Tesla Pre- Orders Hit $3.5M

711 customers cough up $5,000 for company's largely theoretical Model S sedan

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Stephen Shankland
    Tesla Motors is essentially charging $5,000 for a test drive and the promise of a car eventually.

    San Carlos-based Tesla Motors, which made a splash with a sexy but spendy all-electric coupe, has garnered 711 reservations for its planned Model S sedan.

    The prototype car was unveiled last month at the company's headquarters in Los Angeles.

    The company had planned to build a plant to produce the sedan in San Jose, but has since decided to stay in the Southland.

    However, the company is depending on a loan from the federal government to start production.

    That's led to suggestions that the $5,000 aren't so much reservations, but investments in a company desperate for cash.

    Tesla Motors founder Elon Musk has personally guaranteed the reservation fee, which for legal reasons the company can't call a deposit.

    The Model S sedan is expected to cost $50,000 or more, though the company argues that over the life of the vehicle, it will be cheaper to power and maintain than a $35,000 gas-fueled vehicle. Photo by Stephen Shankland.

    Jackson West would rather see the stimulus money go to public transportation than a private car manufacturer.