Tesla has opened its largest North American sales and service centre to date, in Montreal.
The California-based maker of electric cars has dealerships in Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver, and charging stations in Quebec City, Cornwall, Ont., and in the Toronto and Vancouver areas.
The 45,000-square-foot Montreal location, formerly a Chrysler dealership, replaces a smaller location that was Tesla's entry to the Quebec market.
The Montreal sales and service centre sells the Model S, a luxury sedan with a range of more than 400 kilometres and price tag in excess of $85,000 Cdn.
Jérôme Guillen, Tesla’s vice-president of sales and service, says the electric car can take advantage of one of Quebec’s most abundant resources, its hydro.
“We are delighted because the mission of Tesla is to accelerate the transition to sustainable modes of transportation,” he said in an interview with Radio-Canada.
Tesla technology is continually improving and ultimately could result in a self-driving car, Guillen said.
The company, headed up by Canadian CEO Elon Musk, is expanding rapidly, with a new lithium battery plant being built in Nevada that is expected to improve the range of the cars.
The Montreal service centre is unlikely to remain its largest centre for long, as it expands its network of services across North America.
Tesla plans on selling a cheaper model of its cars designed for the mass market in the coming years. That's going to be an important development for the company, experts say.
“Electric vehicles at this time still have three barriers to overcome before they really appeal to everyone: the range is too small in general, the recharge time is very long and there is always the question of price,” said Benoit Charette, editor in chief of L'Annuel de l'automobile.
Tesla is believed to have sold no more than about 300 vehicles in Quebec, far fewer than cheaper hybrid vehicle the Chevrolet Volt, which costs only about $36,000.
The Tesla remains a niche product, said Yan Cimon, a business professor at Laval University.
“They are not within the reach of all budgets and there are an increase number of alternative vehicles which can reduce fuel consumption,” he said.
A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that Tesla's Montreal facility is a dealership. In fact, it's a sales and service centre — the company does not sell its cars via the traditional dealership model.Dec 11, 2014 9:10 AM ET