Lack of backseat headroom will be a market problem throughout Europe

Lack of backseat headroom will be a market problem throughout Europe

The model S backseat's headroom is too low for Europeans. My wife is 5'10" and her head when she sits behind the driver or passenger seat hits the side roof and top back beam. I am 6'2" and I can not sit comfortably in the backseat. I must hunch my upper back so that my lower back is in a terrible unsupported position and my knees are more in my face then normal.

We are now on vacation in France (live in Norway) and everyone uses and has adults in their backseats. The backseat is used by adults, not just for kids. The attitude that "the backseat is where my kids sit" does not apply in European cultures. Adults actually sit back there, all the time.

It is the only negative I see with the Model S in the European market. Specifically, Dutch people are very tall people (most over 6'). The Model S backseat will be a turnoff to the Dutch most of all. Spain, Italy, Portugal, and other southern European countires are not tall people but have adults in the backseat all the time...constatntly. This car is so perfect but must have more headroom in the back.

Will Tesla do something about those large beams on the ceiling in the backseat reclaiming a few inches so that they can be more appealing to the European market?

jkirkebo | July 27, 2013

Personally I alsmost never have adults in the back seat for extended distanced so it's not a problem for us. I don't think adults in the back seat is more prevalent in Norway than in the US? And if it is in the rest of Europe I have no idea why...

However, those that really need to carry tall adults in the back seat for extended distances should consider waiting for the Model X.

In the Model S, the best position for a tall adult in the back is the middle seat.

ddruz | July 27, 2013

@tanglero - Did the Model S you sat in have the pano roof or the hard top? The pano has 2 inches more headroom than the hardtop. It's a huge difference.

If the car you sat in did have the pano roof, imagine how cramped you would feel in a hardtop!

tanglero | July 27, 2013

@ddruz - It was the pano roof and the Tesla sales person said the samething to us :)

As I look out my window in this beach town in the South of France, the main road to the beach lies beneath my window. Over 90% of the cars have people in the backseat. Many of them are locals pilled in to go to the beach for a day of sun and fun but many are older people who are pleasure cruising through the towns along the coast.

In Europe, more so southern Europe, the culture is to share experiences with friends and go on vacations with each other. It is extremely extended family and community oriented. The value system is based not on self but on what can I share with others.

A backseat that gives my friends and family comfort gives me pleasure. If it gives them discomfort I am deeply hurt. The cultures of Europe are still driven by their love of people, not just self.

Backseats are important because it one modern way people can share their love with those that they love.

Mark Z | July 27, 2013

My Model S is now the favorite car pool vehicle when driving short distances to events or dinner with friends. The back seat is used by adults and they would like a bit more room. The panoramic roof helps, but Model X will be the answer for ease of entry and comfort. When others don't have to use fuel in their cars, they will put up with a bit of inconvenience. Another reason they like to ride; Slacker radio to hear the music they can request!

David Trushin | July 27, 2013

Doesn't seem to affect toyota or vw sales and they have the same or less headroom in the back for me.

herkimer | July 27, 2013

How about the back seat room in a Porsche, VW, Fiat, or even some cars by Renault or Citroen? Not usually the roomiest, in my experience.

The other comment I hear sometimes is that the Model S is too big for Europe, too wide, etc. If the car were narrower and taller, it would not have the same excellent aerodynamics. I have taken several taller people in the back seat of my S. And while not for more than an hour or so at a time, no one has ever complained. One reason may be that the legroom is actually quite adequate, and the seats are quite comfortable.

To each their own, I guess.

shs | July 27, 2013

I am 6'6" and often sit in the back seat. Head room is not a problem under the pano roof and as long as someone shorter is driving, leg room is not a problem either. Without the pano roof, no way.

cfOH | July 27, 2013

According to this table of average human heights by nation, the Netherlands has the tallest average males of any country. So using them as a benchmark is a little absurd.

