I began this rant about Tesla and what I think the brand needs in order to continue to grow and prosper in the face of red-hot competition from established players that it’s never really had before. In part one, I talked about the brand’s need to diversify its product lines and stop selling the same sausage in different lengths. In this one, I’m going to talk about an even more important part of the company’s continued growth: its need for dealers.
Editor’s note: Not everyone on our extensive writing team agrees 100% on everything, including matters regarding Tesla. This is Jo’s perspective, but that does not mean it’s the norm here. In fact, it is most likely a small minority opinion with a variety of useful observations and opinions. We do welcome a diversity of views and arguments here on different cleantech matters, including Tesla. —Zach
Tesla is Doing Just Fine — Right?
Despite the fact that Tesla has an enormous head start in the electric car race, we shouldn’t consider the race won. After all, we didn’t find this article on Netscape, and we’re not all reading this on Palm Pilots or Blackberries, posting it to our MySpace accounts, then sending it to our friends through our America Online accounts. Similarly, the Oldsmobile Cutlass was the best-selling vehicle by far in the 1970s and into the 1980s, with more than 520,000 examples being sold in 1978 alone — and how many kids under 20 even know Oldsmobile was a thing?
For the record, that’s nearly 20,000 more Olds Cutlasses sold in 1978 than Tesla sold Model Ys globally in 2021 (in a smaller overall market, too). Historically speaking, that lead may not be all it’s cracked up to be, you know?
What’s more, early adopters and evangelists are much more likely to tolerate the shortcomings of a new technology. They’ll not only put up with issues, they’ll pay more and more to continue to get the latest and greatest version of a given product earlier than anyone else.
The majority of buyers, early or not, simply don’t think that way.
Sure, you could probably argue that a lot of the issues people have are user error, or that they stem from misplaced expectations, or even that people just want to bash Musk and/or Tesla for fake internet points, and I’d agree with you on most of those counts … but not all:
- Here’s a guy who bought a new Tesla Model Y Long Range in Texas (more on that later). Tesla and/or Texas messed up his paperwork and he’s been unable to drive the car for months.
- Vox is reporting that there are more than 9,000 Better Business Bureau claims against the company relating to its service practices.
- Here’s a customer who loves the way their Tesla drives, but whose experience with a rushed delivery led them to write that, “I think that all of what happened to me was intentional from Tesla’s end because I’m sure that they are aware that some of their cars do have defects from the factory.”
- This video below compares four different vehicle models’ automatic parking features. The Tesla’s performance is … not good (see for yourself).
Self-Parking Cars: Tesla vs. Audi vs. Ford vs. BMW — Test & Comparison
All of which points to the fact that, as we leave the early early adopter stage and start to get into things that the early majority will worry and care about, the tech-focused, online-only approach to customer support is falling short of consumer expectations. The direct sales model lacks, “the human element.”
What’s more, Tesla knows that the legacy car brands have an edge here — which is why they’re building a fourth Tesla mega dealership in Austin as I type this.
If the city approves the bid, Tesla will spend more than $1.5 million renovating the 51,975-square-foot store into a dedicated dealership that will handle sales, delivery, and service. It’s being pitched as a one-stop shop for customers who are not quite ready to commit to online car shopping.
Dealerships Really Do Sell Cars
While auto dealers get a lot of hate, they also pull a lot of people in, answer their questions, and can providing a more welcoming atmosphere for some shoppers. You don’t have to take my word for it, by the way. Here’s some numbers from some people who may or may not have had a sitcom on HBO:
That’s my take, anyway — and, make no mistake, Tesla is currently winning the future, despite its Technoking sniping at his paying customers and most ardent fans on Twitter. If you’re curious about what my take on Elon’s behavior is, and want to read another rant on what Elon needs to do in order to ensure his antics don’t further hurt the brand, you can come back for part 3, where I’ll argue that what Tesla really needs in order to succeed … is to shun its loyal fans.
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