Tesla in the UK: What to expect from the automaker

California-based Tesla is an automaker that sells luxury electric vehicles, and it started with the Tesla Roadster.

Founded by innovator Elon Musk, Tesla has seen a lot of success as of late with its Model S, a fully electric luxury sedan that has caught the eyes of the public, even if it has an expensive price tag. It's a vehicle that has garnered a slew of awards, including the best safety rating of any car ever tested by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) in the US. It also won "Car of the Year" from Motor Trend, and word from Consumer Reports is that the Model S is the best car it ever tested.  

The company is on a tear, too: Tesla announced its first time of profitability in the first quarter of 2013. Tesla can thank its reach into the US, which has been steadily growing, along with its rising stock, as investors want to bank off the company's success.

Musk says he wants to eventually begin mass-producing fully electric cars at a price affordable to the average consumer, but first the company needs to expand outside of the US and into other parts of the globe. The next area for the "safest car in America" is the UK.

By the end of 2014

Financial Times says Telsa plans to accelerate its expansion in the UK by the end of next year. The company is working with Bollore SA, an industrial group based out of France, to build factories in the UK to meet demand for the Model S.

Demand for the vehicle in the UK is expected to be abundant like elsewhere - just look at sales. Musk and Co. have raked in over 15,000 electric vehicles sales to customers in 31 countries, including its earlier Roadster model, which is pretty impressive for a company that is still growing.

Tesla CEO Elon Musk said the company will be aiming to deliver 50 Model S cars a week initially in the UK, building to 100 a week over time. He also revealed that there are plans for battery pack swapping for the Model S to come to the UK after a launch in the US.

It won't be only building cars in the UK, Tesla will also need to build an infrastructure like it has in California.

Supercharger network

Given the Model S can only travel roughly 265 miles on a single charge (Performance model), a charging network is required. Tesla plans to rollout a complete network of its superchargers in the UK by the end of 2014 - letting drivers travel around the country without worry they'll run out of charge.

“We’re going to establish a supercharger network throughout the UK," Musk told the Financial Times. "So you’ll be able to travel anywhere in the UK, anywhere at all, using our supercharger network. I am hopeful, and we will certainly aspire to this, to have the whole of the UK done by the end of next year. So it’s quite rapid.”

Tesla’s 120 kW DC Superchargers can charge the Model S in 20 minutes - roughly 20 times faster than other charging stations would take to do the same. Tesla's West Coast Supercharger Corridor opened in October, letting drivers travel freely between San Diego and Vancouver, Canada.

"Superchargers are located near amenities like roadside diners, cafes, and shopping centers," Tesla says. "Road trippers can stop for a quick meal and have their Model S charged when they’re done."

What is the Model S?

The Model S, Tesla's pride and joy, began shipping in the US in 2012, and it expanded to Norway, Switzerland and the Netherlands in August. It's an all electric, full-sized, five-door hatchback available in three models.

The 60 kWh battery version offers a 208 mile battery range, 302 horsepower, 0 - 60 in 5.9 seconds, and a top speed of 120mph. The 85 kWh battery version offers a 265 mile battery range, 362 horsepower engine, 0 - 60 in the 5.4 seconds, and a top speed of 124mph. The P85 performance model offers upgraded horsepower to 416, going 0-60 in 4.2 seconds with a 130mph top speed.

The 60 and 85 models currently deliver in about two to three months for available areas and one-month priority for the P85 model. In the US, prices range from $62,400 and go up well over $100,000 for all the options.

The inside of the Model S is a big change over other vehicles on the market. There's a 17-inch touchscreen in the middle of the dash that brings all of the information to a driver. In the US, AT&T data is available for web browsing, and the Model S is one of the only cars to download a software update over-the-air.

"The touchscreen, digital instrument cluster, and steering wheel controls seamlessly integrate media, navigation, communications, cabin controls and vehicle data," Tesla says. "From the moment you open the door, the high-resolution Model S touchscreen powers on and returns to its last function. The most commonly used controls line the bottom of the screen for easy access any time and connectivity keeps you connected while on the go."

Musk has revealed the UK will be its first market for right-hand-drive Model S cars. The base Model S will be £55,000 ($89,000) including Value-Added Tax, "or a bit below". Customers in the UK will see roughly £5,000 off the Model S, thanks to the British government's Plug-In-Car Grant, offering an incentive to electric vehicle purchasers.

The signs are already going up

Tesla kicked-off its UK expansion with the opening of a showroom in London in October. Located in the Westfield Mall, Tesla is hoping to target potential Model S buyers by letting them gawk over the vehicle before it launches in 2014. Tesla has announced plans for 30 more stores across Europe, and we assume that means more for the UK in 2014.

How's Tesla's performance compared to other automakers?

Tesla is being watched closely by pundits to see if it can become the next Ford or General Motors.

Over the summer, Tesla sold only about 2,000 cars per month but reported a $70 million profit. In the same quarter GM sold roughly 275,000 cars and earned $1.2 billion in revenue. Its market capitalisation puts Tesla to shame by about 2.5 times at $51.8 billion. Ford sold 221,000 cars during the quarter and notched a $2.6 billion profit in the quarter, expanding to a market cap of $68 billion - three times Tesla's worth.

But Tesla continues to rise and is putting pressure on big name manufacturers to step up their game in the electric vehicle space. Tesla is still young in the space, and some pundits have pegged its stock at $1,000 per share by 2020 as it continues to grow and expand. 

How about a Tesla sedan?

Tesla has introduced a Model X crossover, expected to go into production in the US in 2014. It not only features stylish "Falcon Wings" doors, dual motor all-wheel drive, and 0-60 speed in less-than 4.5 seconds, but the Model X also features an awesome 17-inch touchscreen in the dash that gives the driver and passengers full control of the automobile. There's even Google Voice integration and a full webkit browser that connects, thanks to an AT&T dataplan. The dataplan also delivers software updates to the ride.

Like the Model S, Tesla's Model X sedan will suffer a delay to come into the UK and won't reach the British mainland until late 2015 or 2016. It is expected to start at about $60,000 (£40,000) and max out at $100,000 - including a $5,000 down payment.