It could be a game changer
Keith Crain is editor-in-chief of Automotive News.
Last week in Detroit I drove a Tesla -- the expensive model with a high price but with range to match. Interestingly, it was the first electric car I have driven that I found myself comparing to cars -- not just other electric cars.
Driving around in the Tesla, I didn't get the stares that you get driving the highly designed Fisker. I didn't try to figure out what the range might be by driving it until it dropped, but writers at our sister magazine, Autoweek, had that in mind for later.
The Tesla was a mainline car with well over a 200-mile range. And it costs a lot. The last survey that I saw found that people say the problem with electric cars is: 1) they are too expensive, or 2) they don't have the necessary range.
This car solves at least one of those problems. And there will be a market for a pure electric that has substantial range and a very high price. How big a market remains to be seen. Right now, Tesla is trying to fill the pipeline so there is a bigger problem with production than with finding customers.
Tesla also is bucking the industry by not having a body of franchised dealers. That is just one more thing that will slow the company's growth and acceptance. When you are swimming upstream, it doesn't make sense to add impediments that you don't need.
Tesla could build a nice national body of dealers that would do all those important things that dealers do for customers.
In Detroit, I am told, you can go to Chicago to buy a car. That makes it tough for appraising a potential trade-in, not to mention getting service. Sure, you could flat tow the car when you need service. but that is adding another objection for the customer.
The Tesla is an innovative vehicle that is powered by electricity. It has unique features that folks will like, but buyers will have to get used to being pioneers.
It's too bad Tesla doesn't realize it is creating its own barriers.
Having a modest network of established car dealers would help it get over some of the barriers to success.
Tesla's car is an innovative vehicle with a long range and a high price. It will be interesting to see whether the company ever can repay the $465 million government loan and how long it might take.
You can reach Keith Crain at firstname.lastname@example.org.