On Tour with the Tesla Roadster

The Tesla Motors Team is on the road to the Midwest and East Coast for our 2007 Spring Tour. While we will not have an official Tesla Tour T-Shirt (as good as that sounds, it has probably been done before by some folks that don’t look much like us), we can offer something a bit different: a day-by-day account of the trials and tribulations of life on the road and a companion photo album. In this travel diary of sorts, you’ll hear the good, bad, and ugly as the Tesla Motors Team embarks on our most ambitious customer outreach effort to date – hitting four major metropolitan markets in the span of just a few short weeks. So tune in and see the drama unfold here.

Aaron Platshon, Marketing Associate
Filed: Saturday, April 14, 2007

As I type this note, Engineering Prototype 2 (EP2, aka the red Tesla Roadster) is cruising across Nevada in a beautiful, new 26-foot enclosed trailer, adorned with our logo. The trailer is being hauled by our new Chevy crew-cab Duramax diesel truck. (Editor's note: fossil fuel vehicles still have their place, and we are pleased that Chevy builds the Duramax to haul our Tesla Roadster around.)

It is important that we show our commitment to our other markets outside of our home state as we move into the final stages of development prior to the start of production. The sales and marketing teams are embarking on a 2½ week whirlwind tour of the United States that will include:

  • A quick stop in Detroit for a supplier event that coincides with the SAE (Society of Automotive Engineers) Conference. This is a great opportunity to showcase the Tesla Roadster for potential WhiteStar (our upcoming electric sports sedan) suppliers.
  • Public/private events and media opportunities in two of our initial markets: New York City and Chicago. Check the Events page on the website for events that are open to the public. Let your friends and family know.
  • Events open to the public in Washington, D.C.

We will send updates and pictures from the road, but here are the highlights of where we’ll be and when:

  • April 17
    Supplier Event, Downtown Detroit, Mich. (This is a private event.)
  • April 20-21
    New York Earth Day, located outside Grand Central Terminal.
  • April 24-26
    Various public/private events in Washington, D.C., including public appearances at the Department of Transportation, House of Representatives, and Senate.
  • April 29
    Tentative public display event in Chicago, Ill. (Editor's comment: Sorry, this event has been cancelled. We will do our best to schedule a public event next time we bring the Tesla Roadster to the Midwest.)

Very special thanks to Don Matheson, Marty Taft, Dallas Matheson and Phil Luk for working diligently until almost midnight Friday to get the rig on its way!

Thank you to Jamison Cummings, Jeremy Cleland, Joyce Cid, Barrie Dickinson, and Chris Dalupan for their help preparing for this trip.

EP2 is set to arrive back at our San Carlos, Calif., headquarters on May 2 or May 3.

Don Matheson, Director of Service
Filed: Monday, April 16

The Tesla Motors crew works late Friday night

Friday – Phil and Jamison twisted wrenches all day to upgrade EP2. Upgrades included new carpeting, installation of show wheels, work on door latches (they still don’t work due non working membrane switches), removal and new placement of EPO switch on dashboard, installation of new shocks and springs, dash vent trim rings, etc. While Phil and Jamison were working on the car, others worked on wiring up our new trailer and installing our new diesel generator. Work continued into late Friday night. I finally got home at about 12:15 am Saturday morning.

Saturday – Our drivers Dallas and Joe Sisto rolled into Park City, Utah, around 1:15 am Sunday morning. No problems reported. The truck pulled all mountain ranges easily. GPS (Tom Tom) worked like a charm, and they are enjoying XM radio thanks to Mike Harrigan.

Sunday – I checked in with Dallas at 11 am today. They should be approaching Laramie, Wyoming, as I write this.

Monday – Our drivers just passed through Davenport, Iowa. They expect to hit our Rochester Hills, Mich., office by Monday evening.

Aaron Platshon, Marketing Associate
Filed: Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Tesla Motors office in
Rochester Hills

Dallas and Joe arrived at our Rochester Hills office without incident on Monday evening. The rig lived in the (soon to be full, as we know from our experience in San Carlos) secure warehouse space currently populated by two partially dissected sedans from other manufacturers. Each part that has been removed lives on a rack labeled by type and mass for further research.

The Tesla Roadster and the
Rochester Hills staff

This morning, the traveling team (David, Dallas, Joe, and myself) enjoyed a quick continental breakfast at the hotel, with a few of our San Carlos engineering colleagues in town for meetings, before heading into the office for the day, our first among our Michigan counterparts.

It is exciting to turn the bend and catch a glimpse of the "Tesla Motors" signage in the distance and follow it in. Upon arrival, we were greeted by John Thomas, Senior Director of the WhiteStar program, and Penny Chant, the Rochester Hills office manager. They got us situated with cubes and phones for a day of "regular" work before our evening supplier event in downtown Detroit.

