When Raleigh resident Munther Qubain got rid of his Ferarri and replaced it with a new sports car in 2009, the Department of Motor Vehicles didn’t know how to process it. Nobody in North Carolina had registered a Tesla before. Four years later, and the super-sleek, lightening-quick, electric cars named for electricity pioneer Nikola Tesla have become something of a viral hit in our technology-loving, green-abiding city. Some say Qubain’s to blame, after offering up road tests to just about anyone he met.
Blame the Qubain effect, or the simple but unlikely combination of eco-friendliness, speed, and style. Although there are only about 5,000 Teslas on the road in America, the Raleigh area is home to more than 50, mostly the Model S, which sells for $59,900 before federal tax credits. Demand is so strong – despite deposits, waiting lists, and no local showroom – that Tesla has just opened one of only 20 service centers here to keep them all humming. Some say it’s the green factor; others cite the cool.
“I’m a car guy,” says Jerry Maccioli, a Raleigh anesthesiologist. “I traded my Maserati for this.”
Not so Glenn Coates, who says he bought his Tesla after owning a Prius because he wants his son “to have air and normal temperatures. I’m a physician, and I believe in it.” Ven Poole, CEO of Waste Industries, says that as a leader in the environmental business, “I felt that I had to lead by example.”
So, too, John Replogle, who has led two green companies, first as CEO of Burt’s Bees in Durham and now at green cleaning products maker Seventh Generation. “It’s the electric that got me. The fact that it’s fast and stylish is the cherry on top.”
That cherry on top is no joke. Model S owner Otto Kumbar insisted on nudging Walter into the driver’s seat of his new car, and while there’s no mistaking the Tesla’s style, it’s the instantaneous, rocket-like zoom that erupts with a tap on the pedal – zero-to-60 in four seconds –that could make an eco-warrior out of anyone.