Tesla, the electric vehicle manufacturer, had put in an application with the City of Asheville last year to build a dealership at the former Asheville Event & Dance Centre off Sweeten Creek Road. But the developer now says Tesla has pulled the plug on the project. // Watchdog photo by John Boyle

Today’s round of questions, my smart-aleck replies and the real answers:

Question: What do you think will become of the former Asheville Event & Dance Centre property since Tesla has backed out of its plans? Tesla bought this, but now I heard for sure they backed out, by a friend in commercial real estate. I have no idea why they chose this spot and are backing out. I can’t afford an EV…

My answer: I maybe could afford an electric vehicle if I rigged 10 car batteries to power a shopping cart.

Real answer: It does indeed appear that Tesla, the world’s leading manufacturer of electric vehicles, has at least hit the pause button on an Asheville dealership.

Could there be an electric vehicle in Answer Man’s future?

That is the former Asheville Event & Dance Centre, which is now owned by SGH DJS ASH LLC. That company’s registered agent is Steven G. Harris, who is also the head of Harris Development Group LLC, based in Charlotte.

Tesla and its developer had filed an application last year with the city of Asheville’s Planning Department requesting the review of a “site plan to develop a 40,148 square feet Tesla dealership and service center on 5.48 acres known as 291 Sweeten Creek Road…”

“Tesla is not coming to that location,” Harris told me in a phone interview last week. “The negotiations on that lease have been terminated.”

As far as why, Harris said he honestly couldn’t say.

“Oftentimes in the business I’m in, the excuse you get is not the real excuse,” Harris said.

He added that a lot of factors are in play in the development business right now, though, including “sky high” construction costs and interest rates that make building or redevelopment more expensive. 

“There’s a big difference between 2.5 percent interest and 6 percent,” Harris said, referring to loans and increasing interest rates. “So, I think it just came down to it no longer became economically feasible for me or for Tesla.”

I reached out to Tesla last week and Monday through its media contact page but didn’t hear back by deadline.

I also seem to have misplaced Elon Musk’s personal cell phone number. I jest about that. 

I also asked Harris if he thought Tesla might be interested in another location in the Asheville market.

“No, I think they decided not to come to Asheville,” Harris said. “They said they were going to look at a smaller city closer to the South Carolina border, which doesn’t make sense to me.”

The Tesla website lists North Carolina stores in the Charlotte area, and in Raleigh, as well as in Knoxville, Tennessee. None is listed for South Carolina.

As far as plans for the former Event & Dance Centre building, Harris said he has no other tenant lined up, and the building is currently vacant.

Tesla has pulled the plug on plans to open a dealership here. // Watchdog photo by John Boyle

I mentioned that this area of Sweeten Creek Road, near Interstate 40, already has a lot of medical offices nearby.

“I think it’s a great site,” Harris said. “I think it’s an excellent medical site.”

He noted that there are barriers to enter the Asheville market with new construction, citing the mountainous terrain and stringent zoning rules. So an existing building could be appealing.

Buncombe County property records show the building and 3.88 acres of land it’s on have an appraised value of $3.3 million. Built in 1998, the building originally was the Iwanna classified advertising company headquarters.

Property records show the property changed hands in July 2022, with a sales price of $6.25 million.

At one point, Harris said, Tesla told him locating in Asheville was a “top priority for them,” but he says that does not appear to be the case any longer.

“I dealt with them for over a year,” he said, noting he worked with three or four people in Tesla’s real estate department. “When I first started dealing with them, I thought they’d be in by now.”

Rusty Pulliam, president of Pulliam Properties in Asheville, a large commercial real estate company, said that just because Tesla pulled out of that site “doesn’t mean they’re not out there looking.” The Event & Dance Centre space would be tough for a car dealership, he said, as its visibility is not great from Sweeten Creek.

Asheville has plenty of Teslas on the road, and with its reputation as a city with an eco-friendly population, a Tesla dealership does make sense here, Pulliam said. 

“I think it’s a great market for it,” Pulliam said. “I got a call last week from a broker about a car dealership. He won’t tell me who the car dealership is, but he’s wanting me to help him find sites. I have a feeling it could be Tesla.”

Will Elon Musk build a Tesla dealership in Asheville? It could go either way.

On another note, the reader ain’t joking about not being able to afford an electric car. In a recent article, Cox Automotive noted:, “The average new EV sold for $58,940 in March, according to Kelley Blue Book estimates, which still is well above the industry average. New EV pricing peaked in 2022, decreasing steadily since (the third quarter) of last year.”

By comparison, “The average transaction price of a new vehicle in the United States declined in March 2023 to $48,008, a month-over-month decrease of 1.1% ($550) from a downwardly revised February reading of $48,558. March 2023 transaction prices remained up 3.8% ($1,784) compared to year-ago levels,” Cox reported.

OK, I can’t afford that, either. I’ll be sticking with the 25-year-old gas-powered Lexus for the foreseeable future. Which means forever.

Got a question? Send it to John Boyle at  jboyle@avlwatchdog.org or 828-337-0941.

One reply on “Answer Man: Has Tesla pulled the plug on Asheville dealership plan?”

  1. I’m getting a little tired of the misleading, intellectually lazy comparison of the average new EV price to the average new vehicle price. Well over half of the EVs sold in this country are Teslas, high-end status symbols. The average new EV is comparable to a well-equipped Mercedes, while the average new vehicle is comparable to a mid-spec Toyota. But there are plenty of new EVs available for less than the average new vehicle price. And nobody’s forcing anyone to buy new; most of us buy used.

    Then there’s the $7500 federal tax credit. Contrary to oil lobbyist talking points, it’s not a subsidy for “rich” EV buyers. It actually ends up in the pockets of auto manufacturers and their dealers, through raised prices. When it expires, the prices will come down. Check out the pricing history of the Chevy Bolt EV if you doubt me.

    Finally, there’s operating expense. It costs about two cents a mile for electricity to run my Chevy Spark EV. The gasoline Chevy Spark it replaced got 40 miles per gallon, eight cents a mile at $3.20 a gallon. And the EV never needs oil changes, timing belt replacements, tuneups, …

    The Blue Ridge EV Club held our annual Drive Electric Earth Day event yesterday (April 30). https://driveelectricearthday.org/event?eventid=3604 There were plenty of affordable EVs there, and owners who know the truth. I hope you’ll join us for our National Drive Electric Week event in September, and stop parroting non-factual “facts.”

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