If there's any doubt Tesla Inc. isn't just a car company anymore, its brand-new Manhattan showroom should put it to bed. On Friday, Tesla opened a store in New York's Meatpacking District that, for the first time, will sell cars, solar panels and batteries permanently under one roof.
In a sparse, glass-walled space, the Model X crossover and Model S sedan are on display alongside solar offerings and Powerwall storage systems. A Model S sits across from a sign that reads: "Produce Your Own Clean Energy." In this store and others that Tesla's enhancing across the U.S. starting Friday, car and energy salesmen will work side-by-side.
Tesla's CEO Elon Musk took a big gamble buying SolarCity Corp. last year. It opened up the billionaire to harsh criticism from some investors who described his takeover of the solar company -- led at that time by his cousin, Lyndon Rive -- as a bailout rife with conflicts of interest.
The synergies of solar and electric vehicles weren't immediately clear, and Tesla has been working to integrate the businesses ever since, positioning itself as an energy -- not strictly a car company. The new New York store is the physical manifestation of that.
Besides an occasional pop-up, solar was rarely before available in Tesla stores. Now, potential solar customers can discuss the power products with energy-focused salespeople in person -- before or after checking out a new SUV.
If they like the pitch, a site surveyor will then be sent to their homes to finalize the plan, followed by installation. Employing energy consultants directly in stores on a permanent basis lets the company cross-sell products and puts it on the offense at a time when residential solar is slumping in the U.S. after 16 straight years of growth.
Although solar panels and the Powerwall home battery system are on display, noticeably missing from the expanded offerings in the 10,900-square-foot (1,013-square-meter) showroom is the Model 3, Tesla's more affordable and much-hyped electric sedan. Tesla began producing the Model 3 in July.
Output of the car, which starts at $35,000 before options, has been plagued by production bottlenecks, though the first non-employee customers just began getting their cars, suggesting progress on the production front.