Sure, calling the all-electric car reasonably priced is relative. The cheapest Model S is going for $49,900, and that's with the $7,500 tax credit baked into the price. Obviously that's going to price the car out of the range of most drivers. However, compared to the defining Tesla Roadster that hit the market with a six-figure price tag four years ago, the Model S is a relative bargain.
Tesla was originally not expected to begin delivering the car until July at the earliest. However, if the car is able to clear its government crash ratings test in the coming weeks, the company is comfortable in bumping the release window up to June.
Demand Speeds Ahead of Supply
If you're considering a Model S purchase, the June arrivals won't matter. More than 10,000 people have plunked down $5,000 as a deposit for the new car, and Tesla only expects to roll 5,000 units off the assembly line this year.
Folks are also starting to get in line for the Model X that Tesla has in the works for early 2014 deliveries. Likely to hit the market at similar pricing to this year's Model S, Model X is an all-electric-crossover SUV complete with rear passenger doors that open up like falcon wings.
Yes, Tesla is cool. It's also not profitable at the moment.
Will a Cool Car Cure Buyers' Cold Feet?
The announcement of early Model S sedans on Wednesday night was part of the company's quarterly report that featured a widening deficit on marginal sales volume. That's OK. Tesla has already told investors to expect 90% of this year's revenue to take place during the second half of the year when the Model S is available.
Environmentally friendly drivers -- or folks who are tired of being gouged at the pump every time they need to fill up -- are kicking the tires of electric cars. They're just not buying them.
But what the niche really needs is for Tesla's Model S to prove that electric cars can be cool.
The industry could use the validation. The skyrocketing gas prices that some figured would draw consumers into trading in their gas-guzzlers for electric rides are slowly subsiding. Electric cars are going to have to earn their success -- and it may very well start with heads turning next month as Model S sedans hit the open road.
Longtime Motley Fool contributor Rick Munarriz does not own shares in any of the stocks in this article. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended buying shares of Tesla Motors and General Motors.