Tesla’s recent introduction to the Australian market is set to begin a change of landscape for car dealers as the traditional dealer model of selling cars begins to break down.
Much like its success in North America, Tesla’s Australian launch is powered by the company’s own set of stores, which act as experience centres rather than dealerships, allowing for a direct line of access to Tesla employees both for sales and aftersales.
Speaking with CarAdvice at the Detroit motor show today, Tesla’s vice president of marketing and communications, Ricardo Reyes, said the potential of Tesla in Australia was just as big as in the United States (relative to population) but the sales model would have to carry as well.
“It’s necessary,” Reyes said in regards to Tesla’s dealership-free model. “Our effort is two-fold. Our effort is educational as much as it is sales. We have to have people who aren’t going to look at the Model S and think it’s just as good as other cars on a lot.”
Tesla follows a similar strategy to technology giant Apple, whereby its products are largely sold through its own stores with direct access to highly trained employees.
Reyes says the traditional dealership model of selling internal combustion engine vehicles doesn’t work for electric cars, mainly because the level of education required from the sales person to a customer cannot be left to dealers, but also because Tesla vehicles don’t require the same types of service as normal vehicles.
“With dealers, they sell you the car and then it’s based on service, tune ups, oil changes, which aren’t necessary on an electric car. So the model breaks down for electric cars. Ours is a very, very different model. It’s not that we are being so resistant, it’s just that it doesn’t make sense in a traditional dealership model.”
Tesla’s aftersales support system is a direct line of communication from customer to store staff and then on to the engineers and factory, with customer feedback incorporated into future updates that apply to not just future models but also the current car.
The company has pushed plenty of “over-the-air” updates to its existing cars, bringing not only drivetrain improvements but also additional features requested by customers. Reyes says Tesla cars remain updatable for many years after purchase.
As for the potential of the brand in Australia, Tesla believes that similarities between the US and Australia are more in tune for the brand than the differences.
“Australia has a traditionally strong car culture very much like the US, or more so like California,” Reyes said. “Manufacturing has been going on since forever so there’s appreciation for two things, really good automotive design and engineering but also a keen understanding and awareness of environmental impact.”
The abundance of sunlight will also make charging stations a far easier task, with Reyes pointing out that there’s no reason why a Model S can’t run entirely on solar energy in Australia.
The highly anticipated Tesla Model X SUV will go into production later this year, with an Australian launch very likely for early 2016. It will be followed by a mid-size sedan to take on the BMW 3 Series and Meredes-Benz C-Class, dubbed the Tesla Model 3.