US electric vehicle maker Tesla is to rapidly expand its retail and service centres in Australia, with stores planned in Sydney and Melbourne in coming months.
The company plans its official launch on Tuesday evening, where it will announce the location of its super-charging network – which can charge 50 per cent of their 500km range vehicles in 20 minutes – and make the first deliveries of its Model S vehicles to clients in a big event at Star Casino in Sydney.
On Tuesday morning, Tesla hosted a couple of dozen media organization for a briefing on its plans and a test-drive. Much of it is under embargo till tonight, but what we can say is that the first service centre is located at St Leonards, where the press briefings occurred, and the next showroom will be located in Chadstone in south-east Melbourne.
Tesla, says chief Australian spokesman Heath Walker, will also create a “pop-up” store in Bondi in coming weeks pending a permanent location, and will announce the location of its first service centre in Melbourne soon.
Tesla is cagey about its sales forecasts, in that it doesn’t release any, apart from overall predictions included in its quarterly reports from its California headquarters. It is building 35,000 cars in calendar 2014.
Tesla’s first customers in Australia include some well-heeled types that the company describe as “innovators” – either because of their interest in the environment and/or in technology. All are in Sydney, with the Melbourne launch to follow when the service centre is complete.
They will also be well-off. Tesla prices will range from around $96,000 in Canberra for the bottom of the range model (range just 300kms) – there is no stamp duty there – to around $200,000 for the top of the range P85D, which has all the whizz-bang additions, a 500kms range, and dual drive system – meaning its acceleration is even more dramatic: at 3.4 seconds to go from 0-100kms/hr, it competes with the Maclaren formula 1 racing vehicle.
“We’ve got the pricing right,” Walker told RenewEconomy after our test drive (see our report tomorrow). “We’re making the investment here, putting the super charging neworks in. We overcome the hurdles of an EV and still provide the benefits.
“An EV might not be your first point of consideration but it’s a great benefit to have if you are buying a car for performance,” Walker said. “We’re talking about an energy revolution.”
There is now growing recognition of the role that EVs will play in the revolution that will take place in energy markets around the world – with rooftop solar, battery storage and EVs likely to see the energy system become for focused on distributed, or local, production and storage.
Tesla is of particular interest because – unlike other EVs – it has targeted the top end of the market with a luxury, high performance vehicle – and because of its major investment in battery production, which analysts say will bring the cost of battery storage quickly in coming years.
Walker describes the first Tesla owners as “forward thinkers” – usually environmentalists and very tech savvy.
“Australia is a very driver-friendly country. Performance and smoothness will be valued, and because Australia is a very big “tech” market, customers will appreciate the high tech nature of the product.
“The environmentalism I think one of the strongest holds here. We are starting to see a big changeover in the consumers – people ant to see a turn into more sustainable energy across the board.
“It is a car, and it will get you from Point A to Point B, but it will do so in a way that changes your life. We see that in our owners. Some owners come in and buy it because of the way it looks, but many people say the really want to start making that difference, and they want to make that investment in the future.”
Update: Tesla says its first super-charging stations in Australia will be at St Leonards in Sydney and Star City Casino. A network of supercharging stations will link Sydney, Canberra and Melbourne in 2015, and Brisbane in 2016.
Note: We will update this story at 8pm with the announcement of the supercharging network. Tomorrow, read our test drive report and our exclusive interview with one of the first adopters, solar pioneer David Mills.