Tesla opens its doors in Auckland but affordable Model 3 still long way off

The service centre at the new Karangahape Rd showroom.

A year after it was initially expected, Tesla will finally open the doors to its new showroom and service centre in central Auckland this evening.

The electric vehicle maker has been in New Zealand since the start of last year, but making do with a boxy pop-up presence in New North Rd.

The new facility is spread across 2019sq m on three floors of a newly renovated building off Karangahape Rd, with a snug showroom at street level, a cavernous service centre below and ranks of superchargers in the basement (see photos below).

Tesla's home energy product line, which includes Powerwall batteries, can also be viewed. However, in this instance, Telsa is not getting high on its own supply. The leased space is not powered by solar.

Wait times
Tesla Australia-NZ communications manager Heath Walker says those who order a Tesla Model S (121,395-214,6450) or Model X ($121,345-244,345) today will be waiting around two months; the exact time depends on their specs and level of customisation. If they're happy with a model Tesla has in stock, they can take possession in around two weeks.

But those after the more affordable Model 3 (which sells from around $US35,000) are in for an indeterminant wait.

The exterior.

Auckland man Paul Spain tells NBR he plonked down the $US1500 required to go on the Model 3 wait-list just a couple of months after the vehicle was announced in March 2016. He's still waiting patiently, and he has a while to go.

Mr Walker says production of the right-hand drive version of the 3 will begin in June next year. Delivery for New Zealanders would be at some point after that. He said the Model 3 backlog reached more than 400,000 in the months after the vehicle's launch but would not comment on its exact scale today.

Telsa said during its recent first-quarter result that its overall backlog now stands at around 450,000 vehicles overall; its production is now more than 5000 a week. 

A Model X and "skateboard chassis in the showroom.

New superchargers
Mr Walker also announced three new supercharger locations: the new service centre, plus Queenstown and 168km north in Omarama. All will open tomorrow and join three superchargers in Hamilton, Taupo and Palmerston North.

The ultimate aim is to build a north-to-south trunk of superchargers down the whole country, Mr Walker says, then branch out from there. He would not offer a timetable.

A supercharger provides a half-charge in 30 minutes, allowing a Telsa to travel another 270km or so. The company also has 75 slower "destination" chargers in the likes of shopping malls and carparks (mapped here).

The service centre.

As ever, Tesla won't comment on sales figures but MIA figures show it sold 244 vehicles in New Zealand last year, making it easily the largest brand in the pure-EV category, despite being easily the most expensive (see more on the latest sales figures here).

A government EV incentive package that includes perks such as the ability to drive in bus lanes and no road user chargers has helped the US company get off to a fast start, despite its limited presence so far.

Meanwhile, Auckland's new regional fuel tax will provide a stick to go along with the carrots.

Some superchargers.

Batteries warranted for eight years
Mr Walker says the new centre will service all Teslas, including those imported by individuals or third parties (a point worth noting after the recent controversy over degraded batteries in imported Nissan Leaf vehicles).

There have been a lot of reader questions about battery life and warranty. 

Mr Walker says a new Tesla's batteries are warranted for eight years with unlimited kilometres.

He would not give a price for replacing them when they ultimately wore out, saying it was impossible to pick what the price would be in eight years' time when production levels would be much higher.

Certainly, it's hard to pick where Tesla will be in eight years' time. The US company continues to be one of the world's most intriguing enterprises while it wrestles with speed wobbles as it ramps up from startup to mass automobile manufacturer, fights PR fires like the recent flaming Model S clip, and attracts attention from mainstream car makers – all of whom are expanding their own EV efforts.

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