Elon Musk Visits Conventional Dealership – Calls Customers There Prey, While Texas Dealer Boss Gloats Win (Video)

AUG 28 2013 BY JAY COLE 31

Tesla CEO Pops By Acura Dealership In Santa Monica - Says Customers Feel Like

Tesla CEO Pops By Acura Dealership In Santa Monica – Says Customers Feel Like They “are prey” In Conventional Showrooms

While driving a Model S, Tesla CEO Elon Musk made his first ever stop at a conventional dealership (an Acura showroom in California) and says that customers are treated like prey under that selling model, whereas at a Tesla boutique outlet, employees make no commissions and exert no pressure on customers according to Musk.

“We don’t actually train people to sell. We train people to educate.”

Lets Drive On Over To Talk To The Competition...What Could Possibly Go Wrong?

Lets Drive On Over To Talk To The Competition…What Could Possibly Go Wrong?

How Mr. Musk ended up darkening the door of a competitor’s showroom happened quite unexpectedly during an interview with Nightline reporter Betty Liu while driving around in a Model S.  Here is how the exchange went down (starting at the 3:00 mark in the video below):

Liu: “Have ever driven into any of these (conventional) dealerships just to see what they think about the Model S?”

Musk “Uh…nope (giggles)”

Liu: “Do you want to?”

Musk: Shrugs shoulders, “We could do it right now if you want.”

At this point, the Nightline reporter is fairly excited at the prospect of getting Musk in a high pressure situation, while meanwhile we are sure that the Tesla CEO’s handlers heads are exploding somewhere in the chase car as he pulls in front of an Acura dealership in Santa Monica.  (Whats the Wolf’s phone number again? – language NSFW)

"Uh, Mr. Musk...You Might Not Want To Do This"

“Uh, Mr. Musk…You Might Not Want To Do This”

While standing on the Acura lot, Musk says that the dealership experience “…isn’t particularly inviting, it is usually a fairly high pressure situation,” while noting that customers are never really sure if they are getting a good deal or not.  While noting the customer is uneasy there.

“You feel a little bit like you’re prey….and you’re going to get pounced on and it’s not very pleasant”


Amazingly, Liu then convinces Musk to enter the dealership and engage the Acura employees there about their selling practises and his Model S!

However, by this time Elon’s handlers have fully recovered from their earlier seizures and quickly pull him out of the situation.  We imagine they were thinking about the welfare of Tesla’s relationship with Honda, and selling them future ZEV credits.  (Acura is Honda’s luxury division)

Whose A Happy Guy?  Wolters Is A Happy Guy!

Whose A Happy Guy? Bill Wolters Is A Happy Guy!

The second half of the video (from 4:00) is also fairly interestin; as Bill Wolters – President of the Texas Dealers Association, can barely hold in his glee for stopping the Tesla ’boutique store train’ in his home state.

“(laughs) He (Musk) typically is not somebody whose been told no very much.”

From there Mr. Wolters takes Liu on his own tour of a Chevy store in Austin Texas to illustrate it is not as bad as the Tesla CEO has made it out to be, and explains his point of view from there – check out the entire video (below) for the full story.

ABC News – NightlineHat tip to Roald

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31 Comments on "Elon Musk Visits Conventional Dealership – Calls Customers There Prey, While Texas Dealer Boss Gloats Win (Video)"

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Musk sure is lucky, he seems to get a lot of interviews with Betty Liu, who is remarkably hot for a reporter!

How do you think she got him to drive into that Acura dealership? 🙂

The fact that Musk needs handlers to keep himself in check is troubling. Of course, the underlying current is that it is becoming too much about Musk.

It’s the way corporate operates these days. The handlers would disagree with most of Musk’s public statements and yet he continues to get it right. As a retired CEO, I agree with most of his movements. As for Bill Wolters? Laws are not permanent. “It ain’t over till it’s over…”

All of us are error-prone and need handlers in our life. Usually that is our significant other.

As far as it all being about Musk, let’s try to imagine Tesla Motors today without a figure like him.

There are reporters that would convince their subjects to start a fight with a street gang so they could film it. _No one_ should ever talk to reporter without handlers, lawyers, body guards, and their own cameraman. Its safer not to talk to them at all. Don’t let them tresspass on your property. Don’t let them film, photograph or record anything unless you want to be the scapegoat for _anything_ that might happen. [video of Musk pointing at a Model S battery plays without audio] “Electric car blamed for nuclear meltdown in Kazakhstan! More at eleven.”

At the end of the video: “The next youngest car company to Tesla is 90 years old”. That can’t be right. Fisker is younger, but now bankrupt. There has to be others.

I guess it depends on your interpretation of makes a “true” carmaker for the US. A lot of the fringe players are uber small or not (as of yet) to market with a commercial product.

Bill Wolters has such a trusting face. NOT!


LOL. He is like the quintessential greasy car salesman that everyone want’s to run from.

Gotta love that moron at @6:40 who doesn’t understand that the Superchargers are placed where they are for taking long trips, not so you can charge your Tesla for free all the time.
And naturally, they put that in the “report”. It was probably staged anyway, most Tesla owners aren’t that stupid.

He meant there aren’t any restaurants or shops or anything to do near that supercharger. But I agree Tesla shouldn’t pay to put their superchargers in places with amenities. It should be based on routes. When superchargers become more well-known of, then shop owners in dense areas will not be so stupid as to ask to get paid to have a few of their parking spots taken up by Tesla–more of them will offer to pay for the privilege.

