Tesla Motors opened its new store in Fashion Island on Friday, giving customers an opportunity sit in and interact with the Model S, which is set to hit the market in mid-2012.
The new store is designed to give the public a different kind of car-buying experience. Instead of a large-scale dealership, the store has all the feel of an intimate designer boutique. Hands-on exhibits demonstrate different aspects of the Tesla model's hardware, and touchscreen displays allow casual shoppers to learn about the benefits of owning a Tesla, hear testimonies from other owners and find out more about the car's specs. Customers can also design and customize their own Model S for preorder.
Tesla debuted its flagship Roadster in 2008, the world’s first all-electric highway-capable vehicle. As a proof-of-concept car, the Roadster was always intended to have a limited production run. In a second-quarter earnings report letter to shareholders, company founder and CEO Elon Musk said the Roadster would be limited to a production run of 2,500 vehicles and would conclude production by January of 2012.
George Blankenship, Tesla’s vice president of sales and ownership experience, brought the new retail outlet to Fashion Island. Before joining Tesla, Blankenship was Employee No. 6 at Apple Retail, and the strategist behind the innovative Apple stores.
“Tesla proved you could actually do a car that could do 245 miles, that you could do a car that could do zero to sixty in 3.7 seconds and can run in the arctic cold; a proof-of-concept, high-priced car,” Blankenship said. “Come to this [the Model S], we have a more mainstream, half the price, and more of a moderate rollout. Then we’ll do a third-generation platform that will be lower-priced again and mass-production.”
As the Roadster winds down production in January, Tesla will ramp up production of the Model S, set to begin its first customer deliveries in the summer of 2012. Tesla reportedly already has 6,500 preorders for the Model S.
“People said electric cars can only go 30 miles, they can’t look good, they don’t operate in the cold. We have three of these [Roadsters] operating every day 220 kilometers above the Arctic Circle in Norway," said Blankenship. "This was a proof of concept. Then what we do is we move to this car [the Model S], which will be the proof of concept for more people; it fits more what they want in a car, it fits more their lifestyle.”
The Model S seats five comfortably and can seat two more children in rear-facing jump seats, which also fold down for storage. It has a “frunk” for storage under the front hood and a 17-inch touchscreen with wireless connection that features streaming radio, Web browsing, movies and turn-by-turn navigation directions. The Model S is available with three battery options, with 160-, 230- and 300-mile ranges.
“Tesla is reinventing the way people buy cars, with stores designed to engage and inform prospective customers," Musk said. "Located in high foot-traffic locations, Tesla stores are designed to introduce people to Tesla’s advanced electric-car technology and show the benefits of driving electric. Tesla stores lay the groundwork for the distribution of Model S today and increasingly affordable electric vehicles tomorrow.”
Tesla already had a store in Newport Beach, located on Mariner’s Mile, at 1100 West Coast Hwy., which opened in the summer of last year. According to Blankenship, the Fashion Island store will be the retail location – test drives will be available from the parking lot – and the Mariner’s Mile location will become the local service center.
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