Tesla Reaching Out To US Model 3 Reservation Holders To Ask If They Want A Refund

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Update: There’s even hotter news that Tesla has opened up the Model 3 configurator (to design and complete your order for the car) in China. As a commenter nicely summarizes, “There have been reports elsewhere about phone calls. I think this is about production planning to figure out what these remaining orders actually are. And clearing out any reservations that aren’t going to convert into orders.”

Tesla is in an interesting position. Hundreds of thousands of people put down reservations for a Model 3. Perhaps 100,000 of them have now gotten their cars (or not quite 100,000 of them, since many buyers have come in “off the street”). That most likely means that hundreds of thousands are still waiting to order their cars. Many of those people are overseas, but plenty are surely still in the United States. Who are they? Are they going to order? If not, are they ever going to ask for a refund?

One of our writers is sitting on a reservation. This evening, he received a text message from someone at Tesla asking if he wants a refund. He went on a test drive a few months ago but has otherwise not reached out about anything, so he found it a bit interesting and surprising to receive this text message on his phone.

The message was short and sweet. As you can see on the right, after a brief hello (I’ve clipped off that part to exclude the names), the sales advisor wrote, “We saw you’ve not ordered your Model 3. Please let us know if you’d like your $1k deposit returned. Thanks.”

This is interesting for a few reasons. One is that you’d think Tesla would like to hold onto the cash as long as possible, so it’s surprising to see the company offering to give it back.

That said, the money can’t really be used by Tesla anyway (it’s not counted as real revenue at this stage), so why not? With Tesla’s bank account looking as good as ever, perhaps the company decided it was time to unload some of that dead cash. Additionally, Tesla may be trying to ensure customers have a good experience and don’t feel like the company is holding onto their money longer than it should.

Some more business-y explanations may be at play as well — and the above ideas may not have anything to do with it.

Perhaps this is an approach Tesla is now using to push consumers — in a super subtle and low-pressure way — to finally move forward and order a car. The company has sent out a handful of emails over the past several months encouraging reservation holders (like me) to convert into buyers and order a Tesla Model 3 Long Range … Tesla Model 3 All-Wheel Drive … Tesla Model 3 Performance … Tesla Model 3 Mid Range — whatever’s fresh. I’ve personally received a handful of reminders (including this week) that cars are available for test drives.

Another possibility is that Tesla is eager to learn more about remaining reservation holders in the US. Are they really planning to buy a car? Are they just waiting on the $35K car? With a nudge, will they admit they aren’t going to order and accept a refund? Tesla staff are probably trying to figure out what remaining demand from reservation holders actually is so that they can plan production, shipping, and delivery schedules accordingly.

There’s also the chance the message was a one-off from a rogue employee, not a big company-wide template message. That seems unlikely, but we should find out soon enough.

We likely won’t figure out the full story behind this message. There are many possible explanations for it, and Tesla’s probably going to hold them close to its chest. But there’s always room for speculation and hypothesizing, right? Any other thoughts?

I reached out to Tesla for commentary and talked about this but did not receive any extra information.

If you’re looking to buy a Tesla, appreciate my work, and need a referral code, here you go: http://ts.la/tomasz7234

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Zachary Shahan

Zach is tryin' to help society help itself one word at a time. He spends most of his time here on CleanTechnica as its director, chief editor, and CEO. Zach is recognized globally as an electric vehicle, solar energy, and energy storage expert. He has presented about cleantech at conferences in India, the UAE, Ukraine, Poland, Germany, the Netherlands, the USA, Canada, and Curaçao. Zach has long-term investments in Tesla [TSLA], NIO [NIO], Xpeng [XPEV], Ford [F], ChargePoint [CHPT], Amazon [AMZN], Piedmont Lithium [PLL], Lithium Americas [LAC], Albemarle Corporation [ALB], Nouveau Monde Graphite [NMGRF], Talon Metals [TLOFF], Arclight Clean Transition Corp [ACTC], and Starbucks [SBUX]. But he does not offer (explicitly or implicitly) investment advice of any sort.

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