I recently dropped into a Tesla store to test drive a Tesla Model 3 for the second time. I thought I’d just write about the car, but I talked with staff there for a while and a few extra points popped out that seemed to deserve their own article.
Naturally, I asked about the customers. Who comes in? What do they know about the cars and Tesla as a whole? What kind of questions do they have?
Perhaps the most interesting note I received is that it’s all about the kids. Teenagers frequently come into the store, love the vehicles, know a ton about them, and sometimes loiter so much that they need to be shooed away. (Okay, maybe not shooed away, but they do apparently linger for a long time.) They also bring in their parents, tell them all about the cars, and likely deliver a lot more sales than many of us presume.
I’ve witnessed or heard stories about the Tesla obsession among the youth before. It’s generally a mystery to us. How did Elon Musk and Tesla conquer the passion, dreams, and attention spans of teenagers, pre-teens, and even little kids? Well, as much as we might not know how to precisely explain it, we do know that it’s in large part because of what Tesla delivers (and what SpaceX delivers). It’s also due to Elon Musk’s candid, honest, “real” nature and his obsession with fun. The younger among us appreciate that even more than those of us with grey hairs and shiny heads. (Related story: “Why Elon Musk Is Loved So Much“)
Another interesting comment was that many people who come into the store know very little about Tesla. It’s not unusual for people to get hung up on the idea that Tesla’s vehicles don’t use gasoline — at all. That reminded me of something I used to make a bigger point of — more than half the people on the street may have no idea what Tesla is if you ask them out of the blue. Even people who know Tesla sells electric cars may know little more. Of course, this is one reason why crappy hit pieces in the media could hurt Tesla in the long run, and also why taking Tesla private is probably a smarter move than it seems on first blush. You don’t want the first thing a person “learns” about your company to come from a short seller’s smear campaign.
The most shocking thing I heard, though, came from a soft-spoken young fellow who had been working at the store just a couple of months. He noted that some people do come into the store with a chip on their shoulder about Tesla and Elon Musk (I wonder where they got that), and he even had some guys threaten him at some point — for no apparent reason other than the fact that he was working at Tesla. Yikes! Talk about a smear campaign growing its own legs.
Of course, this story piqued my interest. I was shocked. Threats?! To be clear, I did ask him why he got the threats, what stimulated them. He didn’t know, and he seemed to be 100% genuine and not the kind of guy who would embellish. He assumed it was just out of an odd hate for Tesla and Elon Musk that developed over the past few months.
I also asked one of the staff about which cars people tended to be trading in. The response was not based on solid statistics — he didn’t have access to them and didn’t personally help people with the final sales process. It was just from experience helping people in the store as they looked at cars. Typically, they seemed to be coming from BMW and Mercedes models. Given the location in a rather rich Florida city, this is not at all surprising.
Not being statistically based, even for the one location, that’s not a response to go making any bets on. Also, we already know from the last Tesla conference call that the top 5 models traded in when people order a Model 3 are the Toyota Prius, BMW 3 Series, Honda Accord, Honda Civic, and Nissan LEAF, but I’m always eager for more details on conquest sales. When I asked Elon on that conference call if he could share more information on the percentage split and popular trade-ins beyond those top 5, he indicated that he didn’t have any additional info at the time — he had simply asked someone to pull up the top 5 trade-in models just before the conference call. Maybe we’ll get more info on the next conference call or beforehand in a Tesla blog post or tweet. If all of you tweeted him asking for more data, I’m sure he’d respond! Heck, if 1% of you tweeted him, I bet he’d respond. (No pressure.)