There are 52 Tesla showrooms in the U.S. and Canada. That may sound like a lot, until you consider that Ford and Chevvy have 3,000 dealerships each in the U.S. alone. So finding a Tesla store in your neighborhood is a rare thing.
In my neck of the woods there’s a Tesla store squeezed into a small corner of Roosevelt Field, an upscale suburban mall in New York. It sits adjacent to Macy’s and just across the way from a bustling Disney Store. The space isn’t much larger than your average in-mall GameStop.
Despite the iconic Tesla logo, the showroom is unassuming enough that you could almost miss it. When I wandered in, it was not particularly crowded and I wondered how many shoppers realized it was there, or even what it was selling.
Inside the store, there isn’t much: A single Tesla Model S, a Tesla S skeleton (or chassis), large posters of the Tesla Roadster and Model S in action, Tesla paraphernalia (shirts, hats, cups), some LCDs flashing with information about the all-electric vehicle, and a lot of white walls.
I’ve seen Teslas and on the road (especially in San Francisco), but I’d never really gazed at the interior. I certainly never saw the chassis up close. Here are some surprising facts I walked away with.
Tesla’s Motor Is Tiny
The Tesla Model S is even more of a rare beast. The all-electric, $110,000 sedan has been on sale in the U.S. since 2012. The car has survived more than its share of hype, praise and scorn. Tech entrepreneur Elon Musk (the Tony Stark of our generation) has the run his auto business more like a tech startup. He has been quick to tout his wins, and almost as fast to address criticism and build a better charging infrastructure.
Since this is a new kind of car, we shouldn’t be surprised to find that it’s marketed and sold unlike other automobiles. You probably won’t find your local Tesla dealer alongside an endless line of competitor car vendors. More likely you’ll find it, as I did, in a mall.
Walking around the Tesla Model S, I noticed that instead of a motor under the hood, the dealership had filled the space with presents and the trunk has seats, not a motor. But a look at the chassis (above) reveals a tiny induction motor (Tesla literature describes it as about the size “of a watermelon”) sitting on the axel between the two rear wheels.
The Dash Is Almost All Screen
The interior of the Model S is monopolized by the largest in-dash touch screen you have even seen. Imagine taking your desktop computer monitor, flipping it to portrait mode and jamming it into your car, and you get the idea. According to Tesla’s spec sheet, this touch display is where you’ll manage media, communications, and cabin controls (like heat and cooling).
It’s More Like a Hatchback
Even though the Model S looks like a sedan, the trunk is open to the rest of the cabin and features a pair of Jump Seats. They do fold down.
The “Trunk” Is Up Front
Like the classic VW Bug, the Model S’s “trunk” is up front. Lift up the hood and you’ll find 5.3 cubic ft. storage space.
The Door Handles Disappear
When I touched the door handles, I noticed that they’re not exactly screwed onto the Tesla body. That’s because they all retract into the Tesla body as soon as you start driving to give the Tesla Model S just a bit more aerodynamic oomph.
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