I kinda really want one of these..
but I need a 911 GT2 and a Skyline first
Europeans, Rejoice! The Tesla Is Headed Your Way!
Europeans, rejoice! With the Tesla Roadster finally rolling off an assembly line in Britain and the dollar tanking against the Euro, you'll soon have a chance to buy a gorgeous all-electric sports car all your own.
With the dollar steadily falling against the Euro during the past year, the Tesla Roadster has grown more expensive to build because some components are sourced abroad and a lot of the construction is being done in Hethel, England. Selling the car in Europe would provide the company a better balance between income and cost currencies, according to Innovation Beat. Darryl Siry, VP of marketing, sales and service at Tesla, told the publication:
"We have always wanted to distribute in Europe, but with the low dollar we are going to move quicker. The introduction date for the Roadster in Europe will be announced in a couple of months."
Tesla hasn't decided which countries might get it first, but InnovationBeat notes that Norway and Sweden are logical candidates because they offer tax incentives on low-emission vehicles, which effectively makes them cheaper. With all of the 2008 models spoken for, it's a safe bet Europe won't see the car until next year.
Although the company started full-scale production this week, don't expect to see the cars flying off the assembly line. Tesla's building just one a week and won't pick up the pace for a month or two.
Siry told us Tesla is moving slowly so it can double- and triple-check absolutely everything and ensure there aren't any problems on the line or in the cars. "We're doing intensive quality control along the way," he told us. "We'll ramp it up to two a week, then five a week. That's normal. You only ramp up one you're satisfied everything is up to quality."
That's a wise policy, particularly when your cars go for $98,000. At that price, customers will demand perfection. The one-a-week pace at a Lotus factory will continue "for a couple of weeks" before slowly increasing to 30.
"Thirty a week is the goal," Siry said. "The production plan we have gets us there toward the end of this year."
The first car off the line goes to Martin Eberhard, the company's deposed co-founder. His Roadster has a custom matte gray paint job -- Siry likened it to the aviator gray Audi used on the first generation TT -- with an orange racing stripe. "It's really cool," Siry said.
The factory turns out "gliders," or rolling chassis without drivetrains. The cars will be shipped -- Siry said he imagines Eberhard's car will be flown -- to San Francisco for final assembly. Every Roadster will have its battery pack, transmission and motor installed in San Carlos. "The whole process before they're passed to sales takes a couple of weeks," Siry said, and Eberhard will probably get his car in April.
The first couple dozen cars will have modified one-speed transmissions that will be replaced once Tesla's perfected what it calls Drivetrain 1.5. As we reported in "Tesla: The Cars Are Coming in March. No - Really", the early transmissions proved unreliable, so Tesla turned to a temporary fix so it could begin production. Drivetrain 1.5 -- which abandons the complex two-speed box originally planned for the car in favor of a one-speed transmission and improved power electronics module - is undergoing testing and certification. Once it's ready, Tesla will retrofit it into any cars that got the Band-Aid.
Siry said Tesla's first week of production has gone smoothly, but then, it should have because "you spend an awful lot of time preparing for production. We've built 27 prototypes. The first time you turn the assembly line on, you shouldn't have any surprises."
The challenge now, he said, is making sure the supply chain keeps up with production as things ramp up. "That's where a lot of our attention is going right now."
The first run of Roadsters is sold out -- more than 900 people have placed deposits for the car -- and the company is taking reservations for '09 models. Tesla plans to sell about 1,800 cars next year and hopes to launch a four-door sedan in 2010. Development of that vehicle is well underway, and as we noted in "Tesla Gets $40M, Says We'll See Sedan This Year", could have a prototype by year's end.
Siry says Tesla will give people a peek inside the factory next week when it posts pictures of the assembly process.
Photos courtesy Tesla Motors.