Tesla Roadsters now rolling off production line

The anxious wait for the all-electric sports car is almost over, as manufacturing begins this summer in the United Kingdom, with an anticipated production ramp-up later this year.

The world's hippest eco-chic status symbol--the Tesla Roadster--is finally leaving the factory.

The all-electric Tesla Roadsters, priced around $100,000, are now shipping, company president and CEO Ze'ev Drori told customers on Friday. The letter was reprinted on the company blog on Saturday.

One of the 27 Tesla Roadsters undergoing final assembly in the company's Menlo Park, Calif., outlet. Tesla Motors

Drori said Tesla has "broken the logjam," beginning to manufacture Roadsters at a low volume, meaning that it will deliver about four a week. There are now about 27 Roadsters in various stages of assembly, he said.

Production, done at a Lotus plant in the United Kingdom, will remain low until September, when the company starts to incorporate its second drivetrain, Powertrain 1.5, designed to give the car better performance.

In December, the goal is to produce 100 Roadsters a month.

It's a dose of good news for Tesla's well-heeled customers, who have had to endure months of delays .

Tesla has had both technological challenges in making an all-electric car that runs on lithium-ion batteries, as well as a management turmoil, detailed in great detail in this recent Fortune report.

Click on the image to see a photo gallery of the first Roadsters in production. Corinne Schulz/CNET Networks

Tesla's largest investor, PayPal founder Elon Musk, took over control of the company last year and ousted founder Martin Eberhard as the carmaker transitioned from technological development to product shipping.

Tesla also recently named former Chrysler executive Mike Donoughe as executive vice president of vehicle engineering and manufacturing.

Tesla is, perhaps, the most high-profile green-tech company to emerge from a swell of activity in the past four years. Its problems illustrate some of the challenges in energy technology start-ups.

Unlike start-ups trying to sell to, say, electric utilities , Tesla's wealthy, techno-savvy clients are willing to shoulder some of the risk of a new product.

Drori also announced in the company blog that Tesla has opened its second store in Menlo Park, Calif., replicating the high-touch sales environment of its first store in Los Angeles . Showrooms in New York, Chicago, Miami, and Seattle are planned as well.

The Roaster will have a range of 220 miles per charge and the mileage equivalent of 135 mpg. It can go from standing still to 60 mph in less than 4 seconds.

The company is also planning to make an all-electric sedan priced at about $60,000.

Updated on July 16 with correction to the rate at which Tesla plans to make Roadsters later this year.

 

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