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Originally published May 21, 2009 at 12:00 AM | Page modified May 21, 2009 at 2:02 PM

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Tesla announces showroom in Seattle

After hitting a slick patch and nearly sliding off the track, Tesla Motors has regained its grip and is roaring back to Seattle.

Seattle Times senior technology reporter

After hitting a slick patch and nearly sliding off the track, Tesla Motors has regained its grip and is roaring back to Seattle.

The Silicon Valley manufacturer of electric supercars is announcing today that it's opening a regional showroom and service facility in South Lake Union, just around the corner from the massive new Amazon.com headquarters campus.

By September the company will be selling its $101,500 battery-powered roadsters from a restored brick warehouse at 425 Westlake Ave., one of the first three to open outside of California.

"It's a perfect fit for our company, being in that location," said Alexander Pulver, a former Barrier Porsche salesman who will manage the facility.

It's also a striking contrast to the fate of old-line dealerships that are closing around the country as the auto industry goes through a massive restructuring.

Seattle's unusually high concentration of wealthy environmentalists who love fast cars made it a breakout market for Tesla, which began producing the roadsters in early 2008.

Among the dozens of early buyers here were numerous current and former Microsoft employees, including co-founder and South Lake Union developer Paul Allen. Yet Tesla is occupying one of the few buildings in the neighborhood not owned by Allen.

Last fall Tesla decided to open a regional sales and service facility in the Seattle area by June, but the plans took longer than expected to finalize.

First the money-losing company had to ensure its survival.

Tesla's backed by PayPal co-founder Elon Musk and an A list of Silicon Valley investors, but it recently has struggled to raise capital.

Earlier this year it canceled plans for a factory in San Jose, Calif., where it was going to build a new sedan scheduled for release in 2011.

It's now seeking $450 million in federal funding and this week received a major investment from Germany's Daimler, which acquired a 10 percent stake in Tesla.

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So far about 450 roadsters have been delivered, and Tesla is building 20 to 25 per week. They're built mostly by Lotus in England and finished in California.

The roadster has a carbon-fiber body and goes from zero to 60 mph in 3.9 seconds. It gets 244 miles per charge, according to the company.

Pulver said about 500 customers are still waiting for roadsters and more than 1,200 deposits have been placed for the $50,000 Model S sedan.

Tesla began selling to Canadian customers a few months ago and deliveries to Europe begin next month.

Seattle's showroom may have one of the handful of prototype sedans to display, along with a roadster for potential customers to drive, Pulver said.

About five people will be employed selling and servicing vehicles for customers in the Northwest.

Until Tesla opens a store in Vancouver, B.C., Seattle will also serve its customers in western Canada.

Tesla now has stores in Los Angeles and Menlo Park, Calif. It's preparing to open stores this summer in Chicago and London, followed by the Seattle store and another in Manhattan.

Later in the year it's heading to Miami, Munich, Monaco and Washington, D.C., although perhaps the latter will get higher priority if the loans come through.

Brier Dudley: 206-515-5687 or bdudley@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2009 The Seattle Times Company

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