Today I continue my reflections after an interview with Tesla Model 3 owner Jonathan Fisk of St. Joseph. Part one was last week’s column.
Following our chat over coffee, Jonathan graciously offered to take me for a ride in the Tesla. This is when our meeting became a lot of fun. Before we hopped into the car to escorted me around it and shared some of the features that he admires. It was an eye-opener.
He has words of high praise for Elon Musk and his brilliant engineers and designers. I didn’t know that all Teslas, even those built several years back, were designed with built-in cameras, proximity sensors, and radar that later can be made, with software upgrades, into producing a near- autonomous vehicle. Jonathan explained that his Model 3 was designed and built with one radar sensor, eight proximity sensors in front and rear fascias and eight cameras (back-up, two on each side, three in the windshield over the rearview mirror.)
Tesla is continually rolling out software upgrades to their cars. Jonathan has received three since March 25. So as more self-driving software features are created, the company will pass along the latest capabilities to owners. Tesla’s Autopilot semi-autonomous, self-driving feature now operates at Level 3, meaning on certain highways and in certain weather, Autopilot can be engaged and the driver can allow the car to steer itself, but they must stay attentive and take over steering if necessary.
The Tesla’s Bluetooth wireless recognized Jonathan’s cell phone as we approached the car and the doors automatically unlocked and climate control was activated. Entering a Tesla reveals an interior unlike any other. There is no instrument cluster ahead of the driver behind the steering wheel. The Tesla Model 3 dash consists only of a lovely strip of real wood that sweeps from door to door and smack dab in the center is a very large 15-inch flat screen.
Nearly all functions – from A/C use to opening the glove box door – are administered using this device. From checking on tire pressure to determining battery charge level, it is all done using the screen. Jonathan pointed out one feature that was especially ingenious. It’s called the Dog Mode and it works beautifully. Before dashing into Biggby’s for a quick cup of joe, a Tesla can be told to maintain a constant temperature AND also post the following on the big flat screen so concerned pet lovers outside can easily see the message, “My Owner Will Be Back Soon. Don’t worry the AC is on and the temperature is 69 degrees.” Now that’s the cat’s meow!
The Model 3 has not one storage space for luggage but three. Up front, under the hood is not a gas engine but a space for luggage. In back there is a large trunk space with an additional deep covered space below. Tesla elected not to include a spare tire as standard in the Model 3. However owners can buy a kit that includes a 12 volt compressor and a container of tire sealant that is added through the valve stem.
The question I most wanted to ask Jonathan was whether he liked the appearance of his 3. He replied, “I love the way my car looks.” We discussed for a few moments the looks of the current Model S and crossover Model X offerings. Like the similar-in-looks Model 3, both are very attractive vehicles thanks to the design skills of Franz von Holzhauer, a former designer at Mazda. My comment to Jonathan was how timeless the car’s styling is. The Model S dates back to 2009 (prototype introduced) and it still looks modern and contemporary with only minor refreshing in the grille area. Elon Musk was wise to find a designer who has the skills to create a classic look and shape that has remained attractive over time.
Tesla cars, initially all premium models, have sold in relatively modest numbers since the Model S was introduced in 2012. The more reasonably priced Model 3 compact was introduced to attract more buyers and elevate the company from a niche player to one hopefully capable of reaching Elon Musk’s goal of upwards of 500,000 units a year. His repeated promise of building 5,000 Model 3s a week was attained by the end of last year but the goal was reached months later than planned. Musk used the expression “production hell” to describe the difficulties the company faced in increasing dramatically the production of the Model 3 at the Fremont, Calif., plant. When the Model 3 was announced, a $1,000 refundable deposit was requested to pre-order the car and over 400,000 takers stepped forward. The long delay in building the Model 3 in large numbers caused some depositors to ask for a refund. Jonathan wanted a Model 3 and stayed the course until his car was built.
“Fun to drive!” was Jonathan’s quick response when asked what he liked best about his Model 3. He added it “has astounding acceleration and is very, very quiet.” Asked if he would buy another EV, he said yes. When it’s time to replace his wife’s RAV4 crossover, he hopes to make Elon Musk’s day by purchasing the soon-to-be-built Tesla Model Y, a small crossover recently introduced to the press that is based on the Model 3 platform.
My feelings about owning an EV changed after interviewing Jonathan. My range anxiety issue has been put to rest, however, there is still the issue of my not being comfortable with all the super high tech tools that are in play owning a Tesla.
I own a six year old Buick – old tech compared to a new Tesla – and there are many, many features on my car that I have not mastered nor do I want to. I bet there are a lot of seniors who feel the same way. It will be interesting to see if Tesla or the other EV automakers can coax us older buyers to cross that frightening-to-us divide and into a new EV car. A lot of money is riding on the outcome.
The 27th Olds Homecoming Car Show & Swap Meet will take place on Saturday, June 15 from 9 - 3 in Lansing. The 1962-63 Jetfire turbo-charged senior compact will be celebrated. For information contact Judy Badgley at 517 645-7438, email email@example.com or visit www.reolds.org