Speaking at the Churchill Club — a Silicon Valley business/tech forum — Tesla’s design chief Franz von Holzhausen explained why the Model S isn’t more exotic-looking. The moderator’s question comes at the 11:00 mark. Here’s the response:
“If you look at where we were in time, six years ago, electric cars were, like I said, a glorified golf cart. That was the impression. You didn’t have a competitive set, and the ones that were aspiring to be in this marketplace tended to be all over the map. We knew, as we developed the Roadster, that we had a really great recipe. You could have performance, and you could have range. You could have everything that a typical, normaily-aspirated engine vehicle could deliver and better, cleaner. Efficiency was great. No emissions, etc.”
“Knowing that we had that underneath the skin, we needed to create a product — and I thought it was really important — to create a product that attracted people to the technology, because this technology, you know — we take it a little bit for granted now, but back then it was new to everybody and really pretty scary to anybody beyond an early adopter. If we created the Jetsons-mobile, we would have catered to the early-adopters and stopped right there. We would not have been able to appeal to more of a mass market and had a confident car that could carry itself next to BMW, Audi, Mercedes, Lexus and these types of products and have the owners feel confident in their daily life with this product. And that’s what we wanted. I refer to the moth and the flame. Be attracted to the product regardless of what’s underneath the hood, then learn about the technology and be engrossed in that. Learn how it changes their life . . .”
“We were building a brand at the same time, and it’s really tough to build a brand off a niche, high-end, expensive sports car. We preferred building a brand off a sedan, and this was really kind of the shoulders, and they needed to be broad shoulders that the brand could build off of and sustain itself over time and build into new produce like Model X and forward-looking into Model 3 etc., — really sustain ourselves until we could get to even more affordable, mass-market electric vehicles.”
Von Holzhausen explained in another video that the Tour de France inspired him with the idea of fluid muscularity. Sure enough, the Model S is understated, fluid and muscular — not unlike a champion bicyclist.
For rabid fans who liken the Model S to the second coming of Christ, please note that, in fact, the Model S was born in a little tent — a manger, if you will — on the SpaceX property. Yes, that was the design studio at the time. Humble beginnings indeed. “We started in a little tent in the back of a rocket factory . . . we kind of equated ourselves to a garage band playing in a big stage.”