If you asked people to rate whether they thought their car dealership was a good or bad place to visit, the response would be overwhelmingly bad. In the typical dealership you will find:
- Little or no comfortable place to sit, unless you're ready to sign a sales contract.
- Aggressive salespeople who want you either to buy or to leave.
- Unfriendly and esthetically challenged decor.
- Only water or (usually) bad coffee to drink.
- Servicing that is done in the back or at another location to hide the oil, smoke, and noise.
- No Wi-Fi or phone.
At Tesla Motors, we really want to improve aspects of the car business that we've found unpleasant as consumers. A major part of the user experience is the dealership or “Tesla Store,” as we refer to it.
When you visit one of our stores to browse, buy, or service a car, we certainly want you to come away saying it was one of the best consumer experiences you ever had. However, going beyond that, we want you to think of the Tesla Stores in cities around the world as constituting membership in your own private network of VIP lounges, just as is the case for airline frequent fliers. It will cost a little more but also constitutes a competitive advantage. This is something you get just for owning a Tesla and something that no other car company offers.
The type of place we are striving for combines the feel of an Apple store, a Starbucks, and a good restaurant. I include the latter, because in a good restaurant you can always see the chef working in the kitchen. The chef has nothing to hide, and it is a pleasure to see the staff at work preparing the meal.
The same will be true when Tesla Motors technicians work on cars. With an electric car, there is no toxic smoke, no puddle of oil or gasoline, and no loud engine. The air is clear and the floor is pristine. All you will hear is the quiet whir of a motor or turning of a wrench. This is why the Tesla Motors workshop will be out front and on display. You can see someone work on your car right in front of you, while you sip coffee in our lounge. If you have children or an interest in cars yourself, you may find it interesting to see the world's most advanced electric car taken apart and serviced.
The service technicians at every store are Tesla Motors employees and (importantly) are company shareholders. They will have full access to headquarters to help solve problems. Whenever an issue is uncovered, it will be immediately uploaded to the main database at headquarters and shared in real time with all Tesla Stores and service staff. Rather than a nameless backroom person working on your car, you will be assigned a technician by name. If you have a question, your technician will address it with you directly. This is a better communication loop than talking to a customer rep, who talks to the service manager, who talks to the actual technician, which results in the classic "broken telephone" problem. Our engineers will visit our stores regularly to stay in touch with the reality in the workshop – both to keep the technicians up to date and to improve future cars. Our goal over time is a flawless vehicle.
Howard Schultz often refers to Starbucks as a "third place," somewhere other than work or home where people can gather. We want Tesla Stores also to be a "third place" as well. Customers are always welcome to hang out in our comfortable lounge, whether they've owned your car for a day or 10 years. Like Starbucks, there will always be fresh, high quality coffee, tea, and snacks available, but it will be provided at no charge to Tesla customers.
In our lounge area, you will find free, high speed Wi-Fi. Since cell phones sometimes die, have poor reception, or don't work in a particular country, Tesla Motors will also offer free international landline calls. There will be LCD screens with the news running and a selection of national and local newspapers. Tesla Stores will also be available to rent for functions at night.
The Tesla Motors representatives at our stores will not be salespeople and will not operate on commission. Anyone visiting need not worry about being accosted. Representatives will be there to answer questions, assist with a purchase only if asked, and to see if there is any way they can be helpful.
We are spending a lot of time on the look and feel of our stores. Two leading architectural and interior design houses are preparing design proposals, with the final choice to be made next month. The reason I mentioned Apple as an influence is that their stores are beautiful and stylish, but also simple, fun, and friendly at the same time. Those qualities are what we want to see in our Tesla Stores. We will put as much energy into making our stores look good as we do with our cars.
As a reminder, we plan on opening the Los Angeles and Bay Area stores in the fourth quarter, followed by New York, Chicago, and Miami in the first quarter of 2008. During the balance of 2008, we expect to open stores in Washington DC, Seattle, Denver, Atlanta, and several other cities, in order of customer demand. By the end of 2009, there should be Tesla Stores in almost all major U.S. cities.
Please post responses and let us know what you would like to see in the perfect Tesla Store...