In what I predict will end as an idea whose time has not come. Tesla Motors, which until now manufactured upscale (expensive) electric vehicles, has been opening stores in shopping malls during the past several months.
According to George Blankenship, who helped create Apple’s retail stores and now leads Tesla’s sales strategy, the objective is to engage people when they aren’t thinking about buying a car. Imagine, you are shopping for nuts and candy at Buddy Squirrel, when you spy a “must have” $100,000 Tesla across the aisle. Now imagine the person who could afford a Tesla push their way through bands of roving teenagers and power-walking seniors in order to get to the dealership only to have to wait for all the “lookie lous” with cinnamon syrup dripping from their fingers to get the hell out of the way.
There’s also the small problem of manufacturer owned dealerships. Most states have laws prohibiting them. In fact, Chrysler was forced to sell off their flagship Los Angeles dealership last year because it violated California franchise laws. The National Automobile Dealers Association is up in arms over Tesla’s move as well, fearing this might give other manufacturers ammunition to take similar steps despite the laws. But since Tesla does not have a network of franchise dealers they may be able to skirt the issue.
Tesla has plans to introduce two new models including a “Crossover” priced 40% less than current models. Perhaps mall locations can drive sales of cars in the $40,000 range, but I wouldn’t count on mall foot traffic resulting in more sales than the traditional stand alone showroom on auto row. Of course I could be wrong. After all the “traditional” showroom sales model has changed quite a bit since the 1930s and 40s. Enjoy!