Fresh air coming to car retailing?

If we believe what we read, we should conclude that car salespeople are more keen on smoking and texting than assisting mankind’s shift to electric vehicles. Consumer Reports told us so, albeit not exactly in those words, and now the NYT concurs. Even some auto manufacturers don’t like to sell EVs. FCA chief Sergio Marchionne, in a move he will regret,* outright flouted EVs by begging the public to avoid its electric Fiat because it represents a loss to the company. Yet Tesla sells EVs pretty effortlessly, without even advertising them, and at premium prices. Why?

  1. Compelling product. Already discussed at length, and the topic will continue ad infinitum. Other automakers are plotting their Tesla-killers, as the press constantly reminds us, blah blah blah.
  2. Compelling customer experience. Tesla controls its stores. Other automakers struggle to control theirs, so saddled are they with the grandfathered franchise system.

While number 1 gets the headlines, number 2 is quietly getting some much-needed attention. Lexus says it’s watching Tesla’s retail model very closely. TeslaMondo’s sources inside Toyota speak of a new “transparent” process in the works. BMW has opened a mall store already. And now Audi plots a retail re-boot. So Tesla is simultaneously eroding century-old complacency in both auto development and auto retailing. At last, some fresh thinking. It will be interesting to see how Tesla’s service model withstands the exponential sales growth. Will we witness broad change in automotive servicing too? Probably, and just in time for autonomous pay-per-use cars to force a thorough re-write of this post.

*Can you name a single instance when flouting technological change has worked out swimmingly for any company?

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