Well that was one hell of a party.
On Thursday night, Elon Musk unveiled the Tesla Model Y to a pumped-up crowd of Tesla fan boys, employees, investors, and media at the Tesla Design Studio in Hawthorne, CA.
“We’re literally bringing sexy back,” Musk said, after walking onto the stage to the opening bars of the ’90s hit “I’m Too Sexy.” Musk was alluding to the fact that his line of cars, the Models S, 3, X, and now Y, now intentionally spell out the word — you guessed it — “sexy.” Or, uh, S3XY.
Tesla bills its new model as an affordable crossover vehicle, that, as Musk said, “has the functionality of an SUV, rides like a sports car.” IRL, it kind of looks like the hatchback version of the Model 3; with cheeky curves and a big, bubbly behind, call it the Cardi B of Teslas.
While Tesla threw Thursday’s soiree to show off the Model Y, it was also a chance for Musk to channel his inner rock star and do a victory lap amongst fans, friends, and former haters, celebrating how far Tesla has come in just 14 years of existence.
“Twelve months from now we will have made about a million vehicles,” Musk said. “It’s pretty wild to think 11 years ago today we made literally one car. A year from now, 1 million.”
After a characteristically late entrance, Musk opened the event, appearing on the stage in an all black ‘fit, paired with custom black and red Tesla Nikes. The crowd of hundreds condensed even closer towards the stage as the club music died down and the red party lighting was replaced with a stage spotlight. The bartenders took a break.
Instead of just showing us the damn car, Musk proceeded to walk us through Tesla history, from the debut of the Tesla Roadster in 2008, to the construction of the Gigafactories across the globe, through 2018’s massive Model 3 production struggles (“2018 felt like aging 5 years at once”), and finally, to the present. That included rolling out each model — the Roadster, the S, 3, X, and even the Semi — into the event space and onto the stage (though the Semi had to stay in the back, poor guy. He’s just big boned!!)
Musk delivered a Tesla history lesson not just to show off, but also to communicate his vision for the future: a fully sustainable energy system, complete with Tesla’s vehicles, solar panels, batteries (called Powerwall), and superchargers.
“With solar and power and electric vehicles, we have a really bright future ahead,” Musk said. “It’s exciting”
From a business perspective, this is optimistic. After Model 3 production problems and scuffles with the SEC, Tesla just barely squeaked out profitable quarters in the back half of 2018. Tesla also still has to pay for its Shanghai factory, and undertake new production challenges with the Model Y. So Tesla’s financial future might not be so immediately bright, but you got the sense that Musk was talking about the big picture future of energy.
He also took the chance to acknowledge the sea change Tesla has inspired in the industry as a whole with regard to electric vehicles — with a healthy dose of f*** the haters. He rhapsodized about how, in 2009, the media and the auto industry called Tesla and the concept of electric vehicles all sorts of mean names. But how now, every stratosphere of the car industry is betting on electric. This, Musk said, was his ultimate goal: to not just sell an electric car, but to make electric the standard of the industry.
“This was the goal all along,” Musk said.
Finally, Musk brought out the Model Y as spotlights flashed and the crowd roared. Musk paced the stage with a grin as everybody strained to get a look at the new car.
“Of any midsize SUV, I think it’ll be the one you want,” Musk said. He was one proud papa.
In addition to checking out the Model Y, Thursday night showed that a Tesla event is a truly weird ass spectacle. The crowd has a lot do with that.
I learned at a past event that Tesla offers event spots to its true fans, car owners, and community members. That means that the Musk fan community — so active online — actually materializes IRL, wearing Tesla jackets and screaming “WE LOVE YOU” at Musk from the stage.
Tesla employees also attend, and could be seen celebrating the debut as they raucously cheersed their beers amongst the crowd. Then there are the investors and the bankers, well-coiffed women and fleece vest-wearing men, taking it all in, hopefully pleased with the money they’ve given to Musk. And finally there’s the media, and the bloggeratti, fastidiously documenting every moment of the event with cheery narrations into their cameras, as they speak for an audience none of us can see.
When they all collide it’s, uh, really something. As Casey Neistat finagled his way into a Tesla Model Y test ride, a Tesla fan yelled at the notorious blogger, asking, again and again, “DO YOU EVEN DRIVE A TESLA, CASEY? DO YOU??” She was apparently miffed that the public figure was getting a ride in the new whip before her, a true fan.
Oh yeah, there was a test ride. It was… really fast! In both senses of the word.
Tesla offered rides in the Model Y to press and investors, as well as fans, if they were lucky enough to get their numbers called. Musk touted the car can go 0 to 60 mph in 3.5 seconds at the event. And humble-bragged about its 300-mile range. We didn’t quite make it that far: the rides lasted about a minute, traveling through a parking lot and then about the length of a block. The drivers also showcased the electric motor’s capabilities as they accelerated down the block, calling out the specs of the ride.
The Model Y is based off of the design of the Model 3, so it has a similar interior: a huge sun roof, spanning nearly the length of a car, a horizontal touch screen, and five seats for us to squeeze into. My biggest take away, as I sat in the back middle seat surrounded by large men, was that the vegan leather material was soft and buttery.
And then it was over. Fans continued to wait for rides and mill about. The pie, that Musk had promised on Twitter in celebration of Pi Day (March 14), materialized; the bar re-opened. A middle-aged couple decked out in Tesla gear sat on the ground, like worn-out festival-goers resting their feet, but not yet ready to call it a night. A young man schemed about his plans to get a job with Tesla just as soon as he finished college.
Musk is going through a lot of shit right now. He has a pending contempt charge from the SEC for violating his settlement for his “take private” tweet and several whistleblower cases paint him as a vindictive, overly controlling boss. But seeing him at his home base, surrounded by fans, actually gave an endearing glow to his more usually contemptible swagger. Musk as a public figure — with his Twitter stunts and red carpet appearances and wild predictions — is larger than life. But in person, he seems genuinely proud, and happy, and even sort of humbled by, his work, and his community.
So maybe, this one time, we’ll forgive him the S3XY puns. It doesn’t hurt that the Model Y is pretty dang cute, too.