Tesla sedan named Motor Trend's 'Car of the Year'

SAN JOSE, Calif.

As he plugs in to charge his little sporty Tesla roadster, Craig Keith is actually lusting after the silver sedan parked behind him.

"I've had a reservation for that car for two years," said Keith.

Now, the waiting list for Tesla's all-electric Model "S" may grow even longer, as it becomes the first non-gasoline car ever to be named Motor Trend's "Car of the Year".

"The Motor Trend Car of the Year is the equivalent of the Academy Awards in the auto industry, so we're extremely happy to have received it," said Ted Merendino, Tesla's product planner.

Merendino points out the Model "S" was up against a tough field of competitors, including Ford's new C-Max hybrid, and luxury cars from Porsche and Lexus.

"Even among that competitive set, they chose Model S unanimously as the Car of the Year, which is something that's never happened before," said Merendino.

The Model "S" is definitely a family car, but it draws its roots from Tesla's now-discontinued roadster. The car sits on top of its gigantic battery, making for a low center of gravity and sporty handling. That alone sets it apart from other electric cars.

"We set out to build this car as an electric vehicle. We did not take an existing chassis and modify it. And I think that goes to show that when you start from scratch and design a car around the power train, you can create a more compelling product," said Merendino.

It's not a cheap product; it's priced between $50,000 and almost $100,000. However, to Craig Keith, it's worth it when he recalls something Tesla's founder, Elon Musk, once said.

"He said, 'We are not trying to build the best electric car, we are trying to build the best car,'" said Keith.

And Tesla's not wasting any time. The Model "X" Crossover, built on the same platform as the Model S, is due out in time for the 2014 model year, with a smaller sedan likely to follow soon after that.

Copyright © 2023 KGO-TV. All Rights Reserved.