Most definitely not
a WhiteStar

The highlight of the day was opening up the trailer (that had lived in the warehouse the evening prior) and extracting the Tesla Roadster for the Rochester Hills employees. For most of them, this was their first opportunity to see their company's product first hand. The excitement and anticipation in the warehouse was palpable. I have great confidence that we may have dissuaded a new employee in our Supplier Quality department (his second day on the job) that he should forgo that Dodge Viper purchase (it's been his dream car since its inception) for a Tesla Roadster (it's a lot faster ;)). What a great way to share what we have enjoyed in San Carlos for the last year with the growing pool of very impressive Tesla Motors talent!

David and Goliath

At 3pm we took off for the supplier presentation in downtown Detroit, which was put on by a team from the WhiteStar program, Marketing, and After Sales and Support. This coincided with the annual SAE Conference, a huge engineering conference held every year in Cobo Hall. We rented out a meeting room at the Marriott across the street from the General Motors world headquarters and put the Tesla Roadster on display out in front of the hotel.

The reception of the Tesla Roadster was tremendous, including many visitors from their offices across the street to check out our wares. We also had more than 100 supplier executives attend our open house where Ron Lloyd, Vice President, WhiteStar, used the Tesla Motors story to communicate our vision and their potential to join us in the EV revolution. This was particularly exciting, since we had invited only 80! The feedback from suppliers was extremely positive – they were energized by the story, anxious to be a part of the Tesla Motors success, and willing to look at their worlds differently to make this happen.

Once again, the truck and trailer will live inside the Rochester Hills warehouse space until we depart bright and early for New York City. Tomorrow is all about getting safely to New York and getting ready to host many of our early "members" (those who have placed Tesla Roadster reservations) for a ride event in Manhattan on Thursday.

Doreen Allen, Senior Sales Manager
Filed: Wednesday, April 18, 2007

The drive team got a late start out of Detroit and didn’t arrive in New York City until the wee hours of the morning on April 19. TomTom did a great job of getting them to the city limits but had no clue on how to direct a large pickup truck pulling a 26-foot trailer. It frequently gave them instructions to turn well after they were committed in a lane. And when they couldn’t adjust, it went into a tizzy trying to come up with a new route. After one messed up turn, the team found themselves wrongfully entering the Holland Tunnel and were immediately pulled over by New York’s finest. After inspecting the cargo (a really cool electric Tesla Roadster) and checking the paperwork on our brand new truck (since it didn't have tags yet), he helped them with directions to the Manhattan Classic Car Club, where we were storing the Tesla Roadster while in town. By the way, the team over at the Classic Car Club are great! They were incredibly kind in helping us with our stay here in this great city.

Doreen Allen, Senior Sales Manager
Filed: Thursday, April 19, 2007

Crowds admire the Tesla Roadster
at the Classic Car Club

The driving team hit the sack at 8:00 am, while the fresh team of sales and marketing folks headed over for our first venue, which was a ride event for our local Tesla Roadster Club Members. We held the event at the Classic Car Club, which turned out to be a perfect venue - cool cars to check out; a comfortable sitting area; uncrowded streets, so we could stretch the Tesla Roadster’s legs a bit; and fantastic catered food.

When most members arrived we would hear the familiar comment that the Tesla Roadster is even better looking in person than in photos. I wholeheartedly agree, although you might call me biased. Each member returned from their ride with their Tesla Roadster “torque smile” on. I must say that Aaron is not a bit shy about letting our members feel a little g-force in the car. A bit heavy on the pedal is what was reported but not as a complaint.

One of our members almost got away with jumping into the driver's seat to take his ride, but we caught him just in time to put him in the passenger seat. One of our Signature One Hundred guys was there, and we were quite happy that he came in and made himself at home. He hung out with us for a while and even played with the shop dog, a miniature French bull dog named Trixy. Too cute, very hyper, and very entertaining.

Trixy, the Classic Car Club's shop dog

One member reported that he heard whistles and cheers from the street during his ride. It seemed he was digging the "cool factor," that even the general public on the street already knows about Tesla Motors and is cheering on our efforts. I’m not bragging here, I’m just reporting that the public is often our greatest advocate and supporter. That’s one of the big things that makes what we are doing so cool.

Next up was the reception that same night at the Classic Car Club. They invited their members to see the Tesla Roadster and, of course, the many other very cool high performance cars in their shop. It was a blast to hang out at the club with a bunch of car enthusiasts and to offer a few rides to our new friends there.

