February 27, 2013
Tesla Expands, Looks To Apple
Following a high-profile critique of their East Coast expansion by the New York Times, Tesla announced last week that they’ll be taking the good word of electric autos to the streets by way of Apple-style showrooms. Tesla had announced plans to open up showrooms in American malls last November, but in a recent earnings call, their VP of Worldwide Experience (and former Apple VP) George Blankenship announced plans to open their first store in China this spring.
Tesla also has a presence in Europe, but this presence pales in comparison to the attention they garner in America. According to CEO Elon Musk, (the same Elon Musk responsible for launching privately-owned rockets into space) there are only two display Model S units in the whole of Europe at the moment.
“That’s going to change dramatically over the next few months, and we are going to start marketing heavily in Europe and then start doing the same in Asia,” said Musk during the earnings call.
Tesla now hopes they can bring some of the magic they’ve wrought in the States to Asia and Europe. According to Blankenship, a total of 1.6 million people wandered into a Tesla store during the fourth quarter of 2012. Yet, for these millions of potential American customers, there remains a strong interest outside of the States. According to Musk, as much as 25 percent of their total orders come from customers outside of North America. These areas are great markets for an electric car, considering the astronomical price of petrol.
The fact that the Chinese markets seem to eat up any luxury brands from the West also looks promising for Tesla.
Blankenship has apparently taken some of what he learned as VP of retail at Apple and is applying it to electric cars. First, these stores are going straight to the customers, meeting them in shopping malls. These stores will allow customers to get all kinds of hands-on with these new cars and even customize their new automobile, should they be ready to buy.
Musk believes his shopping mall stores are able to pull such an audience because, unlike their neighbors the Gap and the Godiva store, the Tesla store has a pretty cool car parked dead center.
Currently, Tesla has 17 of these stores in ten states across America. Blankenship and Musk didn’t say exactly how many stores they’d be opening across Europe and Hong Kong, however, only that the difference would be “dramatic.”
Tesla also recently saw a bit of bad press when a New York Times reporter took the Model S out for a test drive during a cold snap and found the electric experience lacking.
Elon Musk defended his company, using data they obtained from tattletales installed on the test car to refute the Times piece, though many of these claims raised more questions than answers.