- In April 2018, I visited a Tesla showroom
dealership in New York City to observe the differences between
their sales models.
store used innovative design strategies and revealed an eagerness
to sell a vision of the brand beyond its vehicles.
- The Mercedes-Benz dealership took a more traditional,
less expansive approach to selling cars and its
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As established automakers
move toward electrification, Tesla will compete more directly
with traditional luxury brands like Audi, BMW, and
Tesla has so far had limited competition in the luxury electric
vehicle segment, but that will change in the next decade as auto
plan to electrify a larger percentage of their offerings. As
that happens, Tesla will have new challenges to face, and the
viability of its unique sales model will become clearer.
Unlike most auto companies, Tesla
sells its cars to consumers directly, rather than licensing its
brand to independent dealerships. That model gives Tesla more
control over how it presents its vehicles and interacts with
customers, but it also makes it more difficult and costly to
achieve the kind of scale some of its competitors have. And Tesla
has fought legal battles for the right to sell its vehicles
directly to consumers in some states, like Connecticut and
Oklahoma, where it’s currently prohibited from doing so.
Tesla’s stores also look different than traditional car
dealerships, designed with a minimalist philosophy that echoes
innovative retail companies like
Warby Parker. Tesla’s stores could end up influencing how other
auto companies sell their cars — or remain high-profile
In April 2018, I visited a Tesla showroom and Mercedes-Benz
dealership in New York City to see the differences between how a
relatively new luxury brand and an established one sell their cars.
My time in each revealed contrasting sales models that spoke to the
fundamental differences between Tesla and some of its
Here’s what I saw.
Are you a current or former Tesla employee? Do you have an
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I started at Tesla’s store in Manhattan’s Meatpacking District.
The first thing I noticed was the store’s minimalist design
philosophy. Like Tesla’s cars, the store seemed to emphasize the
removal of non-essential features.
Because Tesla sells its vehicles directly to customers instead of
using independent dealerships, the company has more control over
its stores and the way they present the brand to consumers than
other automakers do.
The aesthetic alignment between the store and its products reminded
me of an Apple store and highlighted the fact that the store is
selling Tesla as a brand as much as its cars and energy products.
When I first walked in, I was approached by a friendly and outgoing
Tesla employee. Her enthusiasm didn’t wane when she learned that I
wasn’t in the market for a car.
She explained Tesla’s business model, vehicles, and energy business
clearly and concisely.
She and her colleagues reminded me of a hybrid between Apple
employees and traditional car salespeople, combining the former’s
approachability with the latter’s extraversion and persistence.
The first employee I spoke with was eager to strike a conversation
about Tesla at a moment’s notice in a style that blended tech
evangelism and product-oriented selling.
While the Tesla store didn’t have any cars on the lot for those who
want to drive home with one, there were cars available for a test
You could evaluate your options through the store’s digital “design
And if you wanted to buy a Tesla vehicle, an employee could guide
you through the process at one of the store’s computers.
Overall, the store reinforced Tesla’s aesthetic identity and showed
how the convergence of the auto and tech industries might influence
the way cars are sold.
Even the barista’s station was clean and stylish.
I went to the Mercedes-Benz dealership in Hell’s Kitchen next.
Immediately, it resembled a more traditional dealership.
There were more cars on display (which, of course, is a function of
the fact that Mercedes-Benz sells far more models than Tesla).
Though the brand set some of its more high-end models, like this GT
C Roadster, apart from the other cars.
Visitors could use this installation to examine digital versions of
the brand’s vehicles and read slides about the brand’s history.
Open-air desks were arranged throughout the dealership and
separated by rows of cars.
The lounge area also resembled that of a traditional dealership.
On the lower floor, a shop sold Mercedes-Benz branded merchandise.
In contrast to my time at the Tesla store, I wasn’t asked if I
needed help for over ten minutes. Once I replied that I didn’t, I
wasn’t approached for the rest of my time in the dealership.
That wasn’t a bad thing, since nothing about my activity indicated
I wanted to buy a car or needed assistance, but it did reveal a key
difference between the two brand’s sales philosophies.
When it comes to marketing, Mercedes-Benz can rely more on
traditional advertising (which Tesla doesn’t use) and a reputation
built over nearly a century. If you’re coming to a Mercedes-Benz
dealership, you’re likely already familiar with the brand.
And unlike Tesla, Mercedes-Benz doesn’t run an energy business on
the side, so the brand has less of a need to sell its vision to
people who aren’t interested in buying its cars.
The brand’s age and the auto industry’s reliance on physical retail
makes it less necessary for Mercedes-Benz to adopt innovative
retail models. It will be interesting to see if that holds true in
the coming decades as the auto industry shifts toward electric and
Source: FS – All Tech News
I visited a Tesla store and a Mercedes-Benz dealership — these were the most striking differences between them (TSLA)