While most of the Scandinavian countries are quite tall, elsewhere in Europe, it's different. German men are, on average, only 1 inch taller than US men. Austrians and Finns are the same as the US, while Swiss, French, Spaniards, Brits, and Italians are all slightly shorter.

So while Scandinavians might wish to wait for the Model X, the rest of Europe will likely find the Model S quite acceptable. | July 27, 2013

A @cfOH, there you go using facts and data again...! ;)


PBEndo | July 27, 2013

"In Europe, more so southern Europe, the culture is to share experiences with friends and go on vacations with each other. It is extremely extended family and community oriented. The value system is based not on self but on what can I share with others.

A backseat that gives my friends and family comfort gives me pleasure. If it gives them discomfort I am deeply hurt. The cultures of Europe are still driven by their love of people, not just self."

Sounds like you sure love yourself to me.
Perhaps you are not a native english speaker so you have missed the tone of your post, but to an American, it sure seems obvious that you are saying we are only driven by our love of self, not others.

Gluaisrothai | July 27, 2013

"A backseat that gives my friends and family comfort gives me pleasure. If it gives them discomfort I am deeply hurt. The cultures of Europe are still driven by their love of people, not just self."

So you're saying you like to pleasure your friends with love in the "backseat"?

ajkim26 | July 27, 2013

I just drove 5 adults and 2 children around in the Model S all day for 2 days straight and
never once heard anything other than "omg need one" and
"dad, someone is taking our picture again"

ellcyc | July 27, 2013

If you are tall and have sat in the back seat of any car you expect to contort yourself to fit into it. To me any lack of head room is offset by the fact that three real people can sit in the back seat at the same time without being horizontally squeezed. But OK, I get it, vertical contortion has a social stigma in Europe that horizontal squeezing does not, and we can probably trace this back to the history of Catholicism and/or Napoleon. Europeans feel pride in their month long summer vacation, and are all in love with each other so they must sit up straight and breathe in the summer air, or at least each other's armpits.

Americans cower in isolation as the Tesla driver demonstrates yet again the remarkable acceleration on the empty highway to Las Vegas, where the group of awkward adults speed in silence toward a weekend of social alienation in front of dehumanizing slot machines.

Captain_Zap | July 27, 2013

Tesla is also going to have a problem when it hits Asian markets, but for different reasons.

The driver's seat does not raise high enough for those with a short torso and the seat does not go forward far enough for those with short legs. The sun visor is to small for shorter people too.

Another inch or two of driver's seat range, both horizonally and vertically will make a big difference.

AmpedRealtor | July 27, 2013

I am 5'8" and my partner is 6'. Neither of us had any issues feeling comfortable in the back seat while checking out the car at the Tesla showroom. However, that's not the same as being in the vehicle for extended periods of time. However, in the short amount of time we sat in it, the headroom was not at all an issue for either of us. The car has the pano roof.

negarholger | July 27, 2013

@tanglero - why is this a model S problem? E.g. VW Passat or Audi A6 have less head room in front and back. How do the folks in Europe manage to fit in their own smaller cars?

SCOOBY | July 27, 2013

Are you kidding me! Have you seen the cars Europeans buy? The average vehicle in Europe is far smaller than the average vehicle in the USA. The vast majority of cars sold in Europe are smaller than Model S. But hey, let's not let real market data interfere with the hippie philosophizing on the nature of the Atlantic divide.

earlyretirement | July 27, 2013

@schueppert - EXACTLY. Most of my friends in Europe all have smaller cars.

To the OP- I'd say the easy solution if you're so concerned about your passengers not having enough room is to get another car. LOL.

negarholger | July 27, 2013

It is amazing... Tesla comes out with its first model which is a sports sedan - not a sedan. But now you get thread after thread some folks whining that this ONE model doesn't tickle every single box in the world. You want more headroom in the back and an electric car... wait for the model X - simple as that.

pebell | July 27, 2013

My two cents as a European, from the Netherlands so with 6'3" pretty average in height over here:

The last few posters are absolutely right: we drive much smaller cars here, and headroom in the back is always an issue, with almost any car here. And in my experience, it is not generally an issue. When I wondered why, I came up with a few possible answers:

