WALNUT CREEK -- Luxury electric carmaker Tesla Motors is charging into this city in search of tech-savvy car buyers.

Palo Alto-based Tesla plans to open its first store in Contra Costa County in the city's downtown outdoor mall Broadway Plaza within the next few months. Tesla will have a 3,000-square-foot showroom at the shopping center, a place where people can learn about the electric technology and all the bells and whistles of the car.

"People learn what life is like without an internal combustion engine," said Tesla spokeswoman Alexis Georgeson.

Unlike other automakers, Tesla does not have traditional dealerships with an inventory of cars ready to drive off a lot. They aren't actually "dealerships," either, in that the company owns its own stores. Georgeson compares the showrooms to what one may expect from an Apple store.

The stores are opened in "high-traffic" areas, and have a few company cars nearby available for test drives, she said. There are also static cars sitting in the store for buyers to play with.

Buyers order custom-built cars, which arrive within nine weeks, she said.

With a base price of $70,000, there will be a few higher-end cars available for those who need a new Tesla immediately. But otherwise, she said, "We encourage people to build a car that fits their exact needs."

This will be the eighth Tesla store in the Bay Area; the next closest stores to Walnut Creek are in Marin and Fremont.

Tesla comes to areas where there is a proven interest in technology, Georgeson said.


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"It's a testament that we already have owners in the area and we have already seen the interest," Georgeson said. "And because (Walnut Creek) is such a shopping destination, it puts as many people as possible in front of the car and the technology."

Tesla also has plans to open a service center in Walnut Creek, at an as-yet-unrevealed location.

With the opening of local Maserati and Bentley dealerships last year, Tesla's arrival is yet another example of new car brand deciding to plant its East Bay flag in Walnut Creek, said Economic Development Manager Ron Gerber. He is not surprised by Tesla's interest in the city.

"If you look at the education and employment base of residents and people that work here and live nearby, it shows very strong technology backgrounds," he said.

Contact Elisabeth Nardi at 925-952-2617. Follow her at Twitter.com/enardi10.