I recently asked my Twitter followers if car manufacturers were advertising their EV models enough ?
The answer was a resounding no.
The car industry walks a tricky tightrope when promoting an alternative which could be seen as demonising their bread and butter petrol and diesel models. The California based Tesla Motors does not have this baggage.It does not need to advertise, instead employs a word-of-mouth marketing philosophy whereby I might not be able to buy right now, but I might know someone who can.
Whilst high-street retailers have adapted to the surge in online sales and the almost total loss of brand loyalty, car dealers however, seem to have been doing the same old thing for years with buyers accepting a lack of innovation in the customer experience .
When Tesla came along they decided to do things differently. Not just with the product, but with the way it is purchased. Tesla Motors are not selling, YOU are buying – buying into the product, the brand and the Marvel comic style superhero, CEO Elon Musk.
I was recently given the opportunity to visit the new wholly-owned Tesla site in Manchester prior to its official launch later this week. This was something I did with slight trepidation. This feeling was soon washed away when greeted by a youthful Product Specialist who’s infectious enthusiasm brightened up the damp Manchester morning.
The showroom, or store to give it’s correct title, is an oasis of calm. Just two cars and a naked chassis on display. No harsh branding in sight and no adverts for extras or special offers.
I am reminded by a member of the team that Tesla is “A Technology firm who just happens to make cars”.
Tesla don’t sell gap insurance or paint protection. If you have a car you would like to part-exchange, that’s ok, as is finance, it is just 5.9%, no negotiations. A discount is also out of the question. There will be no disappearing off to the sales manager to “work up a deal for you”. There isn’t a sales manager, nor sales people, just a small team of passionate members of the Tesla family.
After a quick ID check we stepped into the drizzle and out for test-drive in a Model S. I was treated to a Midnight Silver 85d – dual motors, all-wheel drive, gargantuan range all for circa £70,000 with the optional Auto-Pilot and location-aware Air Suspension. When driving it was abundantly clear the car is worth every penny with intoxicating performance and drive-ability. A Model S could almost be classed as value for money when taking into account equipment levels, tax benefits and fuel costs. As an aside, Auto-Pilot is fabulous.
On close inspection there are some quality issues with the car. Certain plastic parts are not quite upto the same standard of their German rivals, but as an overall package there is little to critise. Yes, there are only two cup holders and interior storage is poor with no door bins or cubbies of any kind, just a glove box to store your manuals and a branded cloth to polish away fingerprints from the giant, crystal clear touch-screen display. Those familiar with Mercedes‘ latest offerings may even recognise some of the switches and stalks that have been pinched from their parts bin.
After my 40 minute test drive, where my co-pilot showed off his extensive product knowledge, we returned and I was offered a Nespresso, shown the available trim options, colours and wheels at the Design Studio with the opportunity to build a car online and have it emailed to me for later consideration – over another Nespresso at home perhaps – no hard sell here.
Tesla’s current range, the Model S and Model X are undeniably premium cars with premium prices to match. As Tesla go mainstream with the Model 3, with its suggested $35,000 entry price, I can only hope they maintain this premium customer experience and continue to put others, some with with a century of experience, to shame.