Tesla’s rapid rise in the automobile market has marked a new era that is defined by a silicon valley approach that moves away from traditional manufacturing systems. The company created a stir, by its pioneering new techniques in manufacturing, designs and production.
Established by Martin Eberhard and Marc Tarpenning, Tesla was developed to be not just a car manufacturer but also a technology company. Musk, who heavily invested in the company took an active role within and established his position as the CEO in 2008.
With Musk’s “Secret Master Plan”, he introduced Tesla’s long term plan of building cars that are affordable and family-oriented. Their goal would be to move towards a sustainable solar electric economy “without making compromises” in the quality or features of the car.
“So, in short, the master plan is:
- Build a sports car.
- Use that money to build an affordable car.
- Use that money to build an even more affordable car.
- While doing above, also provide zero-emission electric power generation options.”
- Elon Musk
Tesla’s have come a long way since its first vehicle, the Roadster and as of March 2020, Tesla offers four car models: the Model S, Model 3, Model X and Model Y. The company changed perceptions about an electric car, it was fast, aesthetic but being reliant on Lotus Cars for its chassis made the interiors of the Roadster uncomfortable and rather “spartan”. Thus, the next step for Tesla was to move forward with their own manufacturing and design with a clean sheet. They have designs that are advanced, unique and gender-neutral.
Model S, a premium sedan and Tesla’s first design was built from the ground up with a high strength chassis and protection from every side. Its unparalleled performance for an all-electric car boasts the quickest acceleration speed and luxurious interiors. This car is sleek, conservatively futuristic, “timelessly modern yet a classic”.
Model 3, smaller than the Model S was designed to be just as attractive with more radical interiors, with a wooden dashboard that goes from one end to another. Tesla’s Model Y, the crossover SUV is designed for maximum versatility and safety. It has a raised seating and a panoramic glass roof that offers a view from all seven seats.
Model X is one of the safest SUVs designed with more cargo space, towing capacity and more seating configurations. The company is now preparing to launch this range in different countries as well as Roadster 2.0, which would have a potential feature called ”SpaceX option package”. This feature would include ten cold gas thrusters that improve the car’s acceleration and manoeuvrability.
The design would also present seating for four and a removable glass roof. The Cybertruck, another interesting take by Tesla—an unconventional, anti-establishment design that has an exoskeleton built for ultimate durability and protection. It is made out of an ultra-strong glass and polymer layered composite that absorbs force and improves the performance of the car.
This radical design is controversial with its angular exterior design and seems almost rudimental. The proportions, volumes and surfaces bring a dystopian idea to reality and move away from all the design rulebooks.
Led by Franz Von Holzhausen, Tesla takes design innovation up a notch. With their principle of catering to form as well as function, they make their cars compelling, attractive yet utilitarian. Their designs are futuristic and bold and still also display a sensibility that exudes purity and simplicity.
They are creative in terms of identifying and reducing what is expected out of the user and provides them with features like rearview cameras, obstacle sensors, parking assistance, lane change assistance, cruise controls and autopilot driving. It capitalised on its disruptive technology that moves away from traditional norms, slowly but surely gaining its success and making its way to replace the prevalent mainstream market.
With their new cars, Tesla slowly started eliminating the parts that were unnecessary and outdated like the grille. They did it in a process to ensure their customers see what they are moving towards and to introduce a product that is sufficient, efficient and distinctive. Their focus on peculiar visual elements like gliding door handles and expansive glass roof makes them unique, successfully catering to social as well as environmental aspirations of their clients.
Their products have been a guiding force into the future of cars and product design. Tesla’s approach to user interface has been commendable. With the launch of Tesla Model 3—they have developed a completely digital control panel which can be updated with newer interfaces, just like a smartphone.
Though many designers criticise their interface, it is one of the first cars to introduce features that make driving a little more comfortable and lighter. They offer internet access inside them with infotainment systems. They look at developing software functionality every few weeks allowing the user to enjoy variability indulging a more tech-savvy generation and making an impression that is valued more socially.
As a designer, I appreciate the model of disruptive innovation, like Apple and Amazon and with Tesla’s focus to make electric cars and batteries more powerful is admirable, it does stand to compete with automobile giants that have cars entering the same niche. Even after moving away from classic design philosophy and being priced at a higher price range in the market, their share value is a clear telltale that their innovative business model works in this world of accomplished automakers.
The company’s user-friendly approach converges digitally and physically, giving the users a sense of belonging and control. Instead of a traditional brick and mortar showroom, buying a Tesla car is simplified where one can pick and customise their car online.
Known for its variants ludicrous acceleration and easy operation, Tesla comes up with avant-garde techniques such as their new touchless, Robo-snake charging mechanism that detects the car’s approach and would locate the port, connect itself to the parked car.
It has been popular as the total cost of Tesla’s ownership is lower than its competition, as it has much lesser parts that need servicing throughout its lifetime and with the well-established supercharger network in the USA, Tesla superchargers are growing into networks by partnering with hotels, restaurants and shopping centres. This would still take time with countries like India, as infrastructure would need to be established first to allow for the total experience of the car.
Its experimental approach towards design showcases their bold, fearless nature where they believe in themselves and have the conviction to change the industry one car at a time.
They are even moving into other forms of design, as they recently launched their own branded tequila which comes in a specially designed bottle shaped like a lightning bolt—a symbol for the company’s electric cars. It is a hand-blown glass bottle that comes with an angular metal stand that holds the tip of the bottle.
Tesla designs have been distinct and are known for their unique proportions that bring with it an aerodynamic charm and confidence. They have entered the world’s most evolved industrial craft, and though they have a dystopian reality attached to its designs, we hope Tesla comes up with sophisticated, aesthetic and thoughtful designs in the future.