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Progress on Tesla's mission: an anecdote

Discussion in 'Tesla, Inc.' started by ChadS, Jun 6, 2013.

  1. ChadS

    ChadS Petroleum is for sissies

    Jul 16, 2009
    Tesla has said a few times that their mission is not just to sell cars themselves, but to accelerate the adoption of plugin vehicles in general. That is something I have been tracking very carefully, as I have also been working towards that end for a few years now. Here are some thoughts on how Tesla is doing.

    First, some musings on Tesla's impact on consumers and the industry; all the pieces of this have been covered in other threads, but I am just trying to get some thoughts organized. I would be happy to hear others' impressions.

    For a very long time I have feared that automaker complaints about lack of consumer interest (i.e. the recent Auto Alliance filing) might once more lead to a repeal of laws, incentives and related credits, withdrawal of cars, and collapse of the whole industry. That is why I have been putting my effort in to increasing demand.

    I no longer fear that. Demand seems to be doing OK. Not as good as it could or should be, but not bad all things considered. More importantly, Tesla has let the cat out of the bag.

    Even if Tesla screws up and goes broke, nobody can credibly argue that EVs can't be great cars. Or that people won't want them. Or that they can't have enough range or be used for trips. Or that you can't make money selling them because they are just too costly to build. People can still argue they are not green or shouldn't get incentives - but those arguments, even if they persist, are not going to deter buyers or keep automakers from making them. Automakers may still resist because dealers prefer to sell gas cars, but that is a topic for another thread. To stay competitive, they will have to build them.

    By building some really cool cars that were heavily bet against, and through some clever media manipulation, Tesla is entering the zeitgeist. We are cognitive misers; we don't have time to thoroughly vet all new ideas that come along and sort the good arguments from the bad. We tend to go with what everybody else is doing, as that is far easier. Without a push, nobody was looking in to plugins because they assumed they sucked. But Tesla is making enough noise that people are checking them out. And wanting one. And even if they can't afford it or need a different type of car, they are thinking differently about electricity as a fuel. They are more likely to buy other brands of electric. The whole market rises at once.

    Here is an illustration of the changes in knowledge and attitudes:

    I do a lot of events, but the most recent was the Mother Earth News Fair. I have taken my Roadster there three years in a row. It is a whole weekend, and about 10,000 people attend. Perhaps 2,000 of them stopped by and engaged the 10 volunteers there with their cars.

    My first year, I spent almost all of my time telling people what the car was. Yes, it is electric. Yes, all electric. No, no gas at all. No, it is not Italian, it is built in California. Tesla. Yes, Tesla is the name of the company. 245 miles, 3.5 hours to recharge. Few questions ventured past that; they had learned that electric cars existed, but still needed to process it. I don't believe anybody left and bought one right away, but at least a seed had been planted.

    My second year, I got notably more detailed questions. Sure, I still had to explain Tesla to most people, but at least they knew electric cars existed. They were surprised by the range, figuring 100 miles was a hard limit. People asked about environmental life cycle costs, TCO, and practicality. Many were just curious to learn, some were struggling with whether it might work for them, a few insisted that they could