Tesla Model S wins Motor Trend Car of the year

As if the all-electric Tesla Model S isn’t futuristic enough, now the Silicon Valley-built car has gone and won the Motor Trend Car of the Year Award — for next year.

Yes, the car that didn’t exist a year ago is being called the best car of 2013, according to a panel of judges that put it through its paces along with models from 81-year-old Porsche and 95-year-old BMW, among others.

After likening the sleek sedan to a supermodel working the Paris catwalk, the Motor Trend review (January 2013 issue) gets to the historic nature of an award that for the first time honors a car made in Silicon Valley.

“Wait. No mention of the astonishing inflection point the Model S represents — that this is the first COTY winner in the 64-year history of the award not powered by an internal combustion engine?”

Consider it mentioned.

Beyond the joy the award is bringing to Tesla, which has been taking its lumps lately — candidate Mitt Romney listed it as a green tech failure, investors and observers are worried about low production numbers, it’s losing money etc. — the honor is a sign that electric cars are moving into the mainstream.

“Our aspiration with the Model S was to show that an electric car truly can be better than any gasoline car, which is a critical step towards the widespread adoption of sustainable transport,” Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk said Monday in a prepared statement. “Nothing illustrates this more clearly than winning Motor Trend’s Car of the Year by unanimous decision against a field of exceptional competitors.”

And, of course, the Tesla crew should be popping champagne. But before anyone gets too carried away, consider the other fact that makes the Motor Trend award so astonishing: There are hardly any Model S cars on the road today.

As of late September the company had delivered only 132 Model S sedans. That number is no doubt higher today. Last week the company said it delivered a total of 250 sedans in the third quarter.

Still, 250? That’s the number of BMWs you’ll find in Google’s parking lot on a Saturday.

But never fear. Musk last week assured all who would listen that the company will crank out as many as 3,000 cars in the fourth quarter and more than 20,000 in 2013 —  the year for which the once and future car has been honored.

Mike Cassidy Mike Cassidy (173 Posts)

I write about the culture of Silicon Valley for the San Jose Mercury News.