The Tesla Model S made Fortune’s list of “Greatest Designs of Modern Times,” joining other impeccably-created designs like NASA’s Saturn V Rocket, Apple’s iPod, and Alphabet’s Google Maps. Fortune had released a similar list nearly 60 years ago. The publication made the current one to commemorate its last compilation of Great Designs.
Tesla’s Chief of Design Franz von Holzhausen received credit for his great work on the 2012 Model S sedan. The Senior Design Manager at Uber Jason Ring, has this to say about the 2012 Tesla Model S: “It transformed the retail automobile into an exponentially more intelligent and efficient high-performance machine while reducing its environmental impact–potentially at enormous scale.”
The story behind the Model S’ design is well-known within the Tesla community. The EV company struggled with its premium sedan’s overall design for quite some time.
The 2012 Model S was Tesla’s first attempt at fully designing its own vehicle. Tesla’s first vehicle, the original Roadster, had the body of a Lotus Elise as a basis. With the Model S, Tesla challenged itself to do better.
Tesla didn’t just want to make another car. The EV automaker wanted to make an efficient electric vehicle, which came with its own unique obstacles. While the Model S was essentially another automobile, it was not a traditional vehicle on the inside.
Tesla, especially Elon Musk, had certain requests for the Model S’ design. Holzhausen had to figure out a way to design an electric vehicle with a seven-seat capacity, an extremely low drag co-efficient, and a cavernous cabin, among other things. There were other factors he had to consider as well that were unique to Tesla vehicles—like the placement of the Model S infotainment system.
Holzhausen’s design was a vehicle that was reminiscent of the past but strove for a new, cleaner future in the auto industry. The result was a vehicle that perfectly encapsulates the gist of Fortune’s list altogether.
Fortune described its list as thus: “Our hope is that this list inspires you to think about the ways you encounter design every day. It’s a reminder that great design is more than window dressing—it’s about making life easier, simpler, better. And that’s beautiful.”
Tesla’s 2012 Model S has made life easier, simpler, and better for the majority of people who own one. The Model S’ later iterations worked even hard to do so, partly thanks to Tesla’s Autopilot.
The 2012 Model S allowed Tesla to break out of the mold and reinvent automobiles in the world and has allowed the EV company to continue down that path. The Tesla Cybertruck, for example, is a Tesla vehicle that challenges conventional automobile design but would fit under the category that Fortune described. Then there is the Model S Plaid, which is poised reinvent Tesla’s real startup vehicle.
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