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Tesla is shifting its sales to online only, and giving drivers up to a week to return their newly purchased vehicles if they aren't satisfied, the company announced on Thursday.
The move to e-commerce only will require Tesla to reduce headcount in sales, CEO Elon Musk confirmed. It should also help Tesla cut some operating expenses, and avoid dealing with local politics that have prevented it from operating its own stores (dealerships) in certain states including Connecticut, New Mexico and others.
"We will be closing some stores, some reduction in headcount as a result -- there's no question about that. I wish there was some other way. Unfortunately, it will entail a reduction in force on the retail side. There's no way around it," Musk said.
In a blog post Tesla emphasized that shifting sales to online only would enable it to sell its Model 3 vehicles for the long-awaited base model price of $35,000.
Tesla also said, in that post, it would be shifting resources to improve its customer service systems, with the goal of providing same-day service to Tesla owners.
Tesla's service team reports directly to Musk at this point. The company intends to do as much as possible through its mobile service, rather than asking drivers to come to Tesla service centers, it said.
On Thursday's press call, following the announcement, the CEO did not disclose how many stores would be shuttered, what any restructuring costs might be, or whether savings would offset the cost of hiring more service employees including auto technicians.
A small number of Tesla stores will remain open as "galleries, showcases and Tesla information centers," where customers can learn about the company's products, and buy Tesla merchandise.