Tesla powering into NZ in 2017

Kiwis have been talking up Tesla for ages – soon they’ll be able to put their money where their mouths are.

THE invasion is on: Tesla has announced it will take New Zealand orders on its cars from next month and will have a sales outlet for cars and other products operating next year.

The world’s coolest electric car brand says that its action to set up shop is in response to overwhelming demand for its latest car, the Model 3 announced in April, and “enthusiasm from owners who have imported their Tesla’s (sic) into the country.”

The exact where, when and how have yet to be announced, though in April the company told Motoring Network that a New Zealand operation would come under the auspices – at least initially - of Tesla Australia, which has been operating for two years and is presently the geographically closest distributor to New Zealand.

Given that today’s announcement of a Kiwi operation came from Tesla Australia’s senior marketing and communications manager, Heath Walker, who operates from Melbourne, that still seems to be the case.

It might also be safely assumed that this country’s Tesla Store and Service Centre will be based in Auckland, not just because of its population and size but also because the brand has cited Vector Energy as its partner.

So an electricity supplier is going to selling cars? Hard to tell.

Although Walker says Tesla is “bringing its premium electric vehicles and scalable energy products to customers in New Zealand” it seems that Vector’s role will be more to do with implementing and servicing the brand’s Tesla Powerwall and Powerpack products. Vector is the authorized installer of these.

However, maybe there will be a link as it says those products will be available at the new location, “allowing local residents to self-consume their solar and store energy during off-peak times to support electricity networks.” Whatever that means.

Vector also seems to have a role in installing the ‘supercharger’ fast chargers that Tesla also makes.

Today’s release says sites for these will be commissioned from the second quarter of next year.

Tesla fans here include a core following who started, several years ago, to establish the brand’s presence here through promotion of their privately-imported, mainly Model S, product.

However, Walker suggests the push is less to do with the largest, more expensive car it builds than to meet emergent local market interest in the budget Model 3, which doesn’t enter right-hand drive production until 2018.

Even so, Walker suggests Tesla will accept orders for all product on Tesla.com next month.

He says the Tesla location will feature the Model S and its Model X sports utility and will “give customers the opportunity to learn about and reserve the more affordable Tesla Model 3 sedan.”

However it conceives, the Tesla sales space is set to be a different from the average new car dealership.

Walker says around the world, Tesla is reinventing the car-buying experience and revolutionising auto ownership.

“Unlike traditional automotive dealerships, Tesla stores invite customers to learn about electric driving with enticing visuals, interactive displays, and a design studio where customers can create their own Tesla.

“The new store and service center will make Tesla ownership convenient for New Zealand residents and will address the growing demand for Teslas in the market.” 

He says Tesla is immediately beginning recruitment for local talent who are passionate about the future of sustainable energy.

“Selected candidates will partake in product and test drive training at satellite locations this year.”

Tesla’s evolution and future are subject of intense speculation within the auto industry; there have been plenty of stories – good and bad – about how it operates and what it does and about the man who created the brand, entrepreneur and now Tesla chief executive Elon Musk.

Is Tesla getting on top of its production challenges? Perhaps so. Just four days ago it was reported that Tesla Motors delivered a record 24,500 vehicles in the third quarter, assuring investors that it will meet its 2016 targets ahead of a crucial plan to raise more capital this year.

The company shipped about 15,800 Model S sedans and 8,700 Model X crossovers, Tesla said in a statement sent out to international media.

The third quarter is seen as Tesla’s last chance to show it can be profitable before it raises money to ramp up Model 3 production.

Musk reportedly urged employees in an e-mail sent out at the end of August to work on “building and delivering every car we possibly can.”

The company has been taking more aggressive measures to keep sales of the Model S and Model X strong while it awaits the smaller, less-expensive Model 3, which isn’t slated to begin volume output until late next year.

“Our Q3 delivery count should be viewed as slightly conservative, as we only count a car as delivered if it is transferred to the customer and all paperwork is correct,” the company said. It reiterated that it expected to deliver 50,000 vehicles in the second half.

Tesla introduced a 60-kilowatt-hour Model S in June and, in August, added a 100-kwh battery option with additional range.

Tesla is increasing production at its Fremont, California, factory with an eye toward making 500,000 cars a year by 2018, a goal that also depends on the company’s battery factory near Reno, Nevada, coming online with battery-cell production. Both efforts will require more funding in the fourth quarter, Musk has said.