- Our knees are hurting so much from the lack of legroom that we don't even notice our head needing a few more inches to be fully comfortable.
- The only reason an adult would ever get in the back of a car, is a.) because he/she doesn't own a car him/herself, and is about to get a free ride and is not about to look a gift horse in the mouth, or b.) because he/she is too intoxicated to drive - in which case they hardly notice their heads hitting the ceiling anyway. ;-D

And to the OP: I wouldn't make any assumptions on having found _the_ reason why the Tesla Model S will do badly over here. It won't do badly. We will fall in love with the car as fast or faster than our American buddies, and we will buy them as quickly as TM can produce them.

merijn | July 27, 2013

The lack of headroom in the back is a pity for another reason: I think a lot of politicians, CEOs etc. (who are chauffeur driven and sit in the back) would have bought a Model S, especially to show how committed they are to the environment. The could have been great ambassadors for Tesla.

wcalvin | July 27, 2013

I'd worry more about width at the hips, what with lane width and parking spaces designed for narrower. And in an Italian hill town, you'd want to park it in a lot on the outskirts.

At least one gets an extra 5-6 cm of shoulder-room width in the rear seat. But you might want to suggest saving the rear center for the tallest person: more height and much more leg room, so one can scrunch down.

Brian H | July 27, 2013

The stereotypes are getting rather thick in here.

TS | July 27, 2013

@all of u

I just ordered the S well aware of this "malfunction" because I normally only will have kids in the backseats

I belive TM had to do some compromises beacuse of the worlds best aerodynamics and the largest batteripack ever seen in a sedan. The var is not perfect, but it starts the EVolution ..

The safety issue is why I normally won't invite adult into the backseats.

TS | July 27, 2013
JaneW | July 27, 2013

You prove, once again, that a sense of proportion and a sense of humor go hand in hand.

phat78boy | July 27, 2013

Am I missing something? Are there a lot of sport sedans that comfortably fit tall people in the back row? Why are people upset that the car is exactly what it claims to be? If you want a big comfortable luxury cruising vehicle, there are plenty to choose from. This is a sports sedan, expect as much.

Mike C | July 27, 2013

@pebell great post

AmpedRealtor | July 27, 2013


michael1800 | July 27, 2013

This car has absolutely too much headroom in the backseats for very short people. An adjustable roof is needed in order to not alienate people of compact stature, who are extremely important throughout the world and throughout history. Why emphasize our lack of height instead of making the Model S perfect?

HenryT2 | July 27, 2013

Whether you have a panoramic or not, the problem isn't when you keep your head straight up but when you lean back. I don't know about you all, but when I take long drives, I often rest my head by putting it back against the seat cushion. Well, on the Model S, you can't do that. I'm 5'8" and my head is pushed uncomfortably forward. Simple fact is, for a "luxury" sedan, the back seat is not very good. I agree with our European friends that the Model S is going to lose sales because of this. I hope they make it up with sales of the Model X, but if not, they might consider making an S2 or whatever with a modified backseat and more headroom. I personally like the silhouette of the Model S and wouldn't change it, but it might make sense to make a slightly modified version for the European market.

negarholger | July 27, 2013

@HenryT2 - again it is a sports sedan, not a sedan. In a sports sedan the gentleman sits in the front at the wheel, in a sedan the gentleman sits in back and has a driver.
To make it a classic sedan like the Mercedes S class you would need a bigger battery to compensate for the increase in drag. I don't like hatchbacks, I hate SUVs, colors are too boring for me... but what the heck will I live long enough to get all my likes in any car?
The back seats are the very last thing on earth that will decide the success in Europe. Car exporting counties like Germany and France will not give any incentives to imports, instead protect their own car industry. With 31% of import duty and VAT the MS is extremly expensive. Top speed is king on the Autobahn and the MS doesn't shine in top speed. Acceleration is not important - traffic lights are syncronized and you don't have to stop driving the speed limit. It is a very big car for the narrow roads in Europe. Countries with incentives are your main target. Gen3 is much better suited for Europe.

