Tesla Motors will stop taking orders for its pricey Roadster sports car as it begins a tricky transition to manufacturing and selling its Model S sedan.
The electric-car company will stop taking orders for the $109,000 Roadster in two months, according to reports. A representative from Tesla said today that two months was not a firm time. Instead, it will depend on when Tesla runs out of cars for North American customers. Roadsters will continue to be available in Europe and Asia through 2012, she said.
Last week, Tesla said in a regulatory filing that it has amended its deal with Lotus, which supplies the bodies for the Roadster, until the end of January next year. The additional vehicles, or "gliders," will allow Tesla to continue sales into the first half of 2012.
The end of Roadster sales will mark the end of an era for the iconic sports car, which changed many people's views of electric vehicles. Tesla sought to recast the image of EVs as under-powered cars by designing a stylish, high-end car with world-class acceleration.
For Tesla as a company, halting Roadster shipments cuts off its main revenue source and marks an important shift to dependence on the Model S, which Tesla will manufacture in a former GM-Toyota plant in California.
The Model S is a luxury all-electric sedan designed to have a range between 160 miles and 300 miles depending on the battery pack size. Tesla earlier this year said it intends to start selling a high-end version, the Model S Signature Series, by mid-year next year. That edition will be priced $20,000 more than the $57,400 for the base Model S.
After that, Tesla will make less-expensive Model S editions available, based on the driving range. Buyers should be eligible for up to $7,500 in federal tax credits. The company received a $465 million loan from the Department of Energy for the Model S plant.
As it makes the transition to the Model S, Tesla is again first focusing on more affluent buyers willing to pay a premium for the latest in technology.
The Model S, however, will be a platform for other cars, including a planned electric crossover SUV, which is expected to be on sale in late 2013. Tesla executives have also said they intend to make electric cars priced substantially below the Model S.
Updated at 2:35 p.m. PT with comment from Tesla.