The stores themselves will be divided into several distinct areas:
-- The intake area will give shoppers basic information about electric vehicles, including a demonstration of how to plug a recharging cable into a car, as well as background on Tesla Motors. "Teslamonials" from current owners will be included.
-- In the "build your own" space, shoppers will configure their desired vehicles. Molds of cars in different colors will be hung on the wall, as well as fabrics and samples of accent colors. Shoppers will pluck their choices from the wall and put them in a tray, then move to another section of the store where they can view their car on a large video screen.
-- Shoppers who go ahead with a purchase will complete the deal on a computer screen. The closing room will be nontraditional, he says: "It's not going to look like you're going to the finance office where they're going to try to sell you undercoating."
There will be little inventory, although test drives will be available. Service will be housed in separate locations in many markets, and mobile service technicians called Rangers also will make house calls, Blankenship says.
He says the company will expand its network as it prepares for the Model S, which has a projected U.S. volume of 20,000 units annually. That may require a change in Tesla's current model of company-owned stores, a practice that is banned in some states.
Asked about that issue, a Tesla spokeswoman said in an e-mail that the company will continue to refine its retail strategy: "We are taking a store-by-store, state-by-state approach when it comes to legislation."