Tesla’s decision to adopt an online-only model to sell its electric cars was recently defended by Carvana CEO Ernie Garcia, who went on CNBC’s Squawk Alley to discuss the electric car maker’s new sales strategy. Garcia noted that while Tesla will face challenges resulting from the shift in its sales model, the company’s return policy will likely be a difference maker for some buyers.
“I think every business has its challenges, but they’ve done a pretty good job overall. I wouldn’t be betting against them. I think when you buy a new car, questions are different, but the return policy is enormously powerful like it is on the used side. A customer knows they can return it,” the CEO said.
Garcia added that he does not see Tesla’s move to an internet-based sales strategy as a threat to his business, since Carvana only deals with used cars. The CEO even pointed out that Tesla’s shift can actually be good for Carvana. “Tesla has an incredible megaphone,” he said.
Garcia’s views on Tesla is coming from a well-established position, as Carvana currently stands as one of the United States’ premier online used car dealers. Carvana sells, finances, and buys back used cars through its website, and its growth has been so impressive that the company ranked as 5th in Forbes‘s list of America’s Most Promising Companies in 2015. The online used car dealer even went public in April 2017.
Garcia’s views on Tesla is coming from a well-established position, as Carvana currently stands as one of the United States’ premier online used car dealers. Carvana sells, finances, and buys back used cars through its website. Its growth has been impressive over the years, with the company ranking as 5th in Forbes‘ list of America’s Most Promising Companies in 2015. The online used car dealer even went public in April 2017.
Tesla’s shift to an online-only sales model has proved to be a polarizing decision for the company. Tesla stock (NASDAQ:TSLA) has remained volatile since the change was announced last week, and some analysts from the Street have expressed their reservations about the new strategy. Among them was Barclays analyst Brian Johnson, who mocked Tesla by stating that the company’s adoption of an online-only model was its “un-iPhone” moment.
Other analysts were more optimistic. Toni Sacconaghi from Bernstein wrote in a research note that Tesla’s sales figures in 2018 seem to validate the company’s online-only sales strategy. “The move to direct sales is bold, though we are comforted that 70%+ of Tesla buyers in 2018 did *not* test drive prior to purchase,” Sacconaghi wrote.
Tesla’s online-only sales model is a way for the company to accelerate the rollout of the $35,000 Model 3, a vehicle that is considered as the company’s first true mass market car. Addressing the press during a call Thursday last week, Musk explained that the shift will result in a reduction of the company’s headcount, but it will be also offer a way to reduce the production costs of its vehicles by 5-6%. “We will be closing some stores, and there will be a reduction in headcount. Unfortunately, there’s no way around it. We’re sort of in a binary choice. Reduce headcount and sell the $35,000 car and have fewer people, or not provide a $35,000 car,” Musk said.
Watch Carvana CEO Ernie Garcia’s segment on CNBC’s Squawk Alley in the video below.