Goodbye, car showrooms
It was like ‘the Apple Store is down,’ but for cars. Yesterday, Tesla temporarily closed its online store and put up a holding page teasing a special product announcement.
That announcement turned out to be two things: firstly, the long-promised $35,000 version of the Tesla Model 3 – the 'accessibly priced’ Tesla – was finally going on sale
But more interestingly if you’re not in the market for a car right now, that lower price was in part made possible by cost-cutting elsewhere. Tesla is to close its showrooms around the world and focus solely on online sales
While a few showrooms will remain open purely to showcase the vehicles (you won’t be able to buy from them), Tesla is making a leap of faith that its brand name will be enough for car buyers to leave the old way of doing things behind.
Instead of booking a test drive with your local dealership, you’ll order online, and when it’s ready your car will be delivered to your door. You’ll then be able to return it within the first seven days or 1,000 miles if you’re unhappy with your purchase.
This is being widely interpreted as a money-saving move. Indeed, even Tesla has explained it as such. But for me, car buying is actually better like this.
It’s just not pleasant to have to book an appointment to spend an hour with a salesperson desperate to seal a deal. When I was looking to buy a car three years ago, I did all my research through YouTube videos and online reviews. I knew exactly what model I wanted.
I still went through the 'testdrive and salesperson’ rigmarole and all it did was show me my research online was right. It wasn’t really necessary. Tesla’s new approach would have been fine for me.
Tesla doesn’t even let you haggle on price so it’s not like there’s any loss there. And while I have sympathies with those who will lose their jobs, it’s a shift in the right direction, overall.
Let’s face it, once autonomous driving is widespread, we’ll just summon a car whenever we need one, and buying a car to own and sit unused 90% of the time will be a niche pursuit.
Until then, let’s at least bring car buying in line with the way we buy other things these days.