Tesla delays production of its electric sports car

The company says it will deliver 50 Tesla Roadsters, its $98,000 all-electric sports car, in the first quarter of 2008.

Editors' note: This blog initially misstated the refund amount for people who pay $5,000 to get on the waiting list but then later cancel their order. The amount is $4,950.

Tesla Motors is pushing out production of its sports car again, but the car goes farther on a battery charge than previously expected.

The company said late Monday night that it will deliver 50 Tesla Roadsters, its $98,000 all-electric sports car, in the first quarter of 2008 and 650 in total in 2008.

Earlier this year, the company said it would try to come out with cars before the end of 2007. (In 2006 and earlier in 2007, the company was shooting for mid-2007.) Tesla also said it would try to come out with 800 cars during the first year of production.

See you next year. Michael Kanellos/CNET Networks

"We may have a few production cars built late this year, but the vast majority will come out in 2008," a company spokesman said in an e-mail. The number of cars produced may go up depending on demand, but 650 is the current goal of new interim CEO Michael Marks.

The delays will allow the company to conduct further durability and reliability tests, which can cost millions of dollars and take several months. Testing is one of the reasons that you don't see a lot of successful car start-ups, according to some car executives and investors.

In one bright spot for the company, a Tesla Roadster went 245 miles on a single charge in a recent test. That works out to 235 miles for highway driving and 255 miles a charge for city driving. (These cars, like hybrids, get better city mileage because braking recharges the battery.) Earlier this year, the company lowered its estimates from 250 miles on a charge to 200 miles.

The company also changed its waiting policy. Until now, you could join a "club" to get in line to get a car. Premium club members, or buyers, plunked down $50,000 and got priority on cars coming off the line. Patient buyers only had to put down $35,000 but had to wait behind the premium buyers. However, the full amount was refundable until three months before the car was going to be manufactured, when potential buyers had to confirm which options they wanted. If you bought the car, the club fee was applied in full to the purchase price.

Now, Tesla wants people to pay $5,000 to get on the list. You get $4,950 back if you cancel your order.

Another electric car company, Phoenix Motorcars, also had to delay its electric SUV this year.

Tesla is also providing batteries to Norway's Think, which wants to come out with an electric city car in Europe this fall.

 

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