David Vespremi, Director of Public Relations
Filed: Thursday, April 19, 2007

New York really is the city that never sleeps – and as it turns out, neither did we. A good friend of mine, Jared Holstein, who shoots cars for all the major car magazines, is a recent transplant to the city. He and I had met for dinner on Wednesday and, after listening to me vent about how I wanted more images of the Tesla Roadster in real world settings (in contrast to the highly stylized studio shots on our website), Jared interrupted me with the observation, “Hey, you know, I have my rig here...” With that, we hatched a plan. At 11:00 pm after the last of the customer rides had cleared out of Classic Car Club, we would mount Jared’s custom 17’ carbon fiber camera rig to the Tesla Roadster – how fitting: carbon on carbon – and go out guerilla style on the streets of New York City to see if we could capture one of his signature overhead rig shots. To see some of his work, check out www.jaredholstein.com.

The Tesla Roadster cruises Time Square

Our first stop was the sea of lights that is Times Square. Brightly lit enough to look like daytime even in the dead of night, we were able to work with long shutter speeds to keep the car in sharp focus as the sea of lights blurred in the background. Very dramatic and very NYC. The support Silverado did double duty for us that night as the chase car for the car-to-car shots, and gave me a warm place to thaw from driving around the Tesla Roadster with no top, no heat (HVAC is disconnected on EP2), and no roof. Too bad diesel smells so bad. After a few hours of following the Chevy around and breathing in diesel soot, I was well on my way to nausea and a headache. The world needs more zero emissions cars posthaste.

As much as we enjoyed the pothole riddled Times Square loop, things got a lot more interesting when we switched locations, heading over the Williamsburg bridge to shoot in Williamsburg, Brooklyn and Harlem. This is where we got the best of our gritty urban shots, and we look forward to showing these off soon. I’d like to use this opportunity to apologize to any New Yorkers inconvenienced by our impromptu shoot – but we think the images were worth the all-nighter. We returned the car to Classic Car Club by about 7:00 am with 67 percent of the charge still left after driving all night, and I was in bed by 8:30 am. I slept for a couple of hours before being awakened by a series of fire alarms at our hotel, with people evacuating, returning, evacuating again, and finally figuring out that it was some kid pulling the alarm as a prank. Nice. The rest of the day consisted of my returning emails in a sleep deprived haze and making plans for the Good Morning America show to air on Sunday.

Doreen Allen, Senior Sales Manager
Filed: Friday, April 20, 2007

Oh my goodness. We had no idea of what to expect. We meet our dreary colleagues at the break of dawn to recover the car and get it over to Grand Central Station for a display at the New York Earth Day Celebrations. I was amazed, enlightened, and moved by the many people that I met yesterday. I was also terrified at moments. Sometimes there would be a group of classroom kids – we’re talking 15-20 kids who want to climb into, open, and climb onto the Tesla Roadster. One minute you’re having a conversation with someone about the technical aspects of the car, only to ask them to pause a moment while you create a body barrier to prevent the 20 seven year olds from climbing into and onto the Tesla Roadster. But those challenges were easily forgotten after the class teacher would scurry the kids into a small ring and then ask us, “Can you explain to my class why it is so important for us to move to electric vehicles versus gas powered cars?” Wow.

New Yorkers truly inspired me to be all the best I can at Tesla Motors. From the hoards of classroom kids to the engineers who suggested alternative technologies – thank you for the incredibly kind and supportive reception that you gave to us. We’ll be back.

David Vespremi, Director of Public Relations
Filed: Saturday, April 21, 2007

I finally got to spend some time with the crowd at the Earth Day event at Grand Central Station. Wow, what an eclectic crowd we had there. For a city that is nearly as focused on car culture as, say, Los Angeles or even the Bay Area, it was amazing how widely recognized the car was by all ages and walks of life. Sure, we had the occasionally hardened New Yorker poke jabs at the car – I liked the one guy that heckled the interior calling the sports seats “lawn chairs.” But all in all, the amount of enthusiasm in the air was enough to keep us going, even as many of us still struggled with exhaustion. We had a team dinner and debriefed on the week’s events, and I can say that, unanimously, we feel like we did the right thing by heading out to the east coast for this trip and are amazed at how smoothly things have been going so far.

Gretchen Joyce, Vice President of Sales
Filed: Saturday, April 21, 2007

The weather couldn’t have been better, sunny and in the mid-70s, and the crowd never let up around the Tesla Roadster. It’s always interesting to hear the reaction/comments about the car, especially outside of California. The awareness was quite high in NYC, with many people spewing facts verbatim from our website. Early in the day a young couple excitedly approached the Tesla Roadster. It turns out that they had driven in from Lebanon, Pa., (about a 120 mile drive) specifically to see the Tesla Roadster, after reading that it was in New York. There wasn’t anything new we could tell him about the car, as he was clearly knowledgeable, so we asked him for suggestions for our blog. He had been interested in reserving a Tesla Roadster, and after seeing it, I think it finally threw him over the edge!

