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In New Sales Pitch, Tesla Roadster Checks In at Canary Hotel

High-end electric car company aims to use hotel as local showroom of sorts for potential buyers

The makers of a $101,500 electric sports car came to Santa Barbara’s Canary Hotel on Sunday to show off their zero-to-60-in-3.7-seconds product in a bid to attract a little attention and perhaps some high-end buyers.

Depending on demand, the hotel at 31 W. Carrillo St. will start taking appointments every six to eight weeks from potential Tesla car buyers who may want to take a test drive around Santa Barbara before placing an order for one of the striking vehicles. Since 2008, only about 1,000 of the cars have been sold around the world.

“We’ve done press events for new cars in the past, but nothing like this,” Canary Hotel general manager Laura McIver said Sunday while several media members and potential buyers took test drives in a $145,000 Tesla Roadster. “Our market is a big drive market.”

Several onlookers who watched the Tesla test drives around State Street cheered and remarked, “Nice car.”

The hotel has installed two electric-vehicle charging stations for Teslas, which will benefit guests who drive those models and other battery-powered cars charged during their stay, McIver said.

“It’s a great fit for the Canary,” she said.

McIver said Tesla has a dealership in Los Angeles, but company officials want to spread the brand around places like the South Coast, where more buyers can afford such a vehicle.

“It’s a great way for hotels to attract customers,” said Tesla sales adviser Adam Slusser. “It brings business into the hotel.”

By mid-2011, Slusser said, Tesla may start bringing its newer sedans to the Canary. The Tesla Model S sedan has a starting price of about half of the Roadster’s, he said. The Roadster brought to Santa Barbara on Sunday has a base price of $101,500, after a $7,500 federal tax credit, but included a tony leather interior and other amenities.

Tesla was started in 2003 with the goal to “show the world that electric cars don’t have to compromise on design, performance or engineering,” said Tesla marketing official Khobi Brooklyn in San Francisco.

“Tesla’s purpose is to create more and more affordable, mainstream electric vehicles for mass-market consumers,” Brooklyn said. The company started with the Roadster to appeal to “early adopters and technology pioneers, who by purchasing the sports car have made it possible for Tesla to continue developing its technology and cars,” she said.

“The Roadster was a way for us to showcase and prove our electric power train,” Brooklyn said.

Slusser said the Tesla has at least 88 percent efficiency, while most internal-combustion vehicle have less than 20 percent efficiency.

“The Roadster was the only highway-capable electric car for sale and in serial production until very recently,” Brooklyn said. “Mitsubishi sells (such) a car in Japan now.”

The Tesla Roadster accelerates from zero to 60 mph in 3.7 seconds, faster than many sports cars and more efficient than a hybrid, company officials said. It is powered by a liquid-cooled battery pack, made up of 6,831 lithium-ion cells, which are similar to those found in laptop computers. It delivers 295 foot-pounds of torque — a measurement that shows how quickly it can accelerate — and has an electronically governed top speed of 125 mph.

The car’s charger is built onboard the car, which plugs into conventional 110- or 220-volt electrical outlets. Owners can charge their cars virtually anywhere in as little as four hours. The cars can travel 244 miles on a full charge, based on EPA testing of highway and city driving.

“You can charge it with solar panels at your home,” Slusser said.

Noozhawk business writer Ray Estrada can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

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