HAWTHORNE, Calif. — Tesla's latest trick was pure magic: a brilliant spectacle made possible by a little misdirection.
Behold the revived Tesla Roadster, an all-wheel-drive supercar that evokes the company's roots. Marvel at the numbers: A $200,000 sticker. Zero to 60 in 1.9 seconds. Top speed over 250 mph. A 620-mile range. Claim one for a $50,000 deposit, or pay $250,000 upfront to get in line for the 1,000-unit Founders Series.
"The point of all this is to give a hardcore smackdown to gas cars," CEO Elon Musk told a rapturous crowd here last week, gathered for what they thought would be just the debut of a semi truck. "These numbers sound unreal, but they're not."
Pay no attention to the "manufacturing hell" engulfing Tesla Inc.'s California plant, where it's laboring to produce its most basic vehicle, the mass-market Model 3 sedan, not by the thousands, but by the hundreds. Or to the $1.4 billion in cash drained in the third quarter, or to the $671 million net loss. Those numbers are real, too, but not part of this show.
Taken together, though, the two sets of figures provide a telling picture of today's Tesla.
It continues to be a font of ideas, capable of feats in branding, engineering and design that set new standards for automakers. Few companies can propose to take on both Freightliner and Ferrari in one night.
The specs of the Roadster are remarkable, even for an electric vehicle. It accommodates a family of four, features a removable roof and does the quarter-mile in 8.8 seconds.