HenryT2 | July 27, 2013

The M5 is most definitely a sport sedan. And, would you consider the entire BMW 5 series ordinary sedans? Because they all have better back seats. I don't think the back seat headroom is what qualifies the MS or the 5 series as a sports sedan.

You may be very well correct about the tariffs, etc. But from the people I've seen posting on our forums, they weren't complaining about the cost. They were complaining about the back seats - headroom, safety, and the lower level of luxury.

I don't blame Tesla if they don't want to try to compete in Europe now until the Gen III comes along. It's costly and complicated to sell in a fractured market like the EU. I'm honestly a little surprised that they are doing as much as they are.

However, if Tesla does want to sell the MS in Europe now rather that just wait for the Gen III, I think they should put in a little extra effort to design a model that is more suited for their market rather than have a lot of "it's a great car BUT..." comments preceding their full fledged efforts.

tobi_ger | July 27, 2013

One should not just say that US and Europe are different markets when it comes to safety features such as headrests.
Per NHTSA there were ~272K+ whiplash injuries in the US (2000), I don't have the states for whole of Europe or individual countries at hand, but think there will be similar numbers for rear-crash accidents.
In the early '90s the average eye-height was taken as reference for headrest height (in Germany), but at the end of the '90s the reference was improved by moving that to the upper-head level instead.
A fixed headrest is basically the minimum position it will ever allow. Assumingly an adjustable headrest will at least still have that minimum height. Thus having the option to adjust it at all can only improve safety for taller drivers/passengers as soon as it is adjusted. To not offer the option, removes potentially better safety to eventually lower the injury rates.
This is how I personally understand that issue and is not dependent on country/market. However, to conclude, that there will be a noticeable impact on sales is so far unclear, or at least not demonstrated by statistics here.

tobi_ger | July 27, 2013

(please excuse faulty spelling e.g. "stats for" not "states for")

rch1708 | July 28, 2013

Pebell +1

HenryT2 | July 28, 2013


I don't think it's that Europe demands more safety as much as Europe demands more safety for the back seats. As the OP says, when he was looking out the window, most cars had adults in the back seat. Here in the US, I would guess that less than 10%, maybe even 2%, of cars on the road at any time would have adult passengers in the back seats.

negarholger | July 28, 2013

@HenryT2 - here we go again... get a BMW 5 if it fits you better - zero argument - stop whining.
In 2012 my wife and I went shopping for new cars... I am sitting tall and didn't fit in any of these fabulus cars - my head always hits the roof. More as a joke I went to the Tesla showroom nearby and guess what plenty of head clearance for me and even more without the sun roof. No way can I sit comfrotably in the back, but that is not were I am sitting. I have no intentions to haul giants around in the back seat. If I want to sit in the back seat and pay a driver then I will definetly not pick a MS for that job. The MS would be in the garage for my driving pleasure alone.
Audis have been always my favorite cars, but I am very dissapointed with their 2012 lineup - nothing is worth the price. Do I hang out on the Audi forum and lament over and over again that they only have 2 cup holders in the back when I think a minimum of three is required for my back seat passengers. No - current Audis are not my cup of tea so I move on and I do not waste my time lamenting.
I am sure that Tesla wants to compete in Europe, but it is just my personel opinion that the MS is not a good fit for Europe on a large scale - for reasons outlined previously.
Just to repeat ( over and over again ) if you don't like the arrangement of the back seats in the MS move on and find the car that meets your personal needs and matches your personal percentions.

tobi_ger | July 28, 2013

Vehicle occupancy rates (US, 2010, by vehicle type):

Occupancy rates for 12 european countries between 2004 and 2008:
Rates in the '90s went down slightly due to e.g. easier ownership and multi-car households.

I'm not at all sure, that anyones' personal observations can be taken as country- or even multi-country wide assessments. The above US data for cars alone seems pretty close to the european data to me (lay person wrt statistics).

