The recent opening of a new Tesla store in Milan provided a forum for current Roadster owners to ask Elon Musk exactly what's going on with the Tesla Model S. The answers? Pretty much everything is going according to plan.

According to Tesla:

Testing of the Alpha models is ramping up to full speed after starting in December 2010. Beta models (production-intent versions of the Model S) should begin final assembly sometime this year for final tests before the first deliveries arrive in North America in mid-2012.

The first 1,000 examples of the Model S will be a special North American Model S Signature Series, featuring a 300-mile battery range, unique appearance treatments, and a full slate of optional upgrades. Expect them to be priced accordingly.

Following the first 1,000 Model S sedans built, regular production will begin, with the 300-mile batteries first. The smaller, less-expensive 230- and 160-mile battery packs will become available later in 2012. Tesla hopes to build about 5,000 Model S sedans in 2012, increasing output to 20,000 per year by 2013.

Europeans will have to wait until late 2012 for the first Model S cars, while those in right-hand-drive countries in Europe and Asia will have to wait even longer--until mid-2013.

Base pricing for the Model S--the oft-cited $49,900 figure, after $7,500 federal tax credit--is for the 160-mile version. The 230-mile Model S will start at about $59,900 (after credit), and the 300-mile car will run $79,900, also after the tax credit. Final pricing is still being decided upon, however, so it may yet change. The Signature Series cars will be priced closer to their release.

In other words, you'll have to wait at least a year from now to see the very first of the production Model S sedans, and it'll be doing battle with the plug-in series hybrid Fisker Karma at the upper end of the sedan pricing spectrum--both are set to start at $87,400 before the $7,500 federal tax credit. Assuming, of course, everything continues to go as planned.