Tesla Plans New Roadster For 2014By John O'Dell November 1, 2011
Despite earlier reports that Tesla Motors would stop selling its electric Roadster in the United States around the end September, the company still has a couple dozen of the $109,000 two-seat EVs available for U.S. sales and expects to launch a replacement sports car sometime in 2014. Tesla had said in a regulatory filing in June that it was discontinuing U.S. sales of the Roadster (above) this year to focus its energies on production of the upcoming Tesla Model S all-electric sedan. The company said at the time that Roadster sales would continue in Europe and Asia until supplies run out sometime in 2012. Tesla had also noted that production of European and Asian versions of the iconic electric sports car, which is based on a heavily modified Lotus Elise platform, would continue under contract with Lotus Group until a total of 2,500 had been built.
The promise of a replacement for the discontinued Roadster is not new Tesla chief Elon Musk said last year that the company would launch a new sports car as soon as 2013, following the mid-2012 introduction of its $57,400 (base) Model S. The battery-electric sedan is aimed at competing in the luxury-performance segment against cars like the BMW 5 Series. He reiterated in a recent interview with Britains AutoCar magazine that that a new sports car is coming but said the launch wont be until 2014. The new car is to be based on a version of the Tesla-developed all-aluminum Model S platform. Musk also repeated Teslas plans to build a convertible version of the Model S and to launch a third line of Tesla EVs, the X cars, that will be positioned in the upscale compact segment.
Roadster Still Produced
Teslas announcement that it would halt North American sales of the Roadster this year was widely interpreted to mean that production of the car also would stop. But Tesla spokesman Ricardo Reyes told AutoObserver in a recent interview that the company has extended its contract with Lotus by 900 cars to 2,500 from the original 1,600 -- and expects Roadster production to continue into next year. That suggests that the company believes it will take the better part of 14 months to sell the final 900 models overseas.
Reyes reiterated Teslas earlier rational -- Its an inventory issue -- for continuing European and Asian sales while halting sales in the United States. With the Model S due to hit Teslas U.S. showrooms in the first half of next year, he said, Tesla wanted to focus efforts on promoting and selling the new car rather than on continued sales here of the Roadster. European and Asian dealers will continue to receive Roadsters until late in 2012 because they wont get the Model S until the end of that year and need something to offer customers until then, Reyes said.
Lotus Plans Unchanged
The production contract with Lotus will expire after Roadster 2,500, Reyes said. Lotus already has stopped production of the North American version of the Elise and a spokesman for Lotus Group said the extension for Tesla wont breath new life into the discontinued North American models of the Lotus roadster and its Exige coupe version. Those cars were halted when a U.S. exemption from federal air bag rules expired Aug. 31 and Lotus decided not to rework the design and engineering of the platform to permit air bags to be installed.
Lotus continues, however, to build the Elise for other markets in a version equipped with a new 1.6-liter engine that replaces the Toyota-sourced 1.8-liter engine the Japanese automaker recently stopped building. Lotus Cars USA spokesman Kevin Smith told AutoObserver that the company also intends to resume production of the Exige coupe but with a supercharged 3.5-liter V6. While still not legal for street use in the United States and Canada because it lacks advanced air bags, the new Lotus Exige S will be imported here in limited numbers as a track-only race car, Smith said.