I purchased a Tesla in Charlotte. Here’s how it worked

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Note: We reached out to Michael Konen, a consultant in Charlotte, to write about his experience as an early Tesla purchaser in Charlotte. Here’s his story.

I arrived at Charlotte-Matthews Tesla at 7 a.m. on March 31, 2016 to place a reservation for Tesla’s upcoming Model 3. Two years and six days after placing my reservation, I took ownership of my Deep Blue Metallic Tesla Model 3.

I took time off from work to stand in line with a bunch of other people to place a reservation for a car I knew nothing about. I was roughly #30 in line in Charlotte. The process reminded me of the early iPhone days when some folks, including myself, used to wait in line for their newest iPhones.

No one had ever seen a picture of the car, let alone had a test drive.

After weaving my way through the queue, it was time to put down my $1,000 refundable deposit through their online system.  It was an incredibly quick and easy process, similar to any other online purchase.

And then, I waited. And waited.

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Charlotte line for a reservation. Within the first 24 hours, Tesla had received 180,000 reservations. By the end of the first week, they generated 325,000 reservations, each accompanied by a $1,000 refundable deposit.

Why did I endure such a wait? I promise I’m not crazy.

I am not a car person. I drove my 1997 Ford Explorer from 2000 until 2016 when it finally coasted its last mile reaching just shy of 246,000 miles.

However, once I stumbled upon Tesla Motors in 2011, I couldn’t ignore it. Here’s why.

  • Safety – Tesla’s two previous vehicles, Model S and Model X, set records for the lowest probability of injury of any vehicle and SUV
  • Quick Acceleration – Tesla Model S is one of the fastest production cars ever built and their Model X is the fastest SUV (0-60 times)
  • Technology – Most of the Model S’s and Model X’s functions are controlled by a massive touchscreen display mounted to the dashboard.  This touchscreen allows the company to continuously improve their fleet of vehicles by pushing software updates, just like your smartphone.
  • Autopilot – Although still in its early stages, Tesla vehicles are semi-autonomous with the near-term goal of being fully-autonomous. Currently, their vehicles use a suite of sensors, cameras, and radar to match your speed to traffic conditions around you and keep the vehicle within its lane.
  • No Gas – Moving to electricity, which can be made from a number of resources (nuclear, natural gas, coal, solar, hydro, wind, etc.), is more sustainable and decreases our dependency on other countries for oil.
  • Refueling Savings – Due to the number of different ways we can produce electricity, you can expect to pay much less (50%+) to travel the same distance on electricity than on gasoline.
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My previous Ford Explorer

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My Tesla dashboard. For those that may not know, Tesla is a company that sells all-electric vehicles, solar panels and large energy storage devices (battery packs). The company was founded in 2003 by Elon Musk, who previously founded PayPal, Venmo’s owner. Elon also went on to found SpaceX.

Delivery day was like Christmas as an adult.

Depending on battery size (e.g. range), desired 0-60 speed, trim level, and desired autonomy (software), prices for a Tesla Model 3 range from $35,000 – $86,000.

When your reservation number is the next in line, you’ll receive an invite to configure your car. This is when you’ll be able to pick your options: battery size, paint color, wheels, included autopilot software, which dictates the price.

Once you’ve configured your vehicle, you can expect around 6 weeks for the car to be produced, delivered to your closest (or desired) store to be picked up at a scheduled date and time when a Delivery Specialist will train you on how to operate and charge your vehicle. It’s really like a computer on wheels. It’s not super complex to drive, but there are a ton of settings and understanding how the car handles certain situations can take a bit of learning.

Two years and six days after placing my reservation, I took delivery of my blue Tesla Model 3.

Luckily, I waited in line before the car was unveiled, as it allowed me to be towards the top of the waitlist. My car was one of the first 9,000 produced and only roughly 30,000 have been produced to date.

While the Model 3 is still fairly rare in Charlotte, you’ll have a sighting every once in a while. So far, I’ve been able to put over 1,000 miles on the vehicle in my first three weeks of ownership. It’s been well worth the wait.

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Current Tesla Model 3 pricing and wait times according to their site

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Photography courtesy of  Corey Sunstrom

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