Agreed, my previous post was explicitly about headrests. Personally, when buying a car (4 door sedan) as owner/driver, I usually do not weigh lack of headroom in the back to become a dealbreaker. It might be less comfortable for (very) long trips, but that's again not the usual use for many.

HenryT2 | July 28, 2013

Yes, here we go again, if you don't like some small thing, buy another car! I'm so glad you found a car that fit 100% of your needs. I'm sure that with every update and improvement that Tesla makes you die a little. For the rest of us, we just have to get by with a car that satisfies us 99%.

Many years from now, when I sell my car to buy the latest model, I'll be sure to look you up to sell you my old "perfect" car at a premium. You'll be much more satisfied with it because it will have exactly the right number of cupholders and the headroom will be perfectly suited to pompously explain to any person who you have so magnanimously offered a ride that the car is a sport sedan and "how dare they complain about the back seat".

You might look at this forum as a place to troll hunt and slay all heretics who might criticize Tesla, but for some of us, it's a place to solve very real problems and make suggestions that we hope Tesla will take to improve the awesome, yet imperfect, Tesla Model S.

Just start a Tesla based religion and get it over with. You might qualify for some tax exemptions.

negarholger | July 28, 2013

@HenryT2 - are you reading the responses or you are just ranting ?

jkirkebo | July 28, 2013

Maybe not a good fit for central/southern Europe but it's a very good fit for Norway.

We have LOTS more space here than the Netherlands (11 people per square kilometer compared to >300 for the Netherlands).
Non-intoxicated adults in the rear are pretty rare ;)
Our speed-limits are LOW, I usually average about 45mph on longer drives. The highest speed limit is 62mph.

Add to that no tax or VAT of any kind and our high wages and cheap hydro electriciy plus expensive gasoline ($10/gal). I can easily see them selling as many as 4-5000 Model S per year here. Around 2000 will be delivered this fall.

Notre | July 28, 2013

@ jkirkebo

I guesstimate that 90% of the 2000, myself included, would have switched to the ModelX given the opportunity.

SCOOBY | July 28, 2013

@notre Maybe, but the flip side to all that extra backseat room in Model X is increased drag coefficient and reduced range. And in my view, range is the key variable for EV purchases at the moment. I would wait to see the full specs on Model X before you make too many predictions.

Notre | July 28, 2013

True schueppert, but as mentioned by jkirkebo electricity is cheap, speed averages about 45 mph on our roads and we have already 6 superchargers under construction.

tobi_ger | July 28, 2013

Elon tweeted today that the first SC in Norway will be in/at Cinderella.

carlk | July 28, 2013

Isn't it true that most Europeans drive small cars with tiny back seats? How do they all manage to put 6'+ passengers in the back seat? Why is Porsche 911 one of the most sought after cars in Europe for years? Did people refuse to buy it because of the small back seat head room? I can tell you people will love the MS and it will sell well in Europe if your purpose is just to bash it.

As for change design have you heard there is one coming late next year for people who have that kind of lifestyle?

drax7 | July 28, 2013

The back seat should be reserved only for smokers.
The front seats hold be removed and the car driven from he back seats
Would also improve matters.

tobi_ger | July 28, 2013

Not sure where you got that impression from, must be a wrong stereotype. :) Not everyone drives a Porsche and most only occasionally have 6' tall passengers in the backseat.
I'd assume that it is especially people (incl. myself), that are actually tall that inquire about headroom or have family or friends, that sometimes might get seated in the back. :)

jkirkebo | July 28, 2013

Notre: I don't think so. Maybe 30-40% would switch. Personally I have no interest in the Model X at all, especially with the weird doors as I often use a roof rack to carry stuff.

I know several people who have ordered the S and none of those want the X either. An AWD S however is another matter.

I much prefer the looks of the S and the lower center of gravity. I would like the towing capacity of the X though.

Tobi_ger: That was a weird tweet as Cinderella is a diner, not a location. The location of that SC is a Brokelandsheia, outside the Cinderella diner.