A Different Approach
Tesla's Model S may look like a concept car, but it’s less than a year from UK showrooms and the fleet sector is firmly on the manufacturer's radar. Annual volumes of 20,000 globally won’t make this a common sight, but it’s enough to allow it a first step on the corporate ladder ahead of the 2015 Model X SUV and a forthcoming 3 Series equivalent which will be even more affordable.
With former Apple store chief strategist George Blankenship as vice president, sales & ownership experience, Tesla’s approach to selling cars is as revolutionary as the technology that powers them. Its showrooms are in high footfall areas, usually shopping malls, and from its network of service centres it can offer on-site servicing for existing customers for a fixed price.
Right hand drive production of the Model S will begin in the second half of 2013, with prices expected to be announced shortly. The UK’s service team, already in place for Roadster customers, is based out of a centre in Acton, London, with additional sites to be rolled out as cars arrive in the UK. These won’t necessarily be built near sales centres, either, with servicing seen as a top priority according to Blankenship.
‘Here’s the beauty of our model,’ explains Blankenship. ‘I already know where the first 13,000 cars are going. All I have to do is put a density map together, and I can say we’ll put a service centre right here. There’s no rocket science to it, wherever there’s a high density of cars we’re going to put a service centre there.’
While there are no allocations or sales targets, and as yet no aspirations for how sales will be split between fleet and retail, Tesla is serious about the corporate sector. Prior to the first deliveries, the carmaker will hire a specific fleet team, including an in-house residual value specialist tasked with maintaining competitive leasing rates.
The team will also have its own fleet of demonstrators for conventions and events, as well as organising demonstration days at businesses to help get the Model S on choice lists.
‘We will hire an expert who knows how to run this end of the business,’ Blankenship says. ‘That’s what we do at Tesla, we believe you go out and hire experts and get them to do their job. We’ll have them come in and make sure the RVs are managed so that that keeps the price competitive, and then there’s a second round after the initial lease is done. We need to find someone with vision because what we’re doing is different.’
‘It’s not that we don’t pay attention to what other people are doing, but we don’t want our business model or our customers to be driven by what others are doing. We want to do things that take care of them the way we think they should be taken care of.'