A surprising look at who buys the Tesla Model S
We recently ran a series of stories about Tesla Motors and its coming Gen III mass-market vehicle. In one of the stories we used the term “very wealthy men” to describe Tesla Model S owners. This was partly because Elon Musk, founder of Tesla, had recently used a similar term. While referring to the Model S, he said “…this could be misinterpreted as Tesla believing that there was a shortage of sports cars for rich people.” Also, Edmunds had recently done an analysis of the Tesla ownership and found that more than 80% were men, and nearly 80% earned over $100K per year.
A reader contacted us to challenge our perpetuation of the stereotype in that prior story. That led to a dialogue between us that we found very exciting and educational. Here is our interview with a Tesla Model S owner, Ms. Charlotte O.
Hello Charlotte. Please tell us a bit about yourself.
In regards to information about me, I earn less than $100k per year. I am a Professor of Biology at Washington State University, Pullman, WA soon to retire. I am over 60 and Japanese American. I know of couple of other professors, i.e. not uber rich guys, who own a Model S, too. I heard of
similar buyers of Model S who previously owned a Prius or Nissan Leaf. So I don’t think I’m unique in not being rich though maybe not fit theprofile of the average Model S owner.
You brought up the other most popular green cars available. Did you have other green cars in the past? Why not a more affordable Volt or Leaf instead of a Tesla?
I guess you can call me an environmentalist. I bought my second Prius in 2009, and last year was considering getting an electric car. Unfortunately, at that time, there were only 3 cars that I could purchase in the state of WA, Nissan Leaf, Chevy Volt and the Tesla. There are more choices if you lived in CA but that makes me think that companies that limit sales of green cars to CA are doing it just for the ZEV credit, notwith the intention of selling lots of green cars. The problem with the Leaf and Volt is their range. I live in a small town in Eastern WA about 90 miles south of Spokane WA, the largest city in our area. I could not even get to Spokane without charging the Nissan Leaf, and Chevy Volt would have had to kick in its gas engine. Since my whole point was to get off of gas, and the fact that having both electric and gas would make the whole thing more complex, I decided against the two. The only negative about the Tesla was the price. But then I actually saw one in Seattle andgot to test drive it. That sealed the deal. It is so cool looking.
Have you ever owned a performance car or a sporty car before this?
Decades ago, I purchased a used Mazda Miata. Yes a red one and it drove great in the summer with the top down, but in our area, I could only drive it for 3-4 months out of the year. When I got my Prius, I just couldn’t justify the fun car because it got worse gas mileage. The Model S handles like no other car I’ve ever driven. I’ve never driven a sports car or luxury car so for those who have, it may not seem all that great. I don’t know.