Tesla to host grand opening of its Burbank showroom

Singer Dale Bozzio’s distinctive squeaky voice came over the radio, crooning about how only a nobody walks in Los Angeles, as soon as Jeremy Snyder started the Tesla Model S P90D in the showroom of the new Tesla Motors Inc. location near the site of a future IKEA store in Burbank.

In the Missing Persons’ 1983 single “Walking in L.A.,” Bozzio wonders if L.A. smog is playing tricks on her eyes or if she sees somebody who just ran out of gas, “making his way back to the pumps the best way he can.”

The irony is, the Model S runs on electricity, recharged in a wall outlet nightly like a cellphone, Snyder said, and it produces zero emissions.

This weekend marks the grand opening of the showroom and service center at 811 S. San Fernando Blvd., where customers can explore options for paint color, interior decor, seating and other trim, as well as design their dream Tesla using touch-screen monitors.

Sometime soon, it will also offer superchargers and a 24-hour owners’ lounge.

Mary Hamzoian, Burbank’s economic development manager, said the new location is “huge” for Burbank.

The city has embraced electric-vehicle technology and last month, utility officials celebrated the installation of curbside chargers in eight spots throughout the city, adding to the city’s existing parking lot chargers. Also, last week, city officials approved plans to put chargers at Bob Hope Airport.

Sticker price for the Model S starts at $70,000, and Snyder, Tesla’s general manager for the southwest region, said the stores offer a no-haggling environment. Customers can place an order in the store or online from their computer or smartphone. Virtually all Teslas are custom orders, with delivery from the factory in as little as five to eight weeks, Snyder said.

Unlike a dealership, there’s no lot full of shiny new cars waiting to be sold, though there are a few models on display and available for a test drive.

There were no test drives booked for Friday afternoon, said store manager Michael Sagaria, but he put dealer plates on the P90D so Snyder could demonstrate its science fiction-sounding features, such as autopilot, which became available last week, and a $10,000 “ludicrous mode” option that makes it capable of reaching 60 mph in 2.8 seconds.

“It’s the fastest production sedan,” he said. “It’s one of the fastest vehicles ever made and also one of the most efficient.”

The vehicle’s sport mode is “a little less ludicrous,” he said.

The Burbank location is one of several in the Los Angeles area, but Snyder said the closest sales locations to Burbank before this week were in Pasadena or Topanga. According to the company website, which hadn’t yet been updated with the Burbank location as of Friday afternoon, there is a service center in Van Nuys.

The company wanted a more convenient spot for studio executives and entertainment industry professionals who he said tend to be early adopters of Teslas because of their sleek aesthetics and environmentally-friendly qualities.

He wouldn’t disclose numbers, but he said there are already “thousands” of Tesla owners in the store’s vicinity.

There are currently more than 90,000 Teslas on the road worldwide, said Tesla spokeswoman Alexis Georgeson.

“Our upcoming Burbank location is a testament to the fact we believe the area will continue to be a strong market for us,” she said.

Snyder said it will employ about 30 to 40 workers. According to job ads on the Tesla Motors website seeking service technicians and sales people, employees are expected to have a passion for electric vehicles and “the ability to create exceptional customer experiences.”

An eight-year Tesla employee, Snyder is a Model S owner and electric vehicle evangelist. In an hour visit, he cited the company’s mission to accelerate the adoption of electric vehicles several times.

He shrugged off as “overblown” the news this week that Consumer Reports had withdrawn its recommendation for the Model S in light of “worse-than-average” reliability ratings. He said Tesla owners are passionate about the cars and 97% of owners said they’d buy their next car from Tesla.

He also said that in two years of owning a Tesla, he’s had no problems with it.

He also touted the high level of satisfaction owners report with the company’s customer service.

Snyder set a course for the Golden State (5) Freeway where he could engage the autopilot feature, a self-driving feature that accelerates, brakes, steers and changes lanes on the freeway.

As he merged onto the freeway, he punched the “gas” on the all-wheel drive vehicle, accelerating faster than gravity for a moment.

“I love showing it off in traffic,” he said.


Chad Garland,

Twitter: @chadgarland