Survey Of People Who Used My Tesla Referral Code Might Explain Why Elon Killed It

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Round trip from Auburn to Miami via Orlando. 10 days over 1000 miles — $0 spent on fuel and actual driver input provided for maybe 30 cumulative minutes (98% on Autopilot). Totally justifies this vanity plate! Photo by Shashank Rao.

Today, I’m going to share with you the results of my Tesla Referral Survey. There is a lot of speculation on how effective the referral program is at driving new sales of Tesla vehicles as opposed to just rewarding those who had already decided to buy a car. Although my Tesla Referral Survey is limited, I think it provides some insight to this question.

I’ve already written several articles this week about the Tesla Referral Program. This one about how you can now order a Model 3 in Europe and get free Supercharging and another one on why I think Tesla is ending the program. The pictures in this article are some of the people who used my referral code. I appreciate them using my code, answering my survey, and sending in their pictures. Tesla owners are the best! Now on to the survey.

Lia and Daren playing Asteriods, by Randy Frei.

What The Survey Says

Photo by Paul Fosse, click to Embiggen

For the survey, I introduced myself and wanted to know which article they had read and if the article had helped them make a decision. I also wanted to solicit input on the car, ideas for future articles, and offer to let them be part of future articles.

Table by Paul Fosse

Well, it is clear from this question that people read a lot of things on the internet and don’t really remember where they get each piece of information. I was surprised some got my code without even reading any of my articles. They had just googled for a code.

Eric Davidson with his Model 3

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The $64,000 Question

Table by Paul Fosse

This was the $64,000 question for me. I realize the sample size is low and there is self-selection bias and other issues with the survey, but the results are overwhelming. 78% of the people who answered the question had already decided they were buying a Tesla Model 3 and simply used my code to get free Supercharging.

I’m not criticizing them, but this means that for those people, I added no value for Tesla. Tesla just gets less money — it doesn’t get an extra sale.

Now, for the other 22%, I wasn’t the only influence. Most said they read many articles, but mine convinced them to buy it instead of a hybrid or to buy it now instead of next year. That provides real value to Tesla, but unfortunately, it only happened 22% of the time. I assume Tesla did some research similar to what I did (with a much larger sample) and found out the same thing, that owners referring owners is a powerful thing but:

  1. Most owners (including me) are so excited about their car, they will promoted it without any incentive.
  2. Those using the referral codes had mostly already decided to buy the car and then found a referral code, so the referrer (like me) only helped make the sale a small percent of the time.

Combining this with the reasons I gave in my previous article:

  1. As time went on, more of the owners would unlock the secret level and cost the company significant money.
  2. The publicity of the bad actors and inequity of the benefits between the buyers & small referrers and the large referrers (like myself) would be bad for the brand.
  3. Giving away too many free Roadsters would hurt the image of that car. If it is to keep its exclusive allure, Tesla can’t build and give away too many of them.
  4. Giving away free Supercharging encourages people to Supercharge instead of charging at home. This is not how the system is designed, and with many more Teslas hitting the road in the next year, it could cause overcrowding.

This left Tesla with an easy decision. If Tesla’s research did indeed show that the company got minimal benefit from the referral program and the costs in both dollars and branding were high and rising, it just didn’t make sense to continue the program.

All of these issues can be solved and I think they might solve them and come out with a new “Rewards Program” that doesn’t give owners unlimited Supercharging, but just something like a $100 fixed credit, and that doesn’t give referrers big prizes, but rather small items like shirts and jackets. It could have a drawing for 1 car a year per region. That wouldn’t get out of control. Those prizes would be small enough that people wouldn’t rent billboards to spread their referral codes.

Other Comments from the Survey

Every owner who had received delivery commented that they loved driving the car and any minor gripes were small in comparison to the joy the car gives them on a daily basis.

One owner commented that the delivery process seemed impersonal. Another noticed the road noise on coarse pavement and wind noise was noticeable. Another noticed the automatic windshield wipers could be more sensitive. One wanted to know if there is a way to upgrade the all-wheel drive model to a Model 3 Performance. (My answer: nobody has figured that out yet.)

Another owner loved that they could order the car from their phone while watching a college volleyball game, just like ordering things from Amazon. Two people from Europe made it very clear that they will cancel their orders if they can’t use a tow bar (that’s what they call a trailer hitch in Europe) to run errands and/or pull a boat. That question also seemingly hasn’t been answered yet.


John Kent with his Model 3

I hope that sharing the results of my survey helps you understand why it was an easy decision to stop the referral program. Many will ask why they didn’t end it earlier, but in a large company, it is difficult to kill something once you get it going. This also may have some relation to the restructuring Tesla announced this week.

I want to thank all my readers who have either used my referral code or shared it with a friend. I didn’t get into this expecting to get any reward from Tesla, but I’m so grateful to both Tesla and the readers for their response.

If you want to take advantage of my Tesla referral link to get up to 9 months of free Supercharging (6 months if you have test driven a car with Tesla) on a Model S, Model X, or Model 3, here’s the code: — but as I have said before, if another owner helped you more, please use their link instead of mine. Hurry, because the program is ending on February 1st.

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Paul Fosse

I have been a software engineer for over 30 years, first developing EDI software, then developing data warehouse systems. Along the way, I've also had the chance to help start a software consulting firm and do portfolio management. In 2010, I took an interest in electric cars because gas was getting expensive. In 2015, I started reading CleanTechnica and took an interest in solar, mainly because it was a threat to my oil and gas investments. Follow me on Twitter @atj721 Tesla investor. Tesla referral code:

Paul Fosse has 232 posts and counting. See all posts by Paul Fosse