First customer Tesla Model S electric cars delivered today

Live web broadcast to mark handover of “the car of the 21st century”

By Will Dron on June 22, 2012 4:44 PM

Later today (Friday 22 June), the first customers of the Tesla Model S pure-electric saloon will be handed the keys to their cars at a celebratory event at the company’s headquarters in Fremont, California.

The 2012 Tesla Model S is the American carmaker’s first purpose-built electric car, following limited production of the Lotus Elise-based Roadster supercar, and so Tesla is billing today’s handover as an historic moment in its development. The company has already delivered the luxury Model S to a couple of top executives, but today’s event marks the first time retail reservation-holders will pick up their cars.

As was the case with the unveiling of the Model X crossover, Tesla will live broadcast the event via its website from 3.30pm PDT (11.30pm UK time).

“For many of us, this is something we have been looking forward to for a long, long time,” George Blankenship, Tesla’s vice president of worldwide sales and ownership experience, wrote on the company blog. “We hope you join us to share this incredible moment.”

A limited number of media have been invited to drive the Model S, and hopes to be able to bring you first drive impressions soon, although with journalists’ drive time limited to around 10 minutes the most detailed accounts of what the car is like to own are likely to come from the enthusiastic first owners.

Tesla plans to make 5,000 examples of the Model S this year before ramping up production in 2013 to 20,000 units. Tesla reports that there have been 10,000 reservations to date, so all of this year’s and a large percentage of next year's vehicles are already allocated. There has been some question over how many cars the company will manage to sell once the initial enthusiasts have had their cars delivered, but Tesla CEO Elon Musk points to the fact that these initial sales are all down to word of mouth – Tesla does not spend money on advertising and, as mentioned, the media has not yet had a chance to test drive the vehicle.

Tesla money man Deepak Ahuja also told, in an exclusive interview, that he believes 20,000 units is a relatively conservative estimate.

The Model S will be sold with a choice of battery sizes offering ranges of up to 160 miles, 230 miles and 300 miles, with the first vehicles off the production line being the top-mileage ‘Signature’ edition. Prices in the US will range from $49,000 to $69,000 for the base models, and the 0-60mph time for the high-end ‘Performance’ version is a claimed 4.4 seconds.

The first examples of the Model S are now expected to arrive in the UK around the middle of 2013.