“Our product is different from most products. It’s a computer on wheels,” George Blankenship, vice president, worldwide sales and ownership experience, said in an interview with TheStreet.
Blankenship helped build Apple’s retail experience and is drawing on that experience to develop the electric automaker’s retail arm. Tesla’s models are not for everyone, due to their high price points — the Roadster can run to as much as $100,000 — but by placing the stores in malls, the automaker is raising awareness of its products.
Blankenship noted that Apple’s growth really started to accelerate when the iPod Mini and cheaper versions of the iPod came out. Tesla hopes to achieve similar results, especially as it builds its third-generation vehicles. Right now, Tesla’s vehicles are aspirational in nature, but the company wants it to be much more, Chief Financial Officer Deepak Ahuja said in an interview. “We want to offer a very good value for customers,” Ahuja noted.
Tesla has 22 stores across the globe, six of which opened since the beginning of 2012. Over 650,000 people have gone through the six stores, although that may be because Tesla is a newer company and there is a mystique surrounding the company’s cars. Test drives of the new Model S start next weekend.
Tesla’s ownership of its stores has caused some legal issues for the company, as automakers are not allowed to own their own dealerships. Blankenship says the company has been in compliance with every municipality the company has locations in. But make no mistake, Tesla is taking a very different approach to the than the “Big 3” in Detroit. That’s “thinking different.”
—By TheStreet.com’s Chris Ciaccia
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