I am a Tesla fan, own TSLA, and my 4 ½ year old “S” is the best car I have ever owned - better today than day it was delivered. Also, I have worked at several auto dealerships over the years (BMW, Audi-Porsche, Jeep, Subaru) . I agree Tesla selling direct was the smart move for the first 5 years, however, I suspect the Tesla’s sales model will soon evolve (dealerships and direct on line). Why? Let’s focus on the Model 3 and the Model Y.
Production. Dealerships purchasing inventory will allow Tesla to improve planning, expansion, production line efficiency and manufacturing. It will also improve Tesla deliveries from the factory via carriers or rail.
Sales/Deliveries. Expanding dealerships increases visibility. The Model 3 will directly compete with the ICE Age BMW 3 Series, Audi A4, Lexus, Infinity, Cadillac, etc. “Test drives” are the single most effective sales closer Tesla has and customers will want/need to test drive and compare.
Tesla already offers a $1,000 incentive for referrals, so a dealer agrees to sell their new Teslas at MSRP and receives the referral cash. Dealers will likely raid the tesla showrooms to hire knowledgeable associates and provide a Tesla quality delivery experience. Tesla will get all the direct sales and deliveries they can handle (and then some). Independent dealers will be gravy. Keep in mind Wall St., the Fourth Estate, and reservation holders are going to be impatient and demanding. We all know the Model 3 is going to be a home run seeking a tape measure. The real test is ramping up to fulfill the reservations and the future demand.
Trade-ins. Often dealers make most of their profit on trade ins. Typically a dealer under values the trade in – instant profit. Tesla seems to’ job out’ their trade-in opportunities. So this will be a great incentive for dealers to seek a dealership.
Finance and warranties. While Tesla may offer their own financing and warranties, dealerships may be able to offer competitive financing, and to develop and offer second market warranties. Another point is BMW, Audi, MB, etc. have two weapons to stay competitive with their 20th Century designs – sub vented lease rates and deeper discounts. Most buyers/lessees narrow the selection of vehicles they want, and ultimately it comes down to down payment and monthly payment. The best value usually wins, not so much the best car. Dealerships may be able other alternatives beyond what Tesla offers.
Paint and Body. Tesla planned to increase the number of “Tesla Certified” repair shops. Dealerships may provide an excellent source to expand.
Service and Repairs. All warranty, service, and repair work is done at the most convenient Tesla Service center. We all love and have wonderful things to say about Tesla service, especially when it is covered under warranty. How will you feel when your standard warranty or extended warranty expires. A very, very, very expensive proposition.
Just my thoughts and opinions. If Tesla went Hybrid (direct online sales and through independent franchise dealerships) what do they really have to lose? Life changes, evolves … there is a big difference between 100K annual premium automobile production, 500K, one million, ++++.