Tesla is famous for doing things their own way. From the very first Roadster, Tesla has endeavored to shirk the status quo for their own slightly more quirky business practices. There are benefits and liabilities when your CEO is a certified evil genius.
These disruptions to the industry standard have been multi-fold. The first and most obvious is bringing a viable electric car to market in a world of gas guzzling IC engines, but Tesla has expended enormous resources in something aside from building the best electric car in the world: their push for the right to sell their products directly to consumers.
This simple concept has proven a thorn in many sides as the car dealership sales model has been operating successfully for well over hundred years, and while the initial response from the Tesla buying public was huzzah for cutting out the middle-man, dealer networks have been fighting in state courts to keep themselves firmly entrenched between car manufacturers and car buyers.
This hasn’t stopped potential Tesla owners from getting their hands on these products, regardless of dealership laws in their home state. Here in Texas, Tesla boutiques (they can’t legally be called a sales office or dealership) will let you play with a new car, drive a new car, they’ll give you all the information you want, but they are legally forbidden from discussing anything related to actually selling you the car. Instead, you have to purchase the car in another state, register the car in that state, then transfer your new car’s title to Texas. It’s a moderate amount of hoops to jump through, but certainly not prohibitive for the Tesla faithful.
But is this model really good for Tesla?
Car dealerships operate solely on sales. They have to sell cars and the occasional warranty package to keep the doors open, and the only way to get enough new customers in the door is effective marketing. And boy oh boy are they good at it. I’ve never set foot inside the door of my local Chevy megaplex dealership, but I can tell you their name, their address, and sing their theme song. And I don’t even have cable.
There are around 15 minutes of commercials every hour on prime time network TV, and at least half of that time is made up of car commercials. Right next to the glitzy star-studded commercials straight from Ford and GM are the local dealership ads, peppered with overzealous acting, rubber chickens galore, and the ever-present jingle or theme song.
Tesla increased their sales by over 200 percent last year. They’re miles ahead of the competition when it comes to electrified transport. Even with all this going for it, in terms of raw numbers, the electrified motor still hasn’t overtaken dino-juice power, and a large part of the fault falls to Tesla not having the behemoth of dealership marketing machines working for it.
Even if they can barely keep up with demand, Tesla should think about throwing some money at good old fashioned car commercials for the greater good of the industry. Bringing their American made product front and center can only do great things for widespread adoption of the technology, and might even remind a few folks that we can still do great things.