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SAN CARLOS, CA-There are four shuttered dealerships on the same street as Tesla Motors flagship sales and service center in Menlo Park, CA. It may find similar environments as it prepares to expand its presence coast-to-coast and internationally.

The San Carlos, CA-based company said late last week it will open seven regional sales and service centers in upcoming weeks, establishing a coast-to-coast network in North America and a solid retail footprint in Europe. The company opened flagship stores in Northern and Southern California last year. After the expansion, prospective customers also will be able to test-drive and service the company’s electric cars in New York, Seattle, Chicago, Miami, London, Monaco and Munich.

Tesla’s first European store will open in London later this month, followed by Munich and Monaco. Stores in New York, Seattle and Chicago will open in late June, followed by Miami. Tesla also is scouting locations in Washington DC and Toronto.

The company says its showrooms will feel more like an Apple store or a Starbucks than a typical car dealership. A company source tells GlobeSt.com that the size of its stores will vary and that its Seattle store will occupy approximately 7,000 square feet.

Tesla tells GlobeSt.com it is “not specifically trying to poach on failed or failing dealerships” as part of its sales and service expansion but adds that “it’s no surprise that there are a lot of leases available for commercial real estate, up to and including leases on former dealerships.”

Tesla’s flagship store in Menlo Park was a Chevy dealership many years ago before it closed for lack of business. In fact, there are now four vacant dealerships on the same street as Tesla’s Menlo Park flagship store.

“The scene–four boarded-up dealerships followed by Tesla’s sparkling showroom–is quite symbolic of the retail changes in the auto industry,” the source says.

Tesla is the only production automaker selling highway-capable EVs in North America or Europe. The Tesla Roadster accelerates faster than most other cars on the roads and is twice as energy efficient as a Toyota Prius. The vehicle gets up to 244 miles per charge, which takes approximately 4 hours and costs roughly $4. In addition, states such as New Jersey, Arizona and Washington waive sales and use taxes on electric vehicles and the federal government provides a $7,500 US federal tax credit.

Tesla delivered its 500th Roadster in the US last week. In late June it will begin producing the Roadster Sport, a higher performance electric vehicle that gets from zero- to 60 mph in 3.7 seconds. Tesla expects to begin producing the all-electric, zero-emission Model S sedan in late 2011.

The company says the rapid sales and service rollout has nothing to do with the recent recall. Tesla says it is flying mobile service technicians to owners’ homes to repair a manufacturing issue that happened at the Lotus assembly plant. Lotus is also doing a similar recall on some of its cars, Tesla says.

“We have been planning this retail rollout for some time; it’s a necessary and highly anticipated move that will increase Tesla’s visibility across two continents and give more test drives to prospective customers,” a company source tells GlobeSt.com. “Buying a car is a highly emotional and visceral experience; many customers rightfully want to see and drive the car before they buy one. Now we’ll be able to do that coast to coast in the USA and in key markets in the EU.”

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