Tesla opens first dealership despite production snags

Tesla opens first dealership despite production snags

Although the first batch of Tesla Roadsters is already on sale - to the tune of 1,000 pre-orders - only four production cars have been built. But that hasn't stopped Tesla from opening its first dealership in one of the busiest sections of Los Angeles. Built at a cost of $2 million, the dealership has some unique features.

For starters, the service area is out in the open, inside the massive 10,000 square foot (930 square meter) showroom, allowing customers to watch as their Roadsters are worked on. Which all first generation customers will do at some point - the updated two-speed Magna-developed transmission will require a two-hour swap when it becomes available.

Some other unique features of the dealership include its corporate structure. It's a store run directly by the factory, not by a franchise - so sales people are paid by salary instead of by commission. Speaking with Automotive News Elon Musk, Tesla's founder, compared the dealership to Apple's stores.

"The Apple Stores have worked out well. It's a fantastic consumer experience," he said. "We wanted a nontraditional automotive experience, and we have it."

With 600 of the pre-ordered Roadsters already sold and another 400 on the waiting list, the company has its hands full getting the car into full production. At the moment production is being handled by Lotus in the UK, but at a sharply reduced rate from what the company had planned.

Still, the company is aiming to have 300 cars built by December, and by then monthly production should climb to 150 units. Next year the car will be assembled in northern California from parts sourced from around the world.

The Los Angeles dealership is located near the intersection of Santa Monica and Sepulveda boulevards, just off the 405 freeway, where it should get plenty of views from slowly passing motorists. The next dealership will open mid-year, and will be built in Menlo Park, near the company's headquarters in California's Silicon Valley. New York, Seattle, Chicago and Miami are also planned for dealership locations, and should be built by Q1 2009.

The Roadster is currently priced at $109,000.

Tesla Roadster