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Moment of Truth for Tesla Model S: When Waiting List Is Finished

The Tesla Model S is one of the crowning achievements for electric cars in 2012. It’s a stellar vehicle that is helping change perceptions of battery-powered vehicles. Still, the long-term fate of the Model S has not been determined. In 2013, I’ll have my eye on what happens in the summer, when Tesla is expected to have delivered vehicles to its backlog of reservation holders. Then, we’ll see how deep the market is for the luxury EV sedan.

EV waiting lists are tricky. In the middle of 2012, Nissan reportedly had 26,000 reservation holders for the LEAF—presumably some of which had already received their cars, and others who had already decided not to buy (and relinquish the reservation). It’s partly a guessing game, because automakers don’t divulge all these numbers. (If any readers have accurate reservation numbers for Nissan or Tesla, please share.)

Based on my interactions with Nissan and its dealers, there were already signs in the first months of 2012, that the early-adopter hand-raisers—a volume of which supposedly meant sustained high sales in 2012—had received cars. At that point, the EV enthusiasts who wanted a LEAF had one. Then, it was much less forgiving mainstream buyers who started shopping for the electric compact. The waiting list was over, and sales went flat.
End of the Waiting Game

I learned last week from Tesla that a Model S buyer who made a reservation in November or so is likely to take delivery in summer 2013. The company maintains the goal of delivering 20,000 vehicles in 2013. So, by summer 2013, it sounds like the waiting list of reservation holders will be gone, and you can buy a Model S—from reservation to delivery—in a matter of several weeks. That’s not quite like walking on to a dealership lot, and driving off the same day—as is the case with most vehicles on the market. But it’s a lot closer.


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