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USA: Tesla opening stores in places car buyers wouldn’t think to shop

The builder of high-end electric vehicles aims to educate consumers about its products in factory-owned retail stores before they eventually go car shopping.

Tesla is a small volume auto company that just started selling its flagship Model S, a sporty, full-size hatchback seen above. The car sells for about $50,000 to more than $100,000 depending on trim level and options. Tesla builds the Model S at a factory in Fremont, Calif., where it plans to also make the Model X, an electric SUV built on the same platform and sharing much of the technology, starting late next year. (Tesla / June 30, 2012)

Here’s a novel idea for an automaker: Open stores in an area where people are not shopping for cars.

That’s the strategy of Tesla Motors, the builder of high-end electric cars.

The Palo Alto automaker opened its 12th North American store and second in Southern California on the Third Street Promenade in Santa Monica on Friday. It’s flanked by an Adidas store and Club Monaco, a trendy apparel seller. Parking is a block away in a public garage.

Think Apple rather than Chevrolet.

“We are deliberately trying to engage with people when they are not thinking about buying a car,” said George Blankenship, Tesla’s sales chief, who previously worked in the store divisions of Apple and Gap. That’s the best way to educate people about how electric cars work, how much they cost to operate and what Tesla has to offer when they eventually go car shopping, he said.
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