Tesla takes another step forward with Paris showroom, Dassault deal

PARIS -- The Arc de Triomphe is just down the street, red banners are flapping, Elon Musk is doing a television interview, and a red carpet leads to several Tesla Roadsters parked curbside.

On the eve of the Paris auto show, Tesla is opening its 14th store, making six now in Europe and eight in the United States. Tokyo and Milan, Italy, are next.Right now, things seem to be moving Tesla's way. The IPO went nicely. Musk is on the cover of the October issue of Wired. And Tesla just today announced an agreement with Dassault Systemes to upgrade vehicle development software as it readies the Model S sedan for a 2012 launch. That may be the most telling step of all. Unlike the Roadster, which is based on a Lotus, the Model S will be designed from the ground up by Tesla. In a conversation amid the hubbub, Musk says the new software is necessary to handle the additional complexity -- to become a full-fledged car company, in other words.

There are still huge obstacles to widespread use of the battery-only electric vehicles that Musk advocates. But Tesla keeps taking one step after another.

A new store here, an old Toyota-GM plant there, and -- maybe, someday -- you're talking about a real car company.