I recently had a chance to test drive a friend’s Tesla Model X and he could not have been more enthusiastic about this car. In fact, another friend forced me to test drive his Model S over a year ago. I say forced because, I was surprised just how much people who have Teslas want to evangelize the car to others. I’m not so sure I’d be so generous with my new car that I would offer to share the drive with others shortly after purchase.
That is what Tesla does to its fans – it makes them raving fans, not unlike what Apple has been doing since the 1980’s.
We went for a drive around rural New Jersey and my friend kept asking me to floor it to feel the power… Again, who does this with their new car? Actually, it’s the same thing my friend with a Model S did.
I am a car guy so perhaps that is part of the reason people want to share their car with me. But oddly, my friends with BMWs and Ferraris aren’t as generous with the keys.
What sets the Tesla apart is it is an iPad on wheels. I didn’t invent the phrase but it is such an accurate description. My Model X friend told me about the recent OTA update which enables perpendicular parking. I couldn’t seem to get it to work but he was thrilled that he could have the car now handle with parallel and perpendicular spaces.
Here is the bottom line though, Silicon Valley is doing to auto makers what Apple did to Nokia and RIM – or mobile phones.
The only real compliant people have with electrics is the range and lack of convenient ways to charge the vehicle. I brought this up to my friend and he told me, once you drive it, you won’t care about such matters.
Well I did drive it and I do care less about such issues – you just have to plan a bit more on long trips I surmised.
What struck me most about the experience was when my friend wanted to show me the Christmas show. An OTA update last year basically turns your vehicle into a robotic ballerina of sorts.
While our families stood in amazement at this technological marvel flapping its wings and opening and closing the front doors, I couldn’t help but feel bad for the Porsche 911 parked in the corner. I thought, will anyone care about Germany or Detroit, now that Silicon Valley has one-upped them?
The more I thought about it, the more I realized the complaint about electric range and lack of chargers is similar to the complaints about the iPhone’s lack of physical keyboard. It turns out the browser and eventually apps were more important to us than the keyboard and Apple saw something many others missed.
Tesla too has realized something Detroit and Germany never pondered… Cars can be fun beyond the driving part. In fact, in autonomous mode, some of the fun leaves the car so “gimmicks” like the Christmas show allow a car maker to put fun back into the experience of owning a car.
Moreover, how does BMW update their slogan, “Ultimate Driving Machine” when the car drives itself? How can you keep fans passionate about you products when the core product evolves to be something different?
These will be very interesting questions worth pondering and the new Model 3 will add lots of pressure to the entire industry. If it continues to be a successful roll-out, there will be a lot of late nights in corporate boardrooms in Japan, Detroit and Germany.