California-based electric sports car manufacturer Tesla has roared into the Japanese market with the opening of its first dealership in Asia.

The company's showroom is in the swish Minami-Aoyama district of Tokyo and opened earlier on November 12. And there has been a high level of interest in the first week of business, according to the company. And that is even more impressive given the number of high-performance vehicles that Japanese companies produce. Thanks to Nissan and Mitsubishi, Japan is a global leader in electric vehicles.

"There has been a lot of interest since our grand opening and we even sold several vehicles at the opening party," said Shin Io, sales manager for Tesla Japan.

The company declined to provide precise sales figures, although it did confirm that more than 1,300 cars have been delivered worldwide since they first hit the road.

Tesla faces a challenge in Japan, where Nissan Motor Co. has just released the updated GT-R, to add to its Fairlady sports car range, while Honda has added the futuristic gasoline-hybrid CR-Z to its lineup.

Even the somewhat staid Toyota Motor Corp. has apparently recognized the importance of having a sporty model in its stable and has announced plans for a sports hybrid called the GRMN.

Toyota and Tesla signed a series of agreements to cooperate, including on the production of an electric version of the RAV4, to be released in the United States in 2012, and parts production.

The Palo Alto company has high hopes that environmentally aware consumers in Japan who still want to drive a sports car will be their main customers.

"The cars appeal to many people and customers to date have been presidents of companies and those working in environment-related industries, such as the solar power sector," Io told Relaxnews.

"These people are not necessarily wealthy, but they want to contribute to the environment," he said. "And if they cannot buy one, the leasing option is also quite popular."

The two-seater Roadster model offers supercar performance with zero emissions, the company said, and can travel 245 miles before requiring a recharge.

As well as being available in the US and, now, Japan, Tesla has showrooms in Britain, Germany, Switzerland and Denmark, while it has sales representatives in France, Holland, Italy and Spain.



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