2012 Tesla Model S

Tesla opening new retail stores ahead of Model S launch

Over the next few months Tesla Motors is opening five new retail stores in the U.S., bringing the total to 22 stores world-wide.

Ahead of the June 22 launch of the Tesla Model S, the company is opening a new store in The Westchester shopping center in White Plains, New York. Later in the summer Tesla will open four more stores bringing the count to 22 total stores around the world.

Tesla describes the Tesla Stores as a reinvention of "the car-buying experience with [a] unique retail model." Tesla stores are located in high-foot-traffic shopping areas, and could well be sitting between the Jamba Juice and Tiffany Jewelry stores at your local high end mall. The stores feature hands-on exhibits of the Model S, a multimedia "Design Studio" where prospective customers can fiddle with car options and get a price for a customized Model S (or in the future, Model X) electric car. The stores also include informational displays to educate the public about Tesla's technology and "the benefits of driving electric."

“Our sales strategy is very different from the rest of the automotive industry - we put our stores in high foot-traffic locations so we can tell as many people as possible about Tesla’s incredible cars,” says George Blankenship, Tesla’s vice president of worldwide sales and ownership experience. “Opening our own stores allows us to ensure consumers interested in learning more about Tesla will receive an amazing customer experience from the moment they walk through the door.”

The new store at The Westchester shopping center opened yesterday, and features a display of four Model S Signature Series Beta vehicles. This is part of a series of events Tesla calls "Signature - Four Color," which gives prospective owners a chance to experience the Signature series. However because the Signature series is sold out, any new Model S customers will be making reservations for the non-Signature Model S's, but one purpose for showing the Signature series cars is to give reservation holders a chance to inspect the cars before deciding whether to take delivery of a Signature series or later Model S.

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Tesla Westchester will be the 22nd company-owned store worldwide. The company will open four additional stores this summer at 3rd Street Promenade in Santa Monica, California, Fashion Square in Scottsdale, Arizona, Washington Square in Portland, Oregon, and on Lincoln Road in Miami Beach, Florida.

Because Tesla's sales are done via stores at retail shopping centers, one might wonder "what about the other features of typical car dealerships?" That is, typical car dealerships have a big parking lot to store unsold cars, a show-room to feature certain vehicles, offer test rides, offer a service center, and feature pushy sales people. For example, a Tesla Store is staffed by Product Specialists who are part educator, and part sales person, and the ones I've met were very friendly. Service is handled via regional service centers, rather than at the store, and Tesla offers a service to pick up your car to bring it to the service center for repair. Car delivery is handled outside the Tesla Store, and instead cars are delivered directly to the customer by a Delivery Specialist whose duties are to check and detail the car before delivery, and drive it to the customers home.

When Tesla says the company is "reinventing the car-buying experience with its unique retail model," what they mean is a completely different model of selling, delivering and servicing cars.