DETROIT -- As a start-up company building a new vehicle in a new plant with many employees new to car assembly, Tesla Motors faces its share of challenges.
But Tesla's small size has meant that running changes and product updates have occurred quickly, said Jerome Guillen, the company's director of Model S programs.
Perhaps the most stunning innovation is the software updates that change vehicle driving dynamics, sent to customers' cars over the air rather than requiring a visit to a service location.
For example, early Model S electric sedans had no forward "creep" when a driver lifted his foot off the brake when fully stopped. The flush-mounted door handles needed to be pressed to "present" themselves to an owner. And there was no voice command available at launch.
All three updates to the vehicle were sent to the car's telematics system remotely. Owners now can set their car to creep -- or remain static -- when stopped. The door handles eject outward when an owner approaches. And voice command is a feature.
"We download the update, and you get a notice on the car's touch screen," said George Blankenship, Tesla vice president of sales and ownership experience.
"It tells you that you have an update, and that you can install it now or at 2 a.m. It has the 'release notes' of what is included in the download. When you come out the next morning, your car is different," Blankenship added.
A more tangible change has been the restyling of the car's nose cone. While there was no structural change to the car, the new look meant Tesla had to undergo another round of crash testing.