I just spent three days silently hooning around the Hunter Valley in NSW in various Teslas.
It was, obviously, a lot of fun for many reasons, the main one being I’d never driven a Tesla before. Like many, many other Australians.
I can’t tell you how many, many others, because Tesla won’t release local figures. The best-educated guess puts the number of cars sold annually at around 1000.
That puts them ahead of the likes of Dodge, Citreon and Alfa Romeo in sales alone. But there’s one place where no other car brand – even the big ones – can touch Tesla, even if they wanted to.
For starters, they’d have to launch a car that’s as sexy as it is electric. Sexy enough for an entire hotel chain to host this:
That’s a destination charger at Crowne Plaza Hawkesbury Valley, a 4.5 star hotel at the gateway to one of Sydneysiders’ favourite mini-break destinations.
Our media group hit it a little over an hour into our jaunt, and enjoyed a tour of the second-biggest day spa in the world, Villa Thalgo, where the walls are made of fish:
And attacked delightful High Tea cakes at Harvest Restaurant:
All good. But be warned – what follows is an account of the type of life a journalist gets to lead every now and then when two companies join forces and want to make a fuss about it.
Believe it or not, some of those offers get moved to Trash; most go to the oh-so-bored-with-luxury travel writers; and occasionally, the rest of us are handed something that might be about actual news and is worth slacking off for. Especially if it involves driving this:
The Model X was our first ride, and when we left for the next leg – a two-hour trip along the windy section into the Hunter Valley – the Hawkesbury staff gathered to see what five Teslas looked like. And it’s a fair bet they’ve ignored much more spectacular cars. Probably even that morning.
Oh look. Here’s another one at Crowne Plaza Hunter Valley (4 star):
It’s so new, the concrete had barely dried:
It’s so new, no one had realised the parking bays didn’t line up with two Teslas being charged together:
While they sorted that out, I was given a look at the resort in a helicopter, which I thought was the best way:
But I drew the line at the balloon flight the next morning, because I can only push my fear of heights so far in 24 hours. And for what felt like the eleventy-billionth time in my life, I made lame work excuses about why I passed up the hour-long massage, instead of just telling the truth about how I really feel about close physical contact with all the other humans.
It’s easier that way. And I was focused on prepping for my next ride – ooyah:
That morning, I watched a toddler nearly faceplant the unresponsive glass lobby doors running for it, even though – again – it’s not an exceptional looking car.
“Everyone loves the red,” the Tesla handler assured me.
But it is a Model S, and a P100d, which means Ludicrous Mode. And just as entertaining, the Rainbow Road Easter Egg if you tap the Auto Drive stick four times:
Which we did, several times on our way back to Crowne Plaza Terrigal Hotel (4.5 star), and yet another prominently Tesla-branded destination charger.
Have you noticed the link yet? If you didn’t, the three-day jaunt took our group to three luxurious Crowne Plaza properties within a day’s drive of the Sydney CBD, plus a couple of other properties run by operator IHG.
They all had – or were in the process of installing – Tesla destination chargers. All up, IHG operates 47 hotels in Australia, including the InterContinental, Holiday Inn and Hotel Indigo chains.
They have 17 more in the development pipeline, including Hobart’s first Crowne property, and a freshly announced move into Adelaide’s tallest building, Frome Central Tower One, in 2020.
All won’t have ChargePoint chargers for your Nissan Leaf:
One of our other Tesla handlers assured me that Tesla pays no money to IHG to host its destination chargers, which unlike Superchargers, are an overnight option.
Tesla began rolling destination chargers out in 2015. I asked if I could get one for my farm in Tasmania and was told “within a week”, for about $1000.
So yes, the cost of installing a couple of destination chargers at its 64 Australian properties is basically beer money for a company like IHG. But that’s not the point.
The point is, IHG willingly allows what amounts to a bright yellow parking meter with “TESLA” written on it into its 4- or 5-star luxury branded space. A mid-level car company that probably has 2000 customers right now across all of Australia. And even the top end of Tesla’s price bracket – around $265,000 for a fully loaded P100d – is hardly what you’d call top-end luxury in a 5-star parking lot.
Mind-boggling, really. The best link IHG’s people could come up with was both brands were all about “recharging”. Admittedly, that’s pretty much the ultimate fit for the Sydney market, and despite being less than four hours out of the city, those three days away felt like they unrolled on the other side of the planet.
It was a nice trip.
And not a single other visitor in any of those resorts could walk past that Tesla charger without stopping for a look. They’d even assemble in small groups to watch us reverse our Teslas into the bay and plug them in.
Chances are, few of those people had the first clue that less than a month ago, Musk’s Tesla Roadster began riding a $100 million rocket to Mars.
But more than a few will be thinking about how much they’d like to be using that $1000 parking meter on their next long weekender. And when they’re thinking about “recharging”, they’ll know exactly which resort chain to head to.
The writer travelled to the Hunter Valley as a guest of Crowne Plaza.
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