The red Tesla Roadster inside a newly established used-car dealer in Naperville is a showpiece and a symbol.
At Current Automotive, the vibrant convertible illustrates the company's exclusive focus on selling used electric or plug-in hybrid vehicles.
"We'll never carry a gas vehicle," says Current Automotive co-founder Seneca Giese, a former Tesla product specialist and head of certified pre-owned sales in North America. "It draws people to us, the specialty."
While another dealer might luck into reselling one of the 1,300 Roadsters Tesla produced in the early 2010s for the U.S., Giese says the difference with his business is how well he and co-founder Trip Jacobs, also a former Tesla employee and a member of the family behind the Bill Jacobs chain of car dealerships, know the ins and outs of these sporty electric rides.
"Not only do we have it," Jacobs says about cars like the Roadster, "but we know it and can speak about it intelligently."
Inventory at Current Automotive includes electric and plug-in hybrids made by at least 15 manufacturers, including BMW, Cadillac, Chevrolet, Chrysler, Ford, Honda, Hyundai, Jaguar, Kia, Mini, Mitsubishi, Nissan, Tesla, Toyota and Volkswagen. Jacobs says it's easier to count carmakers who don't produce an electric or plug-in hybrid than those who do.
"The market is definitely changing," Jacobs said. "We know these cars. And we can really help people make the right decision for themselves."
Although its home base is in Naperville, Current Automotive gets much of its business from the internet, advertising its inventory on sites such as AutoTrader.com, Cars.com and CarGurus.com.
Some local customers will find their way to Current Automotive's website from an introductory search, then visit the showroom at 1551 W. Jefferson Ave. just east of the Ogden Avenue car dealership corridor in Naperville. Others from faraway states are able to see car prices, enter their contact and financing information and conduct the entire purchase online.
"Buying a car should be like buying shoes or clothes," Jacobs said. "This should be easy and fun."
To make the buying process stand apart, Giese says the business follows a philosophy of "radical transparency." Current Automotive will tell customers the bids the company has received on trade-ins and be upfront about pricing, sourcing and inventory, the co-owners say.
Education at Current Automotive focuses on the differences in driving, powering and maintenance between electric and traditional vehicles. Giese said he will suggest electricians to customers buying something like a Tesla, which requires a higher-powered 240-volt outlet in the garage in order to fully charge overnight. He's even helped recommend an electrician for a prospective customer who ended up buying a new Tesla instead of one from Current's pre-owned stock.
Creating fewer emissions is one upside of electric vehicles, but efficiency, high mileage and decreased reliance on gasoline are often the true selling points for the cars on the Current lot.
"The environmental benefits are there," Giese said, "if you care about it."