Did I really just buy a car online?


Tuesday, Nov 22, 2011 by Max Mindel

Today, as I was driving, I realized that it had been exactly one month from the date that I put a deposit down on my Tesla Model S.  My mind wandered off into the experience I had in ordering it.   Tesla Motors has been showcasing the Tesla Model S from its website for some time now.  From the website’s Design Studio, I was able to choose between a standard production model or a Signature model.  Tesla Motors plans to manufacturer about 5000 Model S cars in 2012 from which a limited 1000 in the U.S. will be Signature models which get delivered first.  However, that Signature model comes at a premium unknown price with options I didn’t want including a 300 mile battery pack and a limited selection of colors, so I opted for the regular production model.   Still today and at the time I ordered, all that is known about the Signature model is that it will include a 300 mile battery pack, signature badging, and will be “well equipped.”  I chose “Catalina White” because “Shasta Pearl White” looked almost sliver on the site.  

I also had the option of either selecting a matching white roof or a black one or a Panoramic all-glass roof with a moonroof.  I chose the Panoramic roof, although at the time and still today, I don’t know what that option will cost.  I was offered a choice of 19” and 21” wheels.  I selected the 21” wheels.  The price difference between these where not disclosed either.  When I was done, I submitted the reservation for my order with a fully refundable $5000 deposit which I was able to place on my Discover card.  Had I ordered the Signature model, I would have had to wire $40,000 to Tesla Motors.  Incidentally, the website now states that choices of options and pricing will be disclosed this winter.  I recently learned from a Tesla store manager, that these options may be disclosed this December.  I will be able to finalize and change my order details when I am contacted 3 months before the production of my Tesla Model S.

As I continued to recount my experience, I realized at that very moment that I had purchased a car online.  What did I just say?  Yes, I bought a car online, in the same way I buy a book, or shoes, or some piece of office equipment!  I made my decision as I do with many other items based on its description and a photograph (but in this case also with a video).  If someone would have asked me a year ago or maybe even as little as 2 months ago, “Would you buy a car on the internet without actually ever driving it, sitting it, or even seeing it?  My answer would have been, “that’s ridiculous; who in the world would buy a car based on a photograph (or a video) without even driving it or sitting in it first?”  

Before I share the answer to that question, I have to tell you a little about myself.  I am very analytical, I am a very thorough researcher, and I am great at using search engines to find the best pricing and even discounts and coupons that I can apply to my purchases.  In a nutshell, I would consider myself a seasoned shopper.  I typically don’t buy anything, until I know everything about it.  In the case of a car, naturally I would test drive it and sit in it to see if its comfortable, because after all, I’m going to spend hours driving it.  I’ve done that with the last 6 cars I’ve purchased.  So I thought, what’s different?  What then compelled me to buy a car online that I’ve never actually seen or driven?

I think the answer is simple yet complex.  To really understand it, I had to dissect the  attributes of exactly what I was buying.   In doing that, I came to the realization that I wasn’t just buying a car, I was also buying technology, so its not just about getting inside it, and taking it for a spin to see if I enjoy how it feels and how it handles.  It offers technology that is so different from its gasoline-powered counterparts that it affects my lifestyle by terminating a relationship I’ve had all my life with the gasoline pump.  I’ll call it lifestyle 2.0.  

Inside too it offers technology that is so advanced that it will surely set a new standard for all future dashboards.  It brings my “connected” relationship into the car and even offers a wifi hotspot for all of my passengers while doing it.  Ultimately then, this is the most expensive piece of mobile computing technology I will have ever bought (The first LCD Compaq lunchbox size portable computer cost me $5700),  and strangely enough buying it feels just as natural as the last purchase I made at the Apple store’s website for my last Macbook.  It screams, “the future is here”; and who doesn’t want to be part of the future and enjoy the next great technological advancement?  Did I just order the most expensive and and most mobile computer ever?  Perhaps so.

So what’s the simple part?  The simple part has to do with human emotion, and feeling good about a purchase.  I think that with any major outlay of cash, in your mind, you need to somehow justify it.  Aside from the economics of it which for me is a clear motivation for the purchase (see Teslanomics), there is also the ecological motivation.  I live in Los Angeles, and Los Angeles has smog.  I don’t always see it unless I’m on a hill peering down or if I happen to be driving down into the San Fernando Valley from the 405 FWY, but I know I’m always breathing it.  Sometimes, I think, I can’t believe that in a short 100 years humanity has done this much damage.  It makes me realize that this purchase will help me do my part to make a difference and be among the first from which others will ultimately follow suit.  It feels so right; especially when I look into the eyes of my daughter and all of her friends that will have to live in whatever environment we leave behind.

Yes, I ordered a car, a Tesla Model S online, and I feel really great about it.


Did I really just buy a car online?

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