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USA: Tesla Motors ready to launch its all-electric Model S sedan

Tesla Model S rollout nears in Fremont
Workmen assemble a Model S sedan at the Tesla auto plant in Fremont, Calif. Tuesday, June 12, 2012. Palo Alto-based Tesla Motors is in the final countdown to the launch of its Model S sedan being manufactured at the former NUMMI plant. Tesla plans to have a big customer event and deliver the first Model S on Friday, June 22. (Patrick Tehan/Staff)

Many in the traditional auto industry doubted that Tesla Motors (TSLA) could build an all-electric sedan from scratch in Silicon Valley. But next week the skeptics will witness the tech industry’s most disruptive product launch of the year.

Tesla is counting down the hours to next Friday, when CEO Elon Musk will hand over the keys to a small group of customers who placed early reservations for the Model S sedan. It’s a watershed moment for the Palo Alto-based company, manufacturing in California and the nascent electric vehicle industry, which has been struggling to live up to ambitious expectations.

“This is a tech product,” said Theo O’Neill, an analyst at Wunderlich Securities who has been bullish on Tesla because the company is delivering the Model S ahead of schedule, something unheard of in the electric vehicle industry. “And it is bad news for the naysayers in Detroit who can’t find their way out of a paper bag.”

Tesla is building the Model S at the former NUMMI plant in Fremont, a site it bought in 2010 and transformed.

Invited for a rare visit to the plant, the first thing a reporter and photographer from this newspaper noticed were the vast parking lots. Empty when NUMMI shut down, they are now filled with cars


and have dedicated spots for electric vehicle charging.
Fresh orchids in a large vase greet visitors in the sleek lobby, where Tesla-branded T-shirts and jackets are for sale. Much of the cavernous facility has been painted a gleaming white, giving it a bright, clean and futuristic feel. The office space looks like a social media startup: an open floor plan filled with employees on computers, with no cubicles or private offices. On the factory floor itself, workers zip around on red bicycles or in electric golf carts because it takes too long to walk.

“People used to think we were a joke,” said Gilbert Passin, Tesla’s vice president of manufacturing, as he stood on “the bridge,” a second-floor walkway overlooking the assembly line. “But there’s no way you can come into this factory and not know we are completely serious. You cannot do this in your garage.”


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