What is the secret sauce of selling new-vision EV hardware to curious onlookers? Worthy of note are the "boutique" shopping mall outlets that could follow Tesla's lead. While Fisker joins forces with Penske Auto Group to proliferate Karmas and Atlantics, how closely are others watching Tesla's approach at 21st century marketing? BMW may be the first to emulate the strategy.
I live in western Washington State, and I was blown away by my local Tesla store. It not only is INSIDE Washington's poshest, most upscale indoor shopping mall not far from Microsoft, but it's ON THE SECOND FLOOR NEAR A GLASS ELEVATOR. All in, it's smaller than an average trendy clothing outlet. It all comes across even more stunning when one sees the street-level indoor parking garage where an expensive, expansive Tesla-exclusive charging bay large enough for eight cars resides. More impressive since I've never seen even one Tesla charging there. This is expensive real estate. It's all shiny, bright, sexy, Euro-look and EMPTY! WHERE'S THE ROADSTERS, PEOPLE?!
Tesla is spending money putting what I term "boutique" dealership/showrooms in the most unexpected high zoot areas. These are not dealerships in the traditional sense. There are no lines of vehicles in stock cluttering acres of space - no prices in fluorescent cardboard filling rows of windshields. There are no plastic flags waving on strings strung from lightposts - no gaudy "CLEARANCE - BUY BUY BUY" accoutrements. Showrooms have no desks, computers or customers. Order your Tesla in a private office in back - no pressure allowed. My kids got free little Tesla Roadster Hot Wheels! The boutiques appear tailored to appeal to the modern tech-hungry aspirational yuppie. Folks who admire gadgets and study what technology will mean to us tomorrow. Folks a lot like you and me. BMW's choice of a spot in the trendy Hyde Park market area of London just in time for the Olympic Games is, in a sense, perfect – and Tesla-like to a tee!
Automakers watch Tesla innovate, innovate , innovate. Is this what will be needed to gain ground on Ye Olde Established Brandes? Are you watching Cadillac? Infiniti?
As you know, Tesla showcase centers are clean, understated contemporary spaces. Like something Apple might do if it sold autos. You have flat touchscreens on the wall that invite buyer investigation and open chassis to peruse and understand just how revolutionary these cars are.
BMW has caught on first, with it's trendy "i" store. Of course, BMW has the rep and money to outdo Tesla at it's own game - but will they go "all in", or will they lay back like all others and watch from a comfortable distance? I believe this is the trend of our future. Dealers will have to be more creative than adding barber shops, bowling alleys and nail salons inside their buildings. Customers want an experience that reflects the product. I think Tesla has hit it spot on. I felt special when I've visited, like a V.I.P. on a McDonald's budget. I was asked to sit in the prototypes and give my impressions. Staff were knowledgeable, casual and low-key.
While I save for my Volt, I'll dream of owning the aspirational 300 mile Model S. The unconventional approach made the car even more impressive. Not fearing "being sold" with pressure. The car and the marketing approach may revolutionize the entire industry.