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by Tim Beissmann

Tesla has encouraged “more than one” prospective Model S customer not to buy the electric luxury sports sedan in Australia.

Tesla Australia marketing and communications manager Heath Walker made the surprising revelation late last week, though rather than admitting any limitations of the car itself, said the rare cases related to the suitability of the car to the customer’s lifestyle.

“If the car’s not right for someone we will tell them,” Walker said. “We explain to all our customers and walk them through the pros and cons.

“There have been people, and I think they come to that realisation as well, it’s somewhat of a self-realisation. Others still go through with the process and they say ‘no, I’m happy with the barriers that I’m going to face’.”

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Walker said the lack of home off-street parking and therefore the ability to install a wall-mounted charging unit was the biggest red flag, though believes most hurdles to Model S ownership can be overcome.

“On-street parking is the hardest thing, but we’re now overcoming that with the secure parking deal that we’ve been able to secure so people are able to charge while they’re at work rather than at home by using a secure parking location to plug in and park their Model S.”

Walker said the continued expansion of the Supercharger and destination charging network would further remove barriers and help adoption rates of Tesla vehicles in Australia.

He said it was crucial that the company didn’t pressure prospective customers into purchasing a Model S if it wasn’t going to suit their lifestyle.

“We don’t want to pressure anyone into buying this vehicle because we don’t want them to have a bad experience, because it’s those people that have a bad experience with Tesla that will travel twice as far as those that have a good experience, and because we don’t do advertising it’s critical to our future that everyone has a great experience.”

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Walker said the overwhelming majority of Australians who have gone through with purchasing a Model S have fallen into one of two key demographics.

“There’s a lot of what I’d call pre-retirees, who are business owners and are looking to purchase a car. They generally like the latest and greatest. It’s a transition vehicle for them. They like the element that it’s got four-door capacity for extended family, grandkids and family members and also kids. There’s certainly a lot of room for golf bags in that boot, too.

“The other is young entrepreneurs, around the 30-year-old bracket.”

Walker said Australian Model S sales had so far been “heavily skewed” towards the male demographic, though he believes the arrival of the Model X SUV around July/August 2016 will attract more women to the brand.

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Among those two key buyer demographics, Walker says there are three key purchase motivators for the Model S.

“The three things that normally bring buyers into the showroom are performance, technology or environmental credentials, they’re the three reasons for purchase.

“By far the biggest one that has surprised me is performance and how much of a drawcard that has been. The majority of performance car buyers are traditionalists: they want a car that they’ve known, they’re usually brand loyal, and the credentials that surround that brand and the understanding of the workings within that vehicle.

“We’re a new brand, we’ve got new workings, new engineering. We do have the credentials and the statistics that now sit around this vehicle, especially with the P90 now doing 3.0-second 0-100km/h. It’s a pretty compelling offer at the price we offer the vehicle at, so that’s been probably the biggest surprise.

“And then the smallest slice of the pie has been for its enviro credentials. I always say it’s a secondary motivator to purchasing an electric vehicle, certainly with the Model S because it’s got so much more to offer aside from the zero-emission element.

“The nice thing is our owners still want that element, but it’s secondary, so it’s a nice-to-have, but they do embrace it. And it works for us because it’s part of our mission to move to sustainable transport so they embrace that through solar. The majority of [owners] have a solar network on their house.”

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Walker said the cars that Model S buyers have jumped out of have been varied.

“Probably the most common is the Lexus [RX450h] hybrid 4WD SUV. We see quite a lot of people hop out of the Porsche Panamera, and then the enviro-enthusiasts are usually hopping out of a plug-in or traditional EV – they might have jumped out of a Leaf and get into a 70, or they’re hopping out of an Outlander, those ones are less so.

“Then there are a lot of people who aren’t hopping out of anything, they’ve got a garage full of beautiful cars and they just want this to add to their collection. That’s a nice position to be in.”




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