One of First Round's favourite stories this month came from the San Jose Mercury News, via jalopnik.com . It's about Atherton, a little town near Palo Alto which is basically full of zillionaires (the average price of a house is apparently $6.5 million, making it the wealthiest zip code in the US), including buyout behemoths like Henry Kravis.
In an interview with the local San Jose paper, Atherton's 'city manager' George Rodericks said he wanted to replace its existing police cars with the Tesla Model S – the premium electric car that’s currently Automobile’s Magazine Car of the Year and is out-selling giant gas-guzzlers in a number of North America’s wealthiest enclaves (and Norway, oddly, but that’s less relevant here).
“I probably see a Tesla Model S every day,” said Rodericks. “Atherton is 100 percent residential. We don't have any public charging stations. We don't even have a grocery store. But driving around town, you sure do see a lot of them. I'd love to see the Model S be used for Atherton's police cars.”
The Tesla certainly has a lot to commend it as a police car, in practical terms. It's quiet, it's non-polluting, it's got plenty of boot space, and it’s even fast: it does 0-60 in 5.4s, with a top speed of 125 mph. What’s more, since everyone in Atherton seemingly drives one already, it will always be well-camouflaged.
But the best thing about the Tesla, of course, is that it's backed with private equity money, from the likes of Compass Technology Partners, Draper Fisher Jurvetson and VantagePoint Capital Partners. So for the buyout chiefs in the 'hood, this is a double win: not only do they get a stealth police car to chase down any villains who try to break in and pinch their helicopters, but they also turn their entire town into a giant shop window / PR exercise for one of their own brands. Clever, right?