London's bankers favour electric rides over flash cars at Motorexpo

By Clare Hutchison
1 / 2

A visitor looks at a Tesla Model S electric car at the Motorexpo in Canary Wharf, London

A visitor looks at a Tesla Model S electric car at the Motorexpo in Canary Wharf, London, June 13, 2014. REUTERS/Marika Kochiashvili

By Clare Hutchison

LONDON (Reuters) - Instead of a Ferrari Testarossa, the next "Wolf of Wall Street" could be driving a zero-emissions car or even an electric bike if London's Motorexpo show is anything to go by.

Tesla Motors and Dutch electric bike maker B4 Bikes have been among the busiest stands at the nineteenth London Motorexpo this week – a display of sports cars and premium executive vehicles in the Canary Wharf financial district, which runs until Sunday.

At Tesla, encouraged by the sunshine and warm temperatures, a steady stream of workers from the nearby offices, which include the headquarters of HSBC and Barclays, closely examined its cars stationed in the shadows of the landmark One Canada Square tower.

The timing was perfect for the California-based company, which launched its first right-hand drive vehicles last Saturday. Elon Musk, the company's chief executive and the co-founder of online payment system PayPal, came to Britain to deliver the first five vehicles himself.

Tesla's fully electric Model S, which starts at 50,280 pounds ($84,400), reaches 60 miles per hour in just over 4 seconds. It can travel 312 miles before needing to be recharged.

Laura Hardy, Tesla's communications manager for Britain and Ireland, said the company had been inundated with requests for test drives and had to bring in an extra car to meet demand. A number of sales were made at the event, Hardy said.

By Friday, B4 Bikes had sold eight of its e-cruizers – steel-framed bikes powered by a battery engineered in collaboration with the European Space Agency. Designed to look like a Harley Davidson motorcycle, an e-cruizer retails from 4,500 pounds.

"I would seriously consider buying (one)," said Derek Deans, 40, who works at HSBC. "If I could afford to buy a 1905 Harley Davidson I would, but I like the look of (the bike) and it's more practical."

Getting customers to get out their cheque books was a rare feat at a time when bankers are facing job cuts and bonuses remain subdued by the financial crisis.

"It's a good opportunity to get people interested in new products or to introduce a brand. It's not a huge money making event," said Graeme Carver, the chief executive of Motorexpo, adding that sales were difficult to track given the time customers take to make decisions.

The free-to-visit show also had more sports cars than ever before, with stands showcasing a bright orange McLaren 650s, an Aston Martin Vanquish and Bentley's new Continental GTV8.

"They (sports car manufacturers) have made an assessment of where they think the market is," Carver said. "(Economic uncertainty) doesn't seem to be hurting us too badly."

Toronto will host its own four-day Motorexpo from June 23, while New York's will take place Sept. 7-12. ($1 = 0.5956 British Pounds)

(Editing by Elaine Hardcastle)