Toward the end of the day, a gentleman was quietly looking at the car clearly intrigued. He then told us that he had worked on the advertising campaign for the EV1 launch, so he had to see the next generation electric vehicle in person.

And then there was the 10-year-old boy who asked many very intelligent questions of the Tesla Motors team about our technology, and he and his mother hung around until we drove the car away. He wants to grow up to be an engineer and perhaps figure out how to make electric airplanes. But until that happens, he claims that he will own a Tesla Roadster one day. And the best part for everyone was when the Tesla Roadster was actually driven away at the end of the day with all eyes on it as it quickly but quietly drove down 42nd Street.

David Vespremi, Director of Public Relations
Filed: Sunday, April 22, 2007

Good Morning Haiti...

Sunday began early. Too early. With a wakeup call at 3 am and check out by 3:30 am, Doreen, Aaron, and I were off to present the Tesla Roadster on Good Morning America. The only real highlight of the bleary-eyed rush to the set was the cab ride to retrieve the car from Classic Motor Club. For those familiar with Jim Jarmusch films, you’ll know that this NYC native’s pairing of offbeat music with surreal, dreamlike moments is one of the signature elements of movies like Stranger than Paradise, Coffee and Cigarettes, and, most recently, Broken Flowers. As it happened, we were floating down Broadway in a cab, with the sea of lights blurring by and the traffic swaying through the lanes as drunk or sleepy drivers deemed lane markers to be of no real consequence, causing rows of cabs to weave back and forth in unison from lane to lane as if dancing in the early morning hours. In our particular cab, the soundtrack to this dance, as if out of a Jarmusch film, was a melancholy sort of music with deeply resonant French vocals sung over a down tempo form of reggae with a smoky jazzy flavor. I’d never heard anything like it before but, somehow, it fit the ambience of the ride perfectly. As Aaron scanned through his email, his eyes and head nodding as he drifted in and out of sleep, and Doreen gazed out the window at the sea of lights, I asked the driver about the music streaming in from his iPod. He explained that it is a Haitian form of music called “komba.” I would have probed deeper, but rather than make small talk and ruin the mood, it seemed like the kind of moment when nodding along to the music together was all the talk that was needed.

After retrieving the car, Doreen and Aaron took the Silverado and I drove the Tesla Roadster over to GMA’s studio in Times Square. None of us being New York natives, we found ourselves off course, heading along the side of the Hudson in the final hours of dawn before the sun would introduce what would be the first day of real spring-like weather to the city. I had the top off of the Tesla Roadster, the wind in my hair, and not a care in the world as we made our way through traffic.

Once on set, Aaron and Doreen helped park the car in the curbside area from which the car would make its morning debut in about an hour, as I made my way to the "green room" for some coffee and to finish my prior entry to our travel blog. After a brief tour of the studio and control room, I couldn’t help but smile to myself as I recalled having driven on the street below GMA’s set, looping past that exact location at least 30 times prior during our all night photo session in Times Square. Had someone been pointing a camera out the window just two nights before, they would have had all the footage of the Tesla Roadster they could ever have wanted.

After hitting “send” on my blog entry – to which Darryl Siry (our Vice President of Marketing) would incredulously ask if I was even awake when I wrote it – I made my way downstairs for the car’s big live television debut. All seemed to be going smoothly. Lights, cameras, car, and crew were in their designated locations and the countdown began. “On air in 10, 9, 8, 7...” And then panic set in. In that moment, my mellow komba vibe abruptly vanished as I gasped, noting that the presenter on the show – who was supposed to describe the car, get in, and drive off – had her hand on the handle of the Tesla Roadster’s closed driver’s side door. Now, in any other car, this would be fine, but the EP2 car has its electronic outer door handles disabled and cannot be opened from the outside. As the final seconds counted down before the live cameras came on, I rushed past and reached into the inner door handle, popping the door open before ducking behind the camera. Phew. I could imagine how that would have looked on live TV as she tugged frantically on the door handle of the Tesla Roadster, unable to get inside. That was a close one.

From that point on the filming went fine, as she smoothly opened the door, got in, and sped off camera. After the cameras were off, she even paid us a complement about how smooth and quiet the car was. With that, the show went on to cover other subjects, and we prepared to make our way over to Grand Central Station for what would be our final customer ride event before leaving New York City.

Editor's note: After our customer ride event in New York, the Tesla Motors crew hustled to Washington, D.C., for three more days of meetings and events. Find a full recap of our adventures at On Tour Part Two - Inside the Beltway.