Automotive Blog

A venture into the world of a Tesla store

Tesla Blog

It seems hardly a day goes by where there isn’t something in the news about Tesla “revolutionising” the automotive industry in one way or another, and it seems to be just as much about their sales approach as it is about their ground breaking 250 mile range electric cars.

So when one of only 14 Tesla stores in the UK opened up a permanent location near to the ICDP head offices in June, our recon mission was clear. We ditched our lanyards and ventured out one lunchtime to Touchwood shopping centre in Solihull under the assumed identities of curious shoppers.

The location had been chosen after the success of a 6-month temporary pop up store earlier in the year, which proved very popular. We got to explore two (very impressive) models sitting alongside a number of different affiliated products, including Tesla branded baby clothing and golf bags.

The salesman was very friendly and happy to talk to us about the cars and the company, for which he seemed proud to be a part of, even after our assumed identities had inevitably been foiled. It’s probably wrong of me to refer to him as a salesman, as the staff working front of house are actually referred to as “product experts”, and it certainly felt more like we were having a lesson rather than a sales experience. Interactive screens around the store acted more as education points as they did to support sales. And the vehicles on display were joined by a Tesla chassis to help educate the public on how the Tesla model differs from a standard passenger car.
The similarities to the Apple sales model didn’t stop at their titles. The emphasis on experience rather than sales became obvious when learning about where a lot of the staff had been recruited from. Some had come from the automotive industry, but more often from marketing or PR than a showroom; and others had been recruited directly from Apple or other high end luxury stores such as Burberry. And unlike most dealers, the only person paid on commission was the sales manager.

Even though we like to group stores in shopping mall locations under the “innovative retail experience” category, the store was essentially a traditional dealership with a facelift. Customers could order in store and only through the ordering system with the help of the staff, and you could still take test drives on location. But it still begged the question of how many people were actually placing orders at the store rather than just wandering in to admire the cars, and whether customers would have preferred to use a traditional style dealership if one had been available.

A network of shopping centre and high street locations seems to fulfil the needs of the company at the moment, but with their optimistic plans to expand the number of their cars on the road, having no service location attached to the stores and no space to sell used models may prove a real issue in the next few years. It’s very clear that however they do develop, the industry will be watching very closely.

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Written by Lucy Langdon

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