In between landing returning rocket boosters on small pads in the ocean, planning cargo trips to Mars, designing a mongo battery plant in Nevada, and playing more video games than a room full of 5th graders, it looks like Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk has also put some time in at Nordys. This weekend Tesla is going to open its first Tesla “showroom” (can’t call it a salesroom — no dealer license yet) in the Nordstrom at The Grove, a Los Angeles area retail multiplex, according to Fast Company.
Tucked into a 400-square-foot retail space, a Tesla Model X SUV with its gull-wing doors open will attract attention and perhaps entice shoppers at the upscale clothing merchant to learn more about the car. Tesla product specialists will be on hand to answer questions and, if shoppers desire, offer test rides — presumably with one or more other vehicles in the parking lot.
Elon Musk has been very clear about his desire to sell Teslas either directly to customers via the company’s website or from the company’s showrooms and sales centers. Currently, there are just 215 Tesla showrooms around the world. Tesla decidedly does not want to sell through traditional auto dealers. During a talk at the Tesla 2016 Annual Meeting, Musk spoke about wanting to totally change car buying from what he termed an unpleasant experience to a pleasurable event. Clearly Musk doesn’t see conventional car dealers as part of the solution.
Needless to say, auto dealers, and the Auto Dealers Association, aren’t too keen on Tesla’s plan for selling its hugely popular cars. In Charlotte, North Carolina, dealer objections blocked a Tesla showroom from being able to actually sell cars, invoking a state regulation that didn’t seem to matter when the company previously opened the Raleigh, North Carolina Tesla Showroom and Sales Center.
But selling within Nordstrom, a retail enterprise with such a strong reputation for customer service that it’s often cited on top 25 lists, is a natural fit. And it works for the store as well. “We’re focused on listening to our customers and seeing how they respond to this type of differentiated experience,” Nordstrom said in a related statement.
As Tesla ramps up production and sales venues, without dealers, the 121 Nordstrom locations throughout the U.S. and Canada could be a quick way to add outlets. The pilot test in the Los Angeles Nordy is planned to run through the end of the year and then, if deemed successful by all parties, the partnership may spread to other locations.