By Silicon Valley / San Jose Business Journal

Tesla Motors Inc. is opening the doors of its huge, gleaming new Fremont factory this weekend to give buyers of the company's Model S Sedan their first good look at the highly-anticipated electric car.

At two separate events on Saturday and Sunday evenings, buyers get to take short rides in the Model S, tour the factory to see how it is made and learn some details about the car's features from Tesla CEO Elon Musk. The electric car maker (NASDAQ:TSLA) is headquartered in Palo Alto.

The car's buyers have put down $5,000 deposits - or $40,000 for the "signature series," the first 1,000 cars off the line - but won't actually receive their cars until next summer at the earliest. This weekend is the first opportunity for buyers to see a fully operational version of their future car "in the flesh," said Myra Pasek, Tesla's director of communications for Europe, the Middle East and Africa.

"This is like the Woodstock of the electric car," said Leonard Haggarty, explaining why he came from Tacoma, Wash., to get a look at the car. "This is what the feeling is like here."

Upwards of 6,000 people have put down deposits for the Model S, which has a base price of about $50,000 after federal tax credits, Pasek said.

People who took rides in the car appeared thrilled about their purchase.

"It was amazing," said Stefan Pacin, from Winnipeg, Canada. "It's a very nice car, very beautiful."

He said the Model S reminded him of a Jaguar, but quieter and more nimble.

"The car is extremely responsive," said Dave Mantini of Reno, Nev. "The acceleration⿦ it was like you were in a plane."

Jason Herbst of Houston also that when the drivers accelerated the car, it "felt like flying."

He said he bought the electric car in hopes of spurring others to go electric and make cities "much quieter and cleaner."

"It would be a great example to people," Herbst said.

Besides the rides, the event's other highlight was an appearance by Musk, who made an entrance by driving a red Model S onstage amid loud cheers. He demonstrated the car's large touch-screen dashboard display, showing how it can be used to browse the web, navigate, and play music.

Pasek said the Model S is the first vehicle designed "as an electric car from the ground up." For example, the heavy battery pack is a flat panel on the bottom of the car, allowing the car to be more aerodynamic and stable, since the weight is distributed across a wide area.

"We've tried to design the car elegantly, so that there's several functions achieved by any one elegant solution," Pasek said.

Diana Samuels can be reached at 408.299.1835 or

Copyright 2011 American City Business Journals

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