-priced low-volume product that solely a tiny fraction of automotive consumers might afford, it sparked the creativeness of automotive consumers from each finances. It gave a glimpse right into a sustainable future that was not considered one of compromise and sacrifice, however considered one of profit and bounty. It set the tone for Tesla being a harbinger — and bonafide chief — of an thrilling new chapter in mobility and power.

Taking supply of my Mannequin 3.

In July of 2019 (coincidentally my final month working at Tesla), I took supply of my Lengthy Vary, Twin Motor Mannequin 3. I opted for the “Acceleration Enhance” improve, reducing its already fast 0–60 mph time of 4.2 seconds down to only 3.7 seconds; which coincidentally is the similar 0–60 time as the unique Tesla Roadster Sport. To me, each 3.7 second linear leap to 60 mph in my Mannequin 3 is greater than only a trivial rush that comes at each inexperienced gentle or when slingshotting out of an apex; it’s a sentimental tip-of-the-hat to the Tesla that began all of it — the unique Tesla Roadster. 

To today, I pinch myself. In the event you would have informed me again in 2010 that I might personal a Tesla in any respect, not to mention one that’s that fast, I believe I might have flipped out in giddy disbelief. The “seed of want” that was planted in me by the unique Roadster lastly bloomed when my dream of proudly owning a Tesla turned a actuality, and mine is just however one of many numerous seeds sprouting everywhere in the world at an ever accelerating tempo. It’s a wonderful phenomenon to witness.

One very last thing — I do totally plan on getting the next-generation Roadster, and sure, it is going to be in “Glacier Blue.” Be effectively, all. Viva la rEVolution!

STOCK DISCLOSURE & DISCLAIMER: Throughout my employment at Tesla from 2012 to 2019, I was granted and optioned hundreds of shares of $TSLA inventory at ~$5/share (submit cut up). I am lengthy $TSLA with a multimillion-dollar stake within the firm, and don’t intend to promote any partwork of my stake for a number of years. Any content material I create is just not meant to be funding recommendation, and shouldn’t be considered as such. At all times do your individual analysis earlier than investing. 

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