Tesla is set to change its retail strategy for the third time in three years. The automaker has relied on retail showrooms in shopping malls in high-end locations, but this is set to change. Additionally, Tesla may be remotely managing test drives and deliveries, moving to a more virtual setup instead of spending money on expensive real estate inside shopping centers.
The plan is somewhat similar to the early 2019 plan that CEO Elon Musk talked about during a press call in February of that year. After concerns that some employees would be relieved of their duties due to store closures, Musk indicated that there would be a reduction in headcount. Tesla eventually backtracked on this strategy, and more retail locations were opened throughout 2020.
However, the 2021 plan is much different and extends a refined focus on keeping Tesla’s employee headcount the same while eliminating some expensive retail locations. In 2018, Tesla committed to opening more showroom locations inside high-end malls that provided more foot traffic.
Now, for the third time in three years, Tesla is revising its plan for showrooms and retail locations alike, with plans to close the sales centers in the high-end mall locations, according to Electrek.
According to the report, Tesla is now planning to cut ties with the high-end locations due to rent obligations, which are likely high and unrewarding. Instead, delivery centers will take a bigger focus as an overwhelming number of Tesla owners placed their orders online. Because of this, test drives are also being handled remotely, a strategy that was loosely adopted during the COVID-19 pandemic to eliminate human contact. The test drive experience is one of the most pleasant available due to the lack of sales pressure from a salesperson.
Employees will no longer be assigned to a store. Instead, they will be assigned to a “central virtual store” and will assist online buyers in specific markets. This will eliminate the need for Tesla to let go of employees, keeping the workforce the same but eliminating the costs of leasing a retail space.
The retail locations won’t go away altogether, however. Tesla is reportedly still planning to keep showroom locations open if they are affordable and reasonable. It seems that the expensive rent in high-end facilities is just not justified, even though the company is financially stable, unlike in 2019 when the Model 3 was still giving Tesla some financial bottlenecks as the company ramped deliveries in Europe.
These high-end showroom locations will likely dissipate slowly over the next few years as leases expire. It is unknown what the financial threshold is to consider a location to be a financial disadvantage. However, the money Tesla can reserve can be spent on product development or the expansion of Delivery and Service Centers through the next several years. As Tesla continues to expand its market and demand increases steadily, Delivery and Service Centers will take the forefront. Showroom locations will slowly become less important, especially due to the advantageous nature of ordering a vehicle online.