In anticipation of the launch of its new Model S electric luxury sedan later this year, Tesla has been busy expanding its retail network to meet supply. “We added six new stores in the U.S. last year, four in the last quarter,” said George Blankenship, VP of sales and ownership experience, speaking during a conference call scheduled to address concerns over the company’s recent executive changes.
It might seem strange to open dealerships without any real cars to sell. After all, Tesla’s first vehicle, the Tesla Roadster, has been discontinued, while the Model S has yet to go into full production. And yet, says Blankenship, the new stores are “working exactly as we had hoped.”
In just the month of December, Tesla saw 299,000 visitors to its stores, helping bring the year-end tally for reservations on the upcoming Model S to 8,000.
Another major contributing factor was the release late in December of pricing for the Model S, with the entry level 40 kWh model starting at $49,900 after a $7,500 federal tax credit. “The strongest week for reservations was week we announced pricing,” said Blankenship, commenting on significant demand for the flagship Signature model despite its $87,900 starting price (before tax credit).
“We’re sold out of Model S Signature in the U.S.” he declared, and then announced that a waiting list is going to be created.
The future will see a continued ramp-up of sales infrastructure for Tesla throughout 2012 with plans to add 10 to 12 new retail stores in cities including New York, Los Angeles, Miami and Toronto.