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Tesla Only Sells 10 Cars a Week, But Still Has Plans to Build a Cabriolet, Van, and SUV

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Tesla Motors’ well-publicized struggle with growing pains is something of a soap opera. There’s divorce, bankruptcy, plane crashes, sports cars, and lots of uncertainty–and the longer we watch, the more complicated things seem to get. With the EV startup set to launch its initial public offering next week, the juicy tidbits keep coming. The latest: while Tesla is only selling approximately 10 cars per week,  the company is still planning to sell Cabriolet, van, and SUV models sometime in the future.

Michael Kanellos of Greentech Media calculated Tesla’s sales from the company’s initial and amended S-1 filings. He explains his calculations:

In the first quarter of the year, Tesla sold a total of 126 cars,
according to a four-digit subtraction equation (with borrowing)
undertaken by editors at Greentech Media. At the end of 2009, the
company had cumulatively sold 937 cars,
according to the initial S-1 filing, a prelude to an initial public
offering, filed in March. In the amended S-1 filed June 15, the company
said it had sold a total of 1,063 production cars to customers since the start of the company through March 31, 2010. 1,063 minus 937 comes to 126 cars sold in the first quarter of 2010.
With thirteen weeks in the first quarter, that comes to 9.7 cars sold a
week.

Note that these are only sales figures for the Tesla Roadster, which costs a prohibitive $109,000. And 3,940 customers have already put down $5,000 deposits for the Model S sedan, set to be released in 2012.

All in all, these are modest numbers. And yet Tesla seems to think that it will be able to expand its EV empire to include dealerships in 50 major metropolitan markets by the time the Model S is released. The company plans to release other vehicle models as well. Wired Autopia points us to this statement from the Retail Roadshow:

We intend to design the Model S with an adaptable platform architecture and common electric powertrain that we can use to create future electric vehicle models, such as a crossover/sport utility vehicle, a van or a cabriolet. We believe this strategy will enable us to introduce future models faster and in a more capital efficient manner than incumbent automobile manufacturers have been able to achieve in introducing traditional internal combustion vehicles.

It’s true that an adaptable platform will make it easier for Tesla to roll out new models quickly, and we genuinely want to see this ultra-idealistic company succeed. But so far, Tesla has only proven adept at making big promises.  The success of the upcoming Model S sedan will ultimately decide the fate of the company.

Ariel Schwartz can be reached on Twitter or by email.

About the author

Ariel Schwartz is a Senior Editor at Co.Exist. She has contributed to SF Weekly, Popular Science, Inhabitat, Greenbiz, NBC Bay Area, GOOD Magazine and more.

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