It has been reported in local Chinese press that the first Tesla electric car has been sold to an individual based in Dongyang for 3 million Hong Kong dollars (about £240,000). A picture of the Tesla Model S was posted on the Hantian Racing blog a few days ago.
Tesla opened pre-ordering in August 2013, but as yet have not confirmed or denied the Chinese purchase. No comment was forthcoming from Zhejiang customs officials either, apart from commenting that the high price quoted would most likely be due to the (up to) 25% duty on imported cars.
This sale coincided with Tesla opening their very first UK showroom in Westfield London Shopping Centre a few days ago. The store is the UK’s first ever car showroom situated in a shopping centre. It’s a good marketing move by the company, allowing shoppers to browse the store just as they would any other shop in the centre. It removes the pressure of going to a dealer specifically, where it’s harder to come across as a casual window shopper.
Indeed, on that very point Jerome Guillen, Vice President of Service & Sales, describes the shop as providing less of the traditional “high-pressure sales environment”. In essence, it puts shopping for a car in the same category of browsing any other shop – you can look, plant that purchase seed and see if it grows or not. For Tesla, it means it’s no longer a special journey that a potential customer must take to visit a stand-alone showroom on some wind-swept industrial estate somewhere.
Tesla are a Californian based company, and the £60,000 Model S will be left-hand drive initially, but right-hand drive models are coming. The revolutionary electric car is currently being championed with ownership by the likes of Cameron Diaz and Ben Affleck in America. So far it’s all going extremely well for the company.
Well, that of course depends how much credence you put in Jeremy Clarkson’s views. Clarkson has been somewhat vocal in his hatred of electric cars and you might be surprised to hear that it’s something that Tesla takes very seriously. The company took Top Gear to court claiming that a scene showing the Tesla running out of gas (so to speak) was faked to reinforce Clarkson’s views. Claims that the programme (screened in 2008) had affected the company’s sales and reputation were eventually dismissed.
Despite Top Gear, the Tesla Model S is deserving of its acclaim. The long-standing distance limitations of a battery powered vehicle seem to have been alleviated somewhat with a larger 85kw/h battery that will provide enough power for a claimed 300 mile stint and a top speed of 125mph. 300 miles on one charge in a country were you are never more than about 70 miles from the coast is good by any standards. In fact, I want one.
In America, Tesla has already sold more than 14,000 units of the $62,400 Model S in the last year. But will it conquer the UK when right-hand drive models arrive? I would say a resounding yes to that, without any hesitation. The only setback might be the high price tag of £55,000 (rising to £85,000 depending on model spec) that UK customers are likely to have to pay. Although Tesla say that sales of the Model S will subsidise the development of a lower priced model.
The Tesla Model S is a sleek, good-looking car with decent power and distance capabilities. You can judge for yourself when the model is officially introduced into the UK in Spring 2014.