Motors in the mall: Tesla hawks electric cars like Macbooks with dedicated retail space

Motors in the mall Tesla hawks Model S like Macbooks with dedicated retail space

We have come to realize Tesla Motors, and its enigmatic CEO Elon Musk, like to do things their own way. The one-time California start-up is no stranger of going against the grain. When the practical approach to entering the automotive industry would have been to utilize a conventional gasoline-powered engine, Tesla took a different approach. While other companies were busying themselves with hybrid, and plug-in hybrid technology, Tesla was hard at work paving the way for its all-electric Roadster.

With the release of the Model S, the California-based automaker is looking to drive down a different road yet again with a unique and new retail strategy.

Traditionalists will undoubtedly balk, but the method of vehicle buying is changing and companies like Tesla are pioneering new ways modern and future cars can be bought – and it’s about time, too.

Tesla PDX showroom floor

Tesla Model S touchscreenPart of that changing landscape sees a shift to where shoppers head down to a retail location– where little to no inventory will be on hand — instead of the car lot. Here, potential buyers can configure a vehicle exactly to their liking. Everything from the car’s paint and rim size, to the interior’s material and trim color, the entire experience is streamlined, sleek, and personalized. It’s not exactly revolutionary in terms of the retail experience where we used to constantly poking, prodding, and interacting with what we’re about to buy, but it’s new to the automotive industry and a welcome change.

Will it work? Tesla seems to think so. The company just opened its newest showroom located in Portland, Oregon, making it the 14th of its kind in North America (with another six to seven on their way by the end of the year), and 24th Tesla retail location worldwide.

We recently had the opportunity to take a tour and needless to say it’s an impressive, if not familiar, experience. From its modern minimalistic Apple-like layout with wide open glass doors, to its glowing touchscreens and Model S showcased prominently at the front, the Tesla store has little trouble drawing you in — which is exactly the point. Not everyone will feel inclined to head down to a traditional Tesla dealership, but placing these showrooms in malls and large traffic areas will get people curious, into the shop, and (hopefully) ordering.

Tesla Model S configurator

With Tesla’s retail stores, the company seems to be doing everything it can to promote not only the Model S and the brand, but the overall experience. As it is, the Model S is one cool car — and the whole store is designed to accentuate that.

Large touchscreen displays are strewn about the walls where the Model S’ most frequently asked questions are on display for people to interact with and have answered. Shoppers can learn everything there is to know about the Model S, from how much the car costs (base price starts at a steep $57,400) to charging times for the various battery sizes.

Of course part of the traditional car buying experience centers on testing out your potential set of wheels and here the dealership is no different. Tesla says customers will be able to drive the Model S (and later the Model X) before they buy. And it won’t be a solo effort either: Tesla will have product specialists – which the company were keen to point out will not work on commission – available to help answer any and all questions.

Tesla Design Studio

From what we gather Tesla has made a deft move. It might be struggling to keep up with orders –and if you were to mosey on into a Tesla store, or order one online you’re looking at waiting just under a year before delivery – but Tesla’s retail strategy has the potential to work and at the very least create even more buzz and excitement for the brand. Besides, what other automotive company will deliver your vehicle wherever you want?

It’ll certainly be sometime before we see big car lots removed from the equation entirely, but it’s going to happen. After all, people thought Apple was crazy when it launched its own retail stores in the beginning, which turned out to be a runaway success. Could Tesla become the Apple of the automotive world? Crazier things have happened.

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