The Tesla showroom at NorthPark, via Facebook

The Tesla showroom at NorthPark, via Facebook

If you want to meet your neighbors, consider buying a Tesla. The electric car’s hefty price tag ($75,000 to $135,000) and cult-like status spark curiosity, draw attention and encourage conversation among strangers.

“All kinds of people stop and ask questions,” Riz Chand, a Preston Hollow resident who bought his Tesla in 2013, says. “A guy driving a Mercedes pulled up next to me at a light, rolled down his window and asked how I liked the car.”

Julie Coleman, also of Preston Hollow, has had similar experiences. She can’t buy a cup of coffee in our neighborhood without someone asking about her Model S.

“It’s like you’re in a Tesla club,” says Coleman, who often forgets she is driving the car until someone mentions it. “I’m not used to the attention.”

Curiosity about these zero-emission vehicles permeates the country but is particularly pronounced in Texas because of a state law that says new cars must be sold through franchised dealerships. Tesla is not interested in this business model and has so far remained vigilant about selling cars directly to consumers.

A Tesla showroom opened in 2014 at NorthPark Center, but employees there are more like educators than salespeople. They can talk to you about the car and show you how to use the Tesla website but are cautioned against offering quotes and absolutely prohibited from processing payments. Chand and Coleman both bought their Teslas online without ever having driven the vehicle. It was a bold decision but one each felt compelled to make.

Chand says he always has been interested in new technology and likes the fact that the cars are designed and built in the United States. He also takes issue with the current legislation. “In Texas we pride ourselves on being a free market state,” Chand says. “These rules reduce competition in every way.”

Coleman was primarily interested in the car for environmental reasons. Her husband, Ronnie Coleman, owns EcoPhones, a local company that recycles cellphones and other electronic devices. The Colemans consider themselves a “green” family and Tesla meshes well with their principles. They are impressed with the car’s technology and have downloaded an app that allows them to search for nearby charging stations when they are on the road and remotely monitor their car when they are not. The latter feature had an unexpected benefit earlier this year when their daughter borrowed the Tesla. The vehicle’s battery was running low and when Ronnie Coleman saw how fast his daughter was driving he encouraged her to slow down to save power. “She was doing 63,” he says. “I told her ‘take it down to 60.’ She thought that was a little Big Brother.”

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