The world-renowned automaker sets up shop in Bellevue.
The hottest, most exclusive car dealership on the Eastside isn’t hidden among acres of asphalt on Bellevue’s Auto Row. It rests on the second floor of Bellevue Square Mall, where Tesla Motors — a world-renowned innovator of electric car technology — opened the doors to its sparkling new showroom earlier this month.
But don’t call it a showroom says George Blankenship, Vice President of Worldwide Sales and Ownership Experience. The space is considered a design studio, and for good reason: Tesla only makes customized vehicles. Bellevue isn’t alone, either — studios in Chicago and Newport Beach, Calif., also opened in November.
“There is no such thing as a stock Tesla,” Blankenship says. “Every car that comes out of our factory has a garage to go to. When people decide they want one of our cars, we want it to be their car.”
It’s a concept that has worked ever since the Silicon Valley-based automaker released its revolutionary Roadster in 2008, a model that fully illustrated the capabilities of a high-performance electric vehicle. The Roadster appealed to a niche market, due to its design (two-seat sports car) and hefty price tag (a base price of $109,000). In 2012, Tesla’s next generation vehicle, the Model S, is set to roll out — and it’s already created a palpable buzz in the crowded premium sedan market.
Designed to compete with the Mercedes E-Class and BMW 5-Series (and priced accordingly, at a base of $58,000), the Model S already has thousands of orders in place — which means there are a lot of smiling faces in Silicon Valley.
“We’re off to an incredible start,” Blankenship said. “We have over 6,000 reservations for a car most people have never seen.”
At the moment, the only way to see the Model S is to create one, either at the Bellevue location or with the company’s online design studio. The process is simple: prospective buyers generate a Model S to match their preferences, based on such criteria as travel distance (160, 230 or 300-mile batteries are available), exterior color, roof style and wheel size (interior feature options will be available online this winter). The final price is determined by these factors. There is also an elemental mock-up that displays the customized model in four real-life settings.
Blankenship says Tesla’s ultimate goal is to provide consumers with the opportunity to design an automobile from the ground up — an experience that imparts a full understanding of how electric cars work.
“There’s light years of difference between selling someone a car and them choosing because they want one,” he says. “If I had my druthers, I’d never sell anybody a car. I think of us as a family or as a community. It reaches to be part of your life. I want to people to think of us in terms of ‘I really want one of those.’”
Located on the second floor of the mall (next to Clark’s), Tesla in Bellevue is open from 9:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and 10 a.m to 7 p.m. on Sunday.
Tesla Motors | 233 Bellevue Square, Bellevue | (425) 453-5021