Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk turned a product upgrade announcement into a major media event, building anticipation over the course of a week by dropping a few clues on social media and dancing around questions about “Unveiling the D”.
Tesla’s D-Day generated the kind of buzz every other automaker dreams of. For that, he deserves all the credit in the world. It’s what every CEO would love to do.
That said, let’s separate the hype from the reality.
Read More Tesla unveils an all-wheel drive Model S
1) Dual Motor All Wheel Drive
Hype: The dual motor AWD will improve efficiency of the Model S and win over buyers in cold weather states.
Reality: You can find this feature in most other luxury cars, and Tesla needed to offer it.
Will it drive major sales gains? Probably not.
“The drivers who will buy the ‘D’ wanted the Model S from day one. Tesla is simply responding to their needs. Adding all-wheel drive is the no-brainer way to capture those car shoppers,” said Ivan Drury with Edmunds.com
2) Auto Pilot Features
Hype: This technology, using a new suite of radars, GPS and a camera with image recognition is a game changer.
Reality: Yes and no.
The truth is some of the driver assist features Musk unveiled (adaptive cruise control for example) are already in many other cars.
That said, Tesla added a few wrinkles that make the S very unique.
Can your car open the garage door and park itself once you pull into the driveway? No, but the Model S will soon be able to do that.
Does your car automatically change lanes once you put on your turn signal? No, but the Model S will soon have that capability.
3) Tesla is best positioned to roll out the first autonomous drive car
Hype: The Tesla fans will tell you Elon Musk will soon have a self-driven car ready to roll.
Reality: Tesla will be ready when fully autonomous drive cars finally become a reality in the next ten to fifteen years.
However, Tesla won’t be alone. Several other auto makers and tech companies will be ready with their own autonomous drive vehicles or technology for autonomous drive cars.
Musk summarized the development of autonomous-drive Tesla’s: “We’re not yet at the point where you can get in the car, fall asleep and wake up at your destination.”
Overall, Musk’s show in Southern California enhanced the reputation and allure of Tesla with an event that is unlike what we usually see from automakers.
Tesla unveils don’t happen very often, but when they do, they have the feel of an Apple product reveal.
Even the way Musk describes features is far different than the button downed approach we often see from executives at auto shows.
Consider how Musk described the P85D version of the Model S on Thursday night?
“This car is nuts. It’s like taking off from a carrier deck,” he said. “It’s just bananas. It’s like having your own personal roller coaster.”
Questions? Comments? BehindTheWheel@cnbc.com.