Thursday, March 25, 2010
The Swiss are known for their timepieces and punctuality, but I was surprised to see so many arrive so early on March 20th at the Muensterplatz in Basel, Switzerland for the first leg of The Odyssey of Pioneers. “We couldn’t wait for the beginning of the Road Rally. We were so excited to meet the other customers and see their Roadsters!” I heard many times.
Just days earlier our CEO Elon Musk and TAG Heuer CEO Jean-Christophe Babin unveiled The Odyssey of Pioneers at Baselworld. The 24,000 mile drive is the first round-the-world tour in a zero-emissions GT car. Accompanying the car is the Grand Carrera Pendulum, a concept watch that further pioneers precision timekeeping by replacing a traditional hairspring with magnetic fields.
We were honored that so many EV enthusiasts united for the “Foucault Field Gray” Roadster’s grand exit from Basel. As the manager of Tesla’s regional base in Zurich, I was proud to drive the first leg. Prospective customers and fans showed up – some from hundreds of kilometers away in Germany and France – to see us off.
At 3 pm, I turned the key in the TAG Heuer Tesla Roadster and heard the familiar “ding!” of the car turning on. As the other Roadster owners turned their keys, the only rumbling engines were from our two police motorcycle escorts. The route through Basel’s city center was lined with video cameras and flash bulbs; Europe had never seen so many Roadsters in one place
Every so often, as we drove the 100 kilometers to Zurich, I’d check my rearview mirror to marvel at the 23 Roadsters snaking up curvy roads amidst gorgeous scenery behind me. When we paused for a photo opportunity, the owners shared stories of their driving experiences, exchanged tips on answering questions from the hordes of staring onlookers and how-tos on installing solar for off-the-grid charging. The stories proved that a “thumbs up” is truly the universal sign of appreciation for the Roadster.
Though the daylight waned and the skies grew ominous as we arrived at the Dolder Grand Hotel in Zurich, we knew we kicked the Odyssey off right – each customer’s Tesla Grin shone as an example of the pioneering spirit this tour celebrates. Our arrival at the Dolder felt like a homecoming; this is where we have done most of our Swiss test drives for the past year.
With 40 customers here, Switzerland is Tesla’s top per-capita market worldwide. It is home to some of the world’s most discerning drivers, but our customers are pioneers. While they love the Roadster’s beautiful styling and four-season practicality, they support a company dedicated to making increasingly affordable electric cars for mainstream consumers.
To make those Tesla grins a bit bigger, Vice President of Europe Cristiano Carlutti announced that we’ll soon open our doors formally in Switzerland near the centrally-located Bahnhofstrasse. The Swiss leg of the Odyssey of Pioneers has come to an end, but our journey in Switzerland is just beginning.