Investor's Corner

Tesla’s volunteer-boosted Model 3 delivery weekend is a wake-up call for legacy auto

[Credit: dynamyte43/Reddit]

If social media posts and anecdotes from participating owners are any indication, it appears that Tesla’s volunteer-boosted Model 3 delivery weekend is looking to be a success. As Tesla’s volunteers aid the company in orienting large numbers of new owners with their vehicles, the demand for quality electric cars is becoming more evident than ever.

This weekend saw something remarkable happen in the Tesla community. With the company currently attempting to address Elon Musk’s self-dubbed “delivery logistics hell,” some owners of Tesla’s electric cars stepped forward to offer help. The idea was initially pitched by IGN reporter and Ride the Lightning podcast host Ryan McCaffrey on Twitter, and Elon Musk promptly greenlighted the suggestion, stating that any help would be greatly appreciated. The community mobilized itself immediately, and by Saturday, Tesla’s delivery centers had volunteers who were ready to help new owners with the features and functions of their electric cars. Even Elon Musk himself was in Fremont’s center, interacting with new owners.

Reports on social media and in forums such as the r/TeslaMotors subreddit suggest that Tesla’s volunteer-augmented delivery efforts have been largely successful. One such account came from r/TeslaMotors subreddit member and Model 3 owner u/jpbeans, who narrated his experience as a volunteer in one of Tesla’s delivery centers. According to the Model 3 owner, Tesla gave them Guest badges, and they ended up helping owners on several topics, from basics like opening the Model 3’s door handle, to navigating the car’s functions through the 15″ touchscreen.

On Twitter, similar accounts were shared. Twitter user @GuyTesla, who volunteered in Tesla’s Littleton delivery center on Saturday, even noted that a nearby Jaguar dealership inquired how Tesla would be able to store the vehicles being delivered to the site. When informed that the electric cars were not staying in the facility, the staff of the legacy automaker were reportedly a bit shocked.

Inasmuch as the Littleton volunteer’s observations are but an anecdote in an otherwise busy delivery weekend, the demand for premium electric vehicles should be undeniable by now. Over the years, Tesla’s electric cars, despite the company’s teething challenges, proved successful in their respective segments. With the Model 3, Tesla has begun an attack into the mainstream auto market, and the electric sedan is starting to make some waves. In August alone, the Model 3 became the 5th best-selling passenger car in the US, being outsold only by the Toyota Camry, Honda Civic, Honda Accord, and the Toyota Corolla Family, all of which are lower-priced vehicles.

Tesla is pretty much unchallenged in the premium electric car market, though highly-anticipated competitors such as the Mercedes-Benz EQC and the Audi e-tron have recently been unveiled. While these vehicles have long been hyped as possible “Tesla-killers” due to their manufacturers having decades of experience in the auto industry, the performance of the vehicles, as well as their battery tech, seemed to be a bit subpar compared to Tesla’s electric cars. This was addressed by Bernstein analyst Toni Sacconaghi recently, when he noted that contrary to a prevalent bear thesis, there is “no actual flood of competition coming” for Tesla’s vehicles.

The recent offerings of premium legacy automakers have caught the attention of Christina Bu, General Secretary of the Electric Vehicle Association in Norway. Norway is among the world’s leaders in the electric car transition, and it is one of the countries where Tesla’s vehicles hold a formidable place. After the reveal of some of Tesla’s competitors from legacy automakers, the EVA General Secretary proved unimpressed, calling on manufacturers to “stop pretending and start delivering” on real electric cars that have compelling performance and features. Bu further noted that the strong demand for affordable, decently-specced vehicles like the Kia Niro Electric and Hyundai KONA Electric, is proof that consumers are ready to embrace EVs.

Tesla is pretty much only halfway through its efforts of ramping the production of the Model 3. This third quarter, Tesla is aiming to produce 50,000-55,000 Model 3 — a record number of vehicles but still only a fraction of its planned 10,000/week production rate for the electric sedan. Tesla eventually plans to build 500,000 Model 3 per year, and its upcoming crossover SUV, the Model Y, is expected to hit a production rate of 1 million units per year. Even when the company achieves these targets, though, the auto industry could not transition into the electric car era on Tesla alone — other manufacturers, particularly those with decades of experience, must embrace the shift as well. As Norway’s General Secretary of the EVA noted, the time is now to “stop pretending and start delivering.”

Tesla’s volunteer-boosted Model 3 delivery weekend is a wake-up call for legacy auto
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