Bruce Richter drives the 2010 Tesla Roadster SportEnlarge Photo
Franz begins the Tesla design discussion by talking about how, over the past few years, its been interesting to see the rise and fall of brands, which ones are working, which aren't, and why.
According to Franz, "Apple is one of the brands we look at here at Tesla as we continue to evolve our product and our brand and mature it over time."
He goes on to say that they've looked at successes others have had, how they've done it, how they've gotten to be the products they are. And from there, he says that he and the Tesla folks have drawn parallels. "We want to be an 'Apple product in a PC world.'" He follows that up with a list of aspirational Apple qualities and traits, including, "Value for money, high in design, it commands a higher price point, but people line up out the doors to pay for it because it's well made, it's solving problems better than its competitors, and it offers solutions its competitors just don't have."
Circling back to the Roadster, he points out, "We look at it as our test-bed. It proves the technology works. It's doable."
But above and beyond that, he says the Roadster is showcasing the best attributes of what electric propulsion can do by demonstrating, "Here's where you can get to."
From there, he says, its easy to see that those characteristics can translate into mass-market cars. But, he stresses, "You don't get that without seeing the extreme end of what the roadster can do. Rather than start from the bottom and work up, we're starting on the performance end and showcasing that ALL of our products after this will have these kinds of attributes, and they all come from the learning curve of what this car is."
But knowing what we know now (isn't hindsight great?), it's obvious the Roadster was not deemed the brand umbrella. So, I'm thinking, 'How did you come to that conclusion, how did you get to where you are today?'
Franz beats me to the punch by saying, "If you look at Apple, it wasn't the little MP3 player that set the tone for what all the Apple products were going to be, even though it's one of their most iconic unique product offerings."
"So looking at it from that perspective," he continues, "you can say, 'well, do you build off of what already exists with a niche product like this, or do you kind of clean-slate it and start fresh?' From my perspective, and the discussions I had with Elon, we were trying to create a foundation piece that we could build mass-market product offerings from. That's the goal of Tesla. It's not to be a niche sports car company forever."
So before sitting down to design the second Tesla product, the consensus was, "It was the next model - the Model S - that would really set the tone for where the brand is going to be recognized by most people in the future."