Resuming our “Tesla Inside Out” series, this video picks up where David Havasi and I left off last time, chuckling about a wild DIY Tesla delivery story. David and a team of early 2012 employees built a trailer to deliver early Model S’s without having any real clue what they were doing. Luckily, they got the job done. He also mentioned a funny story about a Miami delivery truck in highlighting their overall novice delivery truck awareness back in 2012.
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This provided the perfect opportunity for me to bring up a story I’ve never reported before, based on a conversation I had this summer with the owner of a vehicle shipping company. He told me that it used to cost more to ship a car from the US East Coast to the West Coast, but because of how many Model 3’s Tesla sells and how much it has sucked up vehicle delivery capacity from west to east, it’s now more expensive to ship a car from the West Coast to the East Coast.
We talked and laughed about how crazy it is that in 2012 David and gang were trying to figure out how to build a trailer to ship cars, wheels were rolling off of delivery vehicles, they had to figure out who on the team had a wrench and who had forklift experience, and then 6–7 years later, Tesla has grown to be such a force that it has strongly influenced vehicle shipping prices and flipped the market in terms of which direction it’s cheaper for any company to ship a car in the USA.
David also talked about early delivery targets. They were delivering to people’s homes back in 2012, and each delivery person had a target of just two deliveries a day. If you look back at 2012 sales data, you can see how that makes sense, but it’s unfathomable today with ~100,000 deliveries per quarter.
That led into David describing the crazy tight space at the early Queens service center, the “Tesla Tetris” challenge of stuffing Teslas into small spaces, and the risky work of getting Teslas on trailers next to a fast, busy highway. He also told us about the unusual challenge of working to schedule Model S deliveries as Hurricane Sandy hit. The story even involved David’s first experience with Uber.
Moving on to the end of the year, we started to discuss New Year’s Eve 2012. To set the stage a bit, I provided some context about Tesla’s state at the time (as I saw it from the outside), some challenging hits it was taking in the media, and the fact that it was on the brink of collapse. David mentioned in response that they were so in the weeds focused on getting vehicles to customers that they didn’t really notice all of that, but that it was also “abundantly clear” that every single delivery mattered. From David’s perspective, the focus was just 100% on “deliver these f*in cars” and make sure to give customers the attention they needed with such a young company and so much up in the air to leave them feeling good about the experience (and make it all the way through to delivery). It is certainly interesting — and I think the first time I’ve heard — the situation back in 2012 from the delivery teams’ perspective and how customized their relationship with early buyers was.
I then highlighted the somewhat personal approach to delivery I received with our fairly young Model 3. Tesla employee Sean Ford kept me updated every day on where the car was, which I hugely appreciated. That’s apparently not normal, but it definitely should be, and I think Tesla should offer much more opportunity for customers to track their cars after ordering and before delivery. That pulled another very funny story out of David, who explained that, back in the day, even Tesla delivery specialists couldn’t track cars as they made their way across the US! They finally got the capability to do so after a conference call with George Blankenship in which someone brought up the issue and suggested activating the GPS capability in the cars to be able to see where they are at any moment. (David’s telling of the story is quite funny, so I definitely recommend listening to this, which starts at 27:30 into the video or podcast above.)
David also explained his pitch that Tesla delivery centers should be like “TeslaLand” — a mini version of Disneyland or Legoland for Tesla, something fun and interesting for people who clearly like or love Tesla and would enjoy learning a bit more about it while they wait to get their cars. I think this is a great idea, so we’ll have to come back to it and feature the idea more prominently.
At last, we got to the 2012 New Year’s Eve story. You have to watch or listen starting at 34:40 to hear that one.
In the last few minutes of this episode, I got a full rundown of David’s role changes at Tesla over the course of his time there (2012–2019), just to help set the stage for what’s coming in future episodes of “Tesla Inside Out.”
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