Tesla’s pop-up stores bring the Model S to where the wealthy play
Tesla Motors is taking its Model S on the road this summer. In mobile pop-up stores, that is.
The luxury all-electric automaker—and energy storage company—is ramping up its direct-sales approach and opening mobile container stores in various locations this summer. Its first stop, over the busy Memorial Day weekend, is in Santa Barbara, Calif. After that, it’s the Hamptons or bust.
Tesla’s mobile container stores will go where its customer base vacations, Tesla spokeswoman Alexis Georgeson told Fortune. While Georgeson declined to reveal its future summer spots, it shouldn’t be too hard to guess. Just think of the top playgrounds for the wealthy in the U.S. and Europe. Jackson Hole, Wyoming, Aspen, Colo., Palm Beach, Fla., Cape Cod, Mass., all come to mind.
The mobile container stores, which were designed in house, rolled out several months ago in Europe. Today, there are three mobile stores roaming around Europe. The Santa Barbara mobile store is the first in the U.S.
The mobile store, which is made up of two shipping containers with steel beams between and a canvas roof, can fit on a flatbed truck. Once it reaches its destination, it unfolds to double its size in a few hours, according to Tesla.
Tesla (TSLA) only sells its cars directly to consumers, a strategy that has received considerable pushback—through litigation and lobbying—from dealerships. Several states, including Texas, Michigan and Arizona, have passed laws that prevent Tesla from implementing its sales model. Consumers in those states have to order their Model S online for delivery or travel to a store in a state that allows direct sales. Some of these restrictive states do have stores, or galleries, but Tesla employees are not allowed to discuss financing or the price of the car.
And while the Palo Alto, Calif.-based company has had some recent success in overturning (or clarifying) laws to allow direct sales, its legal team operates in whack-a-mole mode—always at the ready when a new proposed bill or lawsuit to ban Tesla from selling directly to customers pops up.
Tesla has spurned the traditional approach to selling cars. It doesn’t have 30-second TV spots during the NBA playoffs, or any other time for that matter; it doesn’t advertise in radio or print. Aside from its active Twitter account and in-house blog, the company doesn’t spend a lot of time “marketing” itself. However, the company has figured out how to create buzz through splashy reveals and test drive events.
The mobile container store is another way for Tesla to reach its customer base without setting up a bricks-and-mortar store or rolling out a traditional marketing campaign. Tesla isn’t the only luxury automaker experimenting with its approach to retail. Last year, Porsche opened a pop-up store in the style of a modern music store in Manhattan’s Meatpacking District and BMW set up a temporary shop in a high-end mall in Costa Mesa, Calif.