In this episode of “Tesla Inside Out,” we talk about David’s role getting sent down to Florida (from New York) in 2013 as a kind of Johnny Appleseed character — part of Tesla’s “asset light” program — in order to respond to consumer interest and stimulate sales in the region.
Ironically, David was sharing this story with me on Johnny Appleseed Day!
Clearly, the approach worked well in this city and region. David chose Sarasota because of its location between major metro areas in Southwest Florida, and the city now has a 20-stall Supercharger station, a service center, and a lot of Tesla owners. It’s not Silicon Valley or Amsterdam, but it’s a pretty hot market. I wondered aloud how much this market’s relative maturity was due to David planting the flag here and the benefits of the local Tesla store (which is a couple of minutes from the Supercharger stall we were filming at). How much more consumer demand might there be in the US and worldwide if there were 100× more Johnny Appleseeds sent around the US and the world to open up new regions in such an active manner?
I then asked about FUD (fear, uncertainty, and doubt) issues at that time. There was indeed FUD, David noted as he chuckled, and as you know if you read our Tesla flashbacks posts, but he emphasized that 1) their sales process was very targeted at people who had already expressed interest in a Tesla, and 2) they found in their guerrilla marketing efforts (parking a car on the sidewalk and talking to strangers walking by, for example) that most people hadn’t heard of Tesla and all they needed was a test drive to get excited about it. Today, most people seem to have heard of Tesla, but much of what they’ve heard is negative messaging — a test drive is still all that’s really needed to fix that problem.
We changed location to get out of the brain-melting sun and David highlighted that back in the early days many buyers thought their Tesla would be a less-used, around-town car in the household. The Tesla sales staff would tell them right up front that they’d quickly start using the Tesla much more than they thought, and that was indeed the case for customer after customer. In fact, that raised a topic I’ve noticed for years on the Tesla Motors Club forums and David confirmed from his end — that many spouses end up “stealing” the buyers’ cars. The good news is this then leads to multi-Tesla households, something that was occasionally a thing back in 2013 but has increased significantly with the Model 3, and is expected to increase much further with the Model Y and Cybertruck. David shared a story of one such case with one of the earliest Tesla buyers in Florida.
Switching gears, David highlighted a story showing that back in those early days there would be a serious meeting at Tesla HQ just to consider where one single car should go for test drives. One car was such a major, important asset — and the company was so young and unknown — that it warranted that. It’s wild to consider that was the case just 7 years ago, but it was. Imagine Elon Musk, Jerome Guillen, and others debating today whether it’s worth it to send one car to a certain region for an event and test drives.
We took a scenic route around Wall St. in this episode to run through some of David’s memories and reflections on the Tesla [TSLA] stock price. He was awarded stock as an employee back when the price was $20 or so, and he joked that back then staff would say things like, “It could go to $50 one day!” Ah, how things have changed. Also, note that this interview was conducted 3 months ago, when the stock price was around $242. David was talking even then about how the stock looked great from his perspective when you take that relatively short history into account. Jumping to today, you can see the stock price increase got even much more dramatic, rising to a record and historically interesting $420 earlier this week and $425 yesterday. I noticed on Twitter David was still enjoying the ride:
— David Havasi (@daveydo2000) December 23, 2019
— David Havasi (@daveydo2000) December 23, 2019
We ended this episode with a short chat about how David and the team went about finding new customers in 2013 Florida. The methods varied, and the buyers varied, but there was clearly interest — and it’s not hard to sell the car once you get people to sit in it for a test drive or test ride.
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