Business / Motoring video

Detroit Auto Show: Tesla grabs the spotlight

( Updated: 2013-01-18 11:19

The world's carmakers are in Detroit this week for North America's largest auto show, where manufacturers showcase their best and latest developments. One small newcomer to the auto world, however, is causing quite a stir.

The Tesla Model S was this year's automotive surprise. The luxury sedan won two car-of-the-year awards, including Motor Trend magazine's. It's the first time an electric vehicle beat out gas-powered cars for the prestigious honor.

Elon Musk, Tesla Founder & CEO, said, "Previously electric cars have had lots of problems - they've been generally not very good-looking, sometimes quite ugly, they've been slow, low-range, low performance and just generally undesirable. It was critical to break the mold and show that an electric car be fundamentally the best car in the world."

The cheapest Model S will cost you more than $52,000. Only 13,000 of them had sold through September, but Musk says the demand's actually stronger than he expected.

Elon Musk, Tesla Founder & CEO, said, "Right now if you place a reservation for a Model S it can take up to six months to get the car, because we have an order backlog. It's a good problem to have, for sure."

Tesla is installing a network of solar-powered superchargers across the United States with the goal of making it possible to travel long hauls like the 1,500-km Miami-to-Boston trip or 1200-km from L-A to Vancouver, on electricity only, and free-of-charge.

Tom Libby, Lead Analyst, Polk Automotive, said, "The jury is still out. They're not yet making money, the volumes are too small, and they need to market the car and expand their volume and we'll see how it goes, but they have created their own niche."

Tesla is expanding its sales force and charging infrastructure throughout Asia. The company announced here in Detroit that it plans to open its first store in China this spring in Beijing. Musk says the goal is to eventually assemble the cars and as many parts as it can in China as well.

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