Paypal founder and Tesla CEO Elon Musk says his new all-electric Model S sedan "is not the best electric car - it's the best car of any kind".

A handful of New Zealanders must think so, too, because Tesla's Sydney office has had enquiries about the car from this side of the ditch.

"We have in fact received a number of reservations from New Zealand," said Tesla Australia manager Jay McCormack.

He said the NZ deliveries would arrive around the middle of next year and be part of the first consignment of 500 right-hand-drive cars for different markets. He said Tesla has forward orders from around the world for 10,000 Model S sedans.


The first examples to roll off the assembly line are the Signature and Performance models. The entry-level Model S, which is priced from US$57,400 (NZ$71,556) before US government tax credits, will be built next year.

It comes with a 40kWh battery, capable of delivering a range of almost 260km before the need for a recharge and a 0-100km/h time of 6.5 seconds.

Upgrading to the mid-range 60kWh battery boosts range to 370km and the top-spec 85kWh battery provides a 483km range and 0-100km/h in 5.6 seconds.

Signature and Performance variants come with the 85kWh battery as standard. Performance variants get an upgraded 310kW/600Nm electric motor instead of the standard Signature's 270kW/440Nm unit.

McCormack said the Model S price in New Zealand hadn't been set. "Globally, we want to keep as close to the US price point as possible, allowing for the different exchange rates," he said. "We will ship direct to New Zealand, obviously adding into the price things like freight charges and the 15 per cent GST."

An Australian report said the Model S was sold out there for six months. It said the top-spec Signature Performance is expected to sell for around A$130,000 (NZ$166,185).

The standard Model S could end up being priced close to Australia's $75,375 (NZ$96,353) luxury car tax threshold for fuel-efficient cars,

The first Model S Signature and Performance variants have rolled off the assembly line at Tesla's Freemont, California headquarters.


"The fit and finish are superior to any premium sedan," said Musk. "We have the most advanced paint shop in the industry. If you drive another premium sedan after driving the Model S, it's going to feel like a jalopy."

Musk and his team say Tesla will change the automotive industry, but admit that they must work within the same cost constraints and use the same supply chain as everyone else in the car business.

Tesla chief engineer Peter Rawlinson earlier said Tesla wanted to put aside any misconceptions about the EV company.

"We wanted to show that the vehicle engineers at Tesla are capable of designing and engineering a world-class car from a clean sheet of paper," he said.

"That means engineered in-house, no carryover component assemblies, doing the entire platform, suspension, and body structure ourselves."

Rawlinson said Tesla used aluminium in the Model S to save weight. "Roughly 97 per cent of the car is aluminium.

"Weight saving is at a premium for electric-vehicle range, so we've tried to create some elegant engineering solutions to the design challenges - although, of course, never at the expense of safety.

"We use a few specific elements made of high-strength steel in, for example, the B-pillars (between the front and rear doors).

"The bumper systems are ultra-high-strength boron steel, which is so strong it can't be stamped at room temperature - it has to be heated until it's cherry red before you can form it."

Former General Motors vice-chairman Bob Lutz says that Tesla's first car, the Lotus Elise-based Roadster, served as GM's motivation to develop the Chevrolet Volt electric car.

Lutz spurred the Volt project along because he didn't want GM to fall behind in EV development. He said he didn't back EVs because of fuel efficiency or environmental reasons, but because EVs could be good cars.

"My philosophy always is if you have a desirable product, you can muddle your way past the financial problems," Lutz said.

"Musk and the team were smart enough to get, without question, some of the world's finest designers on the Model S.

"The car is so beautiful that you look at it and say, 'I don't care what drives it, I just want one.' That's really the secret of this business."