From the wave of upcoming electric vehicles to a push toward direct sales online, Tesla Inc. is a driving force behind many of the biggest changes to automotive retail in recent years.
CEO Elon Musk believed customers would be willing to try battery-powered propulsion if it was packaged in luxurious, fun-to-drive models. A long-standing disdain for the traditional car-buying experience — Musk in 2013 told Automotive News that he's "never had a good experience" at a dealership — led him to think shoppers wouldn't mind buying those models directly from the manufacturer.
He's been proved right on both counts.
Despite a recent stock slide, Tesla remains the most valuable company in the auto industry, worth almost twice as much as No. 2 Toyota Motor Corp. Most major automakers are investing heavily in EVs, large center screens are en vogue and some companies have adopted Tesla-like online reservation systems in which customers plunk down a small, refundable deposit to secure their spot in line for new models. In addition, legal victories challenging state franchise laws have opened the door for other startups — including Rivian, Lucid Motors and Lordstown Motors — to sell directly to consumers in some parts of the country, with additional decisions looming.
"I have nothing but respect for Tesla," Ford Motor Co. CEO Jim Farley told The Verge last month. "It was one of the most magical things that happened in our industry, to see a company so single-minded, so focused on simplicity and really reinventing the customer experience."