It doesn’t make sense to me why more stores don’t put in at least L2 charging. What’s that stupid stat, the average EV buyer makes $175K/year (or whatever). If this is remotely true, that means these people have money, so why not try to attract the bees with honey?

If I’m driving a luxury EV with a giant dash-mounted internet-enabled touch-computer, then I can easily kill time while charging by reading the EV blogs like this one! 🙂

@Anderlan – no, he meant they were too far away, in the middle of nowhere. Like he had to drive 100 miles out of his way to get a free charge, as opposed to drive down the street. The Superchargers are on routes between cities. If you’re driving from LA to Vegas, the supercharger should be on the route, not 50 miles off of it, and as far as I know, it is.

you will never need to charge a model s at a charge station unless you go on a long distance trip

Yeah, I noticed that too seemed like trying to stir the pot with that video byte. His one legit gripe was that there wasn’t something to do nearby though. At least a Starbucks or something, (heck a picnic table) would be nice so you aren’t sitting on the curb to hang out with others. I’m sure the news team purposely chose the most desolate station they could find.

Most people don’t sit around waiting for their EV to charge, especially Tesla owners with the significant range. The Nightline piece should have mentioned the important point that EVs charge at night while people are sleeping and every morning they have a full battery sufficient to go about their daily business.

I am also sick and tired of the whole car of the future nonsense. The Tesla Model S and other plugins are here, now. The current generation have been the present for over three years, and the status quo of hundreds of thousands of people. The fact that the rest of us are behind the times does not make EVs the cars of the future.

The Superchargers, by their very nature, are out in the boonies between two cities. When you’re on a road trip, where you’ll be using them, you have to wait until the car charges. Surely, smart people with an internet connected car can find something to do for 20-30 minutes.

Having said that, it would make beaucoup sense to put them near a restaurant, at least, so you can grab a bite while the car charges.

While I agree that EVs are here now, most carmakers are still dragging their feet WRT putting them on the road, and those same automakers have been brainwashing the masses for decades about the power and freedom of ICE powered vehicles. Just as an example, the Scion FR-S is considered underpowered today, however, it has a quicker 0-60 time (with MT) than the Ferrari 308 GTS that Magnum drove on TV in the 80s.

We have gotten spoiled and power-drunk, and our health, and economy, and our environment have all suffered for it.

Sadly the feeling of prey is how many feel when entering a dealership.

I love how Bill Wolters talks about the “franchise laws” as if they were handed down from heaven. It’s just so entirely hypocritical to insist that it’s “only fair” for people to “play by the rules” when you make up the damn rules yourself, for your own benefit. That’s not “fair” — it’s manipulative and monopolistic. No matter what business you’re talking about, people with attitudes like Wolter’s — believing they are “entitled” to their business — make me ill. They are wholly un-American.

And Wolter’s disdain for Musk is blatant in the interview, hidden behind his smug laughter. It’s obvious Walters believes Must to be some kind of spoiled brat with this silly “toy” electric cars — as if Tesla and Space-X have somehow just been “handed” to him. And Musk has never heard the word “no”? C’mon. Elon Musk can only be the type of person who has heard “no” over and over and over, but has pushed forward with his vision regardless. To accomplish what Musk has, you have to be a person of immerse personal conviction. In comparison, Bill Wolters is a very little man.


Well said, Foo. +1

News flash to Bill Wolters if your business plan was what the “market” meaning consumers really wanted you would not need franchise laws to protect it.

I’m a 100 percent sure that behind closed doors they all admit this to themselves but as long as they can continue to buy off “their” lawmakers it will stand. Currently they use the Tesla only makes cars for rich people defense and there is an element of truth to that, but once Tesla begins to produce a more affordable car this wall my come tumbling down on their and “their” lawmakers heads.

It franchise dealers truly believed Tesla to be a “harmless niche product” for rich people only, they probably wouldn’t care so much. There are existing examples where franchise law exemptions have been granted, allowing direct sale of specialty vehicles (fancy motorcycles, etc.). But, it is precisely because they *do* believe Tesla has the potential to be very disruptive to their business that they are fighting it. That is the *only* reason they would.

As always, actions speak louder than words. They are afraid.

The saddest part if the video is the race in the beginning, where there is no production EV from Germany to use as an example. Insert conversion here and claim Germany is serious about EVs.

Unfortunately, there are more than a few lousy dealerships. But its too broad a brush to say customers are Prey. Musk has stepped into the Steve Jobs role, and if anyone has seen the new movie “jobs”, its not too complementary, but the truth is Jobs was even more horrid than the movie portrayed.

I for one as a Tesla owner, feel I would have been more informed if I could have bought the car through a local dealership. And service during the warranty period would have been easier and cheaper. It was a surprise to me after buying the car how much maintenance it requires. Likewise, there’s issues with the model S that need to be addressed prior to my purchase of one.

Hi Bill,
What maintenance do you have in mind?

What issues with the S need to be addressed?

My local town recently had all its dealerships bought up by a single monopolist. Who failed to repair a simple problem four times, while charging for unnecessary fixes all four times.

Compared to that, Tesla Service is a pleasure to work with. Because my service contract is prepaid, they have no incentive to do unnecessary work, and they do have an incentive to *get it right*.

The Model S requires remarkably little service; Tesla made claims about “required” annual service early on, but Elon Musk has revoked those claims — he says you don’t need to do anything but check the tires.

The only thing that the it shows is that there is a lot of powerfull people that whant to stop Tesla.

I always feel like unconfortabel at car dealers it is like visiting the dentist.

Tesla is for sure my next car.