Tesla to open flagship London store

Right-hand-drive Teslas coming to London this summer
Right-hand-drive Teslas coming to London this summer

Tesla Motors announced today that it will be opening a regional sales and service center in London, the first of three European stores that the electric sports car maker plans to launch this year.

The London 'premier showcase' will open this spring at Cheval Place in Knightsbridge. It will be only its third showroom (following Los Angeles and Menlo Park, California) and will open before proposed stores in Manhattan, Miami, Seattle and Washington, DC.

"We expect that Tesla sales will eventually be split evenly between the US and Europe," said Tesla CEO, Chairman and Product Architect Elon Musk. He hopes to be selling right-hand-drive, 240V Roadsters to European customers as soon as June.

"Opening three Tesla stores in Europe this year is a critical part of our plan." Tesla is also scouting sites in Munich and Monaco.

London - electric centre of Europe?

Tesla says that Greater London is "a key customer market" for the company – not only for the Roadster sports car but also the recently unveiled Model S sedan, which Tesla expects to produce in 2011.

The Model S, which will be among the world's first mass-produced, highway-capable EVs, will carry five adults and two children up to 480 kilometers per charge, although its US production is dependent on Tesla securing a $350 million (£240 million) loan as part of the US stimulus package.

Although UK purchases of the Roadster and Model S cars won't qualify for the US federal tax credits (currenlty $7500, £5115), Londoners will be exempt from paying the congestion charge - a saving of up to £2000 annually.

Yesterday, London mayor Boris Johnson said that he wanted to build an infrastructure of 25,000 charging points for electric cars across the nation's capital, although he only volunteered to pay for one third of the project's estimated £60 million cost.

Mark Harris is Senior Research Director at Gartner.