May 12, 2008
by Karina Ioffe
SAN FRANCISCO (AFP) – European thrill-seekers/earth-friendly vehicle enthusiasts can get into the driver’s seat of their own Tesla Roadster, provided they have the cash to plop down on an electric sports car that zips from zero to 60 mph in about four seconds.
Tesla Motors opened its first store in mid May on the Los Angeles coast and has begun taking orders in Europe via the Internet.
Celebs in the U.S. that like the idea of a zero-gasoline vehicle include California’s "green" governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, who bought one. So did actors George Clooney and Kelsey Grammer.
Thanks to a wimpy dollar and stumbling US economy, the Northern California car maker is focusing on Europe a year ahead of schedule and plans to soon open stores in Paris, London, Munich and other cities there.
Many of the Roadster parts are made in Europe, and the company began taking orders after the sleek two-seater with a sunroof made appearances in Monaco and elsewhere on the French Riviera in April.
With a price tag of 99,000 euros ($153,500), many eco-conscious consumers will likely be left drooling on the curb for the time being.
Nonetheless, industry analysts say that the Roadster will enliven the humdrum image of electric cars and, hopefully, spur competition leading to more affordable green vehicles.
"European companies are all taking electric vehicles seriously," said Gartner Research analyst Thilo Koslowski, who specializes in the automotive industry.
"So a newbie coming into the market will probably poke a couple of the larger manufacturers to get the tools faster to launch electric vehicles."
Unlike tiny Tesla, which employs 250 people and is planning to make 1,500 Roadsters, manufacturers such as Renault and Peugot have capacity to create hundreds of thousands of cheaper electric vehicles, according to Koslowski.