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Exclusive interview with Bryan Batista, EU sales director, Tesla Motors

07 August 2013

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Tesla Motors is gearing up for the European market, opening stores and service centers across. Since July Tesla has been assembling the Model S in the south of the Netherlands, and will start delivery of the European version of the Model S in August. cars21.com took the opportunity to talk to Bryan Batista, EU Sales Director, during the opening of the first store in Brussels a few weeks ago. + VIDEO

cars21.com: How is the Model S coming to Europe?

Bryan Batista: The car is shipped in parts: the chassis, the body interior, wheels, the battery and the drive train. The parts have already been arriving in Europe since early July. They are delivered in Tilburg, in the south of the Netherlands, where our assembly facility is. European customers will start to receive their Model S in August.

cars21.com: In terms of volume, can we already know how many cars in Europe you expect to deliver for this year?

Bryan Batista: We cannot share that information, but I can say that it is in the thousands.

cars21.com: Brussels is the center of Europe, are you here to increase your visibility or is it because you have many customers in Belgium?

Bryan Batista: It is both. We do already have many customers in Belgium. We had over 50 Roadster owners. We have a few hundred orders for the Model S. In addition to that, this market demonstrates big potential with lots of large luxury sedans being sold in Belgium. In addition Brussels is the capital of Europe, the home of the European Commission, so we also want to make a statement by being here, in front of the people who make decisions for the rest of Europe.

cars21.com: In Europe, besides Belgium, where are the big markets and are these markets large because of incentives or developed infrastructure?

Bryan Batista: You have these markets like Norway or the Netherlands, which are incentive-driven and infrastructure-driven but at the same time progressive thinking towards EVs drives them. It is this thinking that has brought the incentive and the infrastructure. They understand EVs, they believe it is the future and they behave in that way. These are the main EV markets, but then there is a group of traditionally large automotive markets in Europe, such as Germany, France, and the UK for example. We need to pay attention to these traditional markets too because there is no way we will be successful in Europe without also being successful in the big volume markets.

cars21.com: The European Commission has recently launched a proposal about developing EV infrastructure, with a minimum number of charging points per country in Europe. How do you feel your Supercharger network could fit into that proposal? Do you think the Supercharger network will significantly help increase European sales?

Bryan Batista: We plan to cover most of Western Europe with our Supercharger network. This will be regardless of what the European Commission decides in terms of its own participation in these types of network. Of course we always encourage the Comission’s participation and support but this is something we pledged to our customers and that we will deliver on in order to make their driving experience better. The Supercharger network in Europe will be launched later this year.

I think it will definitely help with sales. With Tesla, something we have always been very addressing are the barriers to the purchase of EVs. In the past they have been: EVs tend to be ugly, tend to be slow, they tend to have bad performance and not be very usable. With the Model S we changed the rules, by putting on the market a beautiful car that performs better than the others, which is extremely usable, extremely connected and in addition it goes far.

However, we want it to go even further. We want to be able to answer the customers who ask: How do I get to the south of France? How do I go to Tuscany? How do I drive from Brussels to Berlin? With the Supercharger network, we have a way to do that and it knocks down another barrier to the purchase our EVs, so it is important for us to do so and we are confident that it will drive sales in Europe.

The first stations will be opening in Norway in the next few months and besides Norway we will also launch a few other stations in Western Europe in 2013.

cars21.com: Do you think that the Supercharger network is complementary to battery switching are these two different things?

Bryan Batista: Elon has mentioned that we will build a pilot battery swapping station somewhere on the West Coast in the US. There are no plans for Europe yet as we need to see how things run. For the time being the focus is on the Supercharger network.

cars21.com: How important for you are the incentives such as tax credits, free parking, access to bus lanes. Do you think people are more interested by financial or non-financial incentives?

Bryan Batista: I think they are both important. The initial barrier to purchase is still the price; so being able to bring down the price with cash or tax rebates is typically the easiest thing to sell on. Not all customers can take an advantage of car pool lanes or bus lanes or parking lots in certain parts of the city, but everyone likes a discount so I think in the end the tax or cash rebate are the most appealing to customers. However, a well-rounded incentive plan which also allows EVs to use bus lanes and to use parking structures is also important and I think we will see more of those coming over time. We will probably see financial incentives phase down and more parking and driving incentives in the future.

cars21.com: Thank you very much!



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