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Tesla Opens Saturday at Bellevue Square

Two Tesla models, the Roadster and the forthcoming Model S, will be on display at the interactive store for customers to check out at the opening Saturday, Nov. 5

The new Tesla store in is set to open Saturday, Nov. 5, with a host of interactive features to introduce customers to electric cars in general.

Visitors can check out the Tesla Roadster and Model S in person over the weekend.

Tesla Vice President of Sales and Ownership Experience George Blankenship will be on hand himself to welcome the first visitors to the Palo Alto, Calif.-based company’s 20th store worldwide.

“I wouldn’t miss it for the world,” Blankenship said Thursday. He said a big turnout is anticipated—last weekend in Houston, more than 6,000 people came by the opening of a store there to check it out.

Volume is one of the goals Tesla has in mind in locating its retail stores in high volume locations such as malls, said Khobi Brooklyn, senior communications manager for Tesla.

“A really big part of this store is to educate people on the benefits of driving electric,” Brooklyn said.

The store has interactive touch-screen displays that show and tell how the car works, from its single-gear motor and simple drive train, to its history and testimonials from customers. Another display gives people a chance to virtually design their own Tesla Model S, choosing colors, roof treatments, and wheel styles, then placing their creation “in the wild” on another screen so they can see what it “would look like in your driveway,” she said.

The opening of the store, located on the second floor of the mall, will be a family-friendly event, complete with Tesla balloons and coloring crayons, and a chance for everyone to hop into a Roadster or the a Signature edition of the forthcoming Model S and test out the touch-screen control panel. The screen was designed in-house by people brought in from Apple, and is as clear and easy to use as a tablet computer, Brooklyn said. The engaging retail strategy was itself designed by Blankenship, a former executive at Apple and The Gap who was in charge of creating the ’ interactive experience.

The Model S is Tesla’s newest, a sedan that can seat seven passengers, two in the front, three in the back seat, and another two in pull-down rear-facing seats with six-point harnesses at the rear of the car, says Lance Martin, the new store’s manager. The new model has three different options for battery power, and is designed so that it can plug in anywhere, without needing a special charging station. It also includes a quick charge function that can bring it up to near-full battery capacity in about 45 minutes, she said.

On Thursday, the Tesla store was already generating buzz, with curious people stopping to peer in, or to test out the red Roadster parked outside the store in the mall. The Model S will be available sometime next year, and the model in the store was brought in especially for the opening this weekend, but Tesla is currently taking pre-orders for the car. Martin said customers can put down a refundable $5,000 deposit to reserve the car After the weekend, the Roadster will become the store’s display car until the sedan is released.

Martin said there are numerous benefits to electric vehicles, and the store will be staffed by four product experts and three management staff to talk to people who are interested in learning more. Among the benefits, he said, are low maintenance costs—no oil changes required, for example—and the simple single gear motor.

“It’s like you’re driving a giant drill,” he said.

The Bellevue location will become Tesla’s primary showroom in the area. The company’s other local location, in West Seattle, will continue to provide service. For Tesla owners who live out of town, the company has Service Rangers, who make house calls for those occasions when help might be needed, even to other cities in Eastern Washington or Idaho, but Tesla spokeswoman K.C. Simon said those occasions are fairly rare.

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