Posted on March 22, 2013 by Roger Pressman
When all of this began, I just wanted Tesla Motors to provide us with an optional Model S center console insert (CCI). I knew not everyone wanted one, but it was pretty apparent that many future Tesla Model S owners did. So I drew a few sketches, posted them on the forums, and hoped that Tesla Motors would build something similar, though it didn't seem like it was going to be high on the priority list for Tesla Motors. Little did I know that a long journey (well, really not that long) to a viable aftermarket product had begun.
It’s been a little over nine months since the first inkling of an actual product crossed my mind. I’ve run businesses before, but I never ran a manufacturing company, and absolutely never thought I’d do a manufacturing start-up.
Software start-ups? Sure. Training companies? Yes. Consultancies? Easy. But manufacturing?
Turns out it was a lot harder than I thought—a lot harder—but once you begin … well, ya gotta see it through.
Our first challenge was translating a working prototype for the Model S center console insert, that I built in my garage (literally), into a product that could be fabricated in small quantities. Luckily, I met a truly talented fabrication designer, who was thankfully familiar with the design aesthetic of Tesla Motors, and together we built an initial product prototype of the CCI that was very strong, very modular, and viable in small production runs. I resisted the idea of going off-shore for a variety of reasons, so we came up with a final design that could be fabricated locally.
The second challenge was to select materials that were appropriate for the Model S center console insert and that fit the fabrication design. And after that, finding vendors who could execute the design at a reasonable cost and with excellent quality. There were fits and starts on both fronts — materials didn’t always work the way we thought, and vendors sometimes dropped the ball. We were insistent that our expectations would meet those of Tesla Motors. We wanted our passion to meet that of Tesla owners. There was just no other way around it. So, there were days when … well, let’s just say there were some frustrations.
As the first viable CCI prototypes emerged, we began to question our original position on product aesthetic — keep it very simple —all black, no options. Before long we decided that the Model S center console insert had to have upholstery options, and not too long after that, trim options as well. Today, there are 23 product variants for the CCI ,and that’s a long ways from all black, no options. Of course, the variants do add complexity and increase the time to fulfill all the Model S center console insert orders, but early evidence indicates that upholstery and trim options are very popular.
We still have many challenges as our tiny business grows, but one thing is certain—we actually did build and now sell the first custom-designed “physical app” for the Tesla Model S. And that's kinda cool.