Tesla Reinvents the Car Buying Experience




Tesla Reinvents the Car Buying Experience

Panoramic photo of the Tesla Motors Retail Store at the Fashion Island Mall in Newport Beach, California - Nov 22, 2011

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Tuesday, Nov 28, 2011 by Max Mindel

On Monday, November 21st,  I had the good fortune of being able to visit one of Tesla’s new dealerships.  This, like other of these Tesla Motors retail locations have been placed in shopping malls!   This one is located in the Fashion Island Mall in Newport Beach, California; just a 1-1/2 hour drive away from my home in Los Angeles. 

As I drove there I thought, should I be calling this a dealership?  Isn’t a dealership a place where car dealers sell cars?  In the case of Tesla Motors, they are selling their cars directly; so clearly I can’t call this a dealership since Tesla Motors,  the manufacturer, is selling these directly without the use of any dealer network.  Without knowing what to expect, I decided that really this should be called a Tesla Motors “store.”  However, my mental model of a car seller (or dealer) was that of a car lot with many cars and one structure that houses 1 model of each car for potential customers to view, that is strategically naturally located in an auto mall or on some major heavy traffic boulevard.  So then I thought, well since this is in a regular shopping mall, it will be just like that single structure with one model of each car, but there will be no car lot.

As I approached the store, I was greeted by a glowing Tesla logo that proudly screamed out, we’re here, we are the future and we’re going to make a footprint in the world, so come on in and we’ll show you how!  As I got closer and began to see more, something felt very strange and at the same time very familiar.  After all, since when does a car company have a store in a shopping mall?  At first, it sounds crazy doesn’t it?  Then I thought, since when does a computer company have a store in a shopping mall?  My answer to myself; well, ever since Apple Inc. started the idea 10 years ago.  As I walked inside Tesla’s retail space I was in awe. 
The space was designed beautifully and every inch of wall space was tastefully used to provide a thematic educational and inviting environment.  Every wall had something to offer including interactive displays that would enable you to configure your dream Tesla and get a preview of its appearance right there on the spot.  Even the electric motor which was surprisingly small was up there mounted on a wall to examine! 

On the floor was a Tesla Roadster, Tesla Motors’ first electric car.  The Model S, which was on tour was there as I expected and it is beautiful.  But what surprised me the most was that the bare chassis for the Model S was there as well!  What a great way to see.  I circled around the Model S many times and took in every detail.

As I continued to wander around and take in the experience, I stopped for a moment and realized that I wasn’t being approached by any pushy salesperson.  What a change!  No one approached me with any of the the typical auto industry one-liners, like “Max, what can I do get you in a Tesla today?”  So instead I approached a gentleman by the name of Gregory and introduced myself.  He was very friendly.  He offered me a tour of the 17” touch panel dashboard and was very thorough.  I learned a lot.   I even spent some time in a Tesla Roadster.

I voluntarily had interaction with every staff member and each one had something informative to offer.  I had the pleasure of talking to other Tesla enthusiasts as well, who were there to look at the Tesla Model S too.   I never once looked at my clock.   When I walked in it was daylight, and when I left it was evening and almost 4 hours had gone by.

As I walked out the door, I couldn’t help but taking a look back; in fact, not once, but several times.  I couldn’t help it--I felt like I was looking back at a historical moment, and it was during those moments that I realized that Tesla Motors had just reinvented the car buying experience.