In what appears to be yet another initiative to deliver as many of its electric cars as possible to customers, Elon Musk has announced that Tesla is trying to get rid of paper contracts completely. According to Musk, Tesla’s delivery process should be as simple as a tap on a screen. Under the system, returns for Tesla’s vehicles should be a lot simpler as well.
Musk’s Twitter update came as a response to Tesla enthusiast JD Mankovsky, who noted that his sister-in-law has been in a delivery center for hours waiting for her all-electric SUV’s contracts to be finished. Mankovsky stated that there was a backlog in the delivery center’s contract/legal approval level, causing handovers to be delayed. In classic fashion, Musk promptly responded with an idea in tow.
We’re trying to get rid of contracts completely. Should just be “tap here & you get your car”. Then, if you don’t like it for any reason, just return it like any other product.
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) July 23, 2018
If Tesla does employ what could pretty much be described as a tap and drive system, it would be yet another way for the company to separate itself from the conventions of the traditional auto industry. Issuing and signing contracts, after all, are a well-known, time-consuming aspect of the vehicle delivery process, and it is one practice that Tesla still engages in today. By getting rid of paper contracts, Tesla will separate itself even more from traditional auto sales practices. Such a practice will also make the buying experience of Tesla’s vehicles more similar to consumer tech products than conventional cars.
In a way, using a digital signing system for its vehicles is a strategic move for Tesla. The use of digital contracts, after all, has only been growing over the years. In the United States alone, digital signatures are an option for filing tax returns over the internet, and that is valid in every state today. Tesla would likely need to adapt to additional regulations if or when it starts using digital contracts, but the transition could be done.
Elon Musk’s statement about returning vehicles if customers are not satisfied further emphasizes the idea that Tesla’s vehicles are more like computers on wheels than regular vehicles. Elon Musk has, over the years, underscored the idea that Tesla is a different breed of carmaker, not only in terms of its products but also in terms of its business practices. Returning cars to the company in a manner similar to returning an iPhone to Apple definitely falls under that category. Returned vehicles could even give the company a considerable revenue. Apple, for one, usually uses returned units to be sold later on as refurbished devices. Tesla could employ a similar strategy, opening a lineup between its brand new and CPO offerings.
Looking at Elon Musk’s tweet in the short-term, the removal of traditional paper contracts seems to be yet another way for Tesla to increase its delivery figures. The company, after all, is currently pushing for profitability this third quarter. For Tesla to do this, it would have to deliver as many cars as it can to customers, particularly higher-margin vehicles like the Model 3 Performance, the Model S P100D, and the Model S P100D. Such a system ties in perfectly with the company’s new 5-Minute Sign & Drive system for Model 3 deliveries as well.
In a way, Tesla’s efforts to expedite the deliveries of its vehicles are in the best interests of the company’s customers. Earlier this month, Tesla announced that it had sold its 200,000th electric car in the United States, triggering the phase-out period for the $7,500 tax credit granted to its customers. The tax credit is set to decrease over the next quarters and fully expire by December 2019. Thus, from this point until the end of next year, it would be up to Tesla to deliver as many vehicles as possible to ensure that its customers qualify for a federal tax credit.