Tesla is preparing a radical dealership network to spearhead its push into Europe, and it has hired the man behind the Apple Store concept — George Blankenship — to achieve it. He has also contributed to the retail tactics used by both Gap and Microsoft.
The new vice president of design and store development believes that Tesla will need to move away from the traditional car retail experience as it starts expansion plans that will include its Model S saloon.
“I want to move the brand from the city outskirts into the city centre and to start getting people through the doors in big numbers,” he said.
Tesla has nine stores in Europe, and will open in Tokyo this month. It has delivered 1300 Roadsters since 2008, in more than 30 countries, but it hopes to sell 20,000 examples of the US-built Model S every year, starting in 2012.
Blankenship understands that selling those cars will be achieved not just by expanding Tesla’s dealership network, but also by increasing footfall at those stores. “At peak times we can expect to see 50 times as many potential customers, simply by being in the right location,” he said.
“Our major problem is that ordinary people still don’t know about Tesla. By capitalising on passing trade, we can let people know that they can already buy an electric car, and make the brand so much more visible.”Matt Saunders
Q&A - George BlankenshipHow many dealers will you need to become a 20,000-unit car brand?I hope to double our stores over the next two years, but it’s more important to put our stores in the right places.
How much interest is there in the Model S right now?We have 3000 reservations. It’s a more practical car than the Roadster, so we expect a lot of customers to be new to the Tesla brand.
Are you worried by the threat of EVs from Nissan, Renault and others?We already have a three-year head start on Nissan, so I’m not worried. It’s up to us to make Tesla known as the market’s number one brand for electric cars. And whatever it is that our customers demand from us — be that a longer battery warranty or a cheaper entry-level model — we need to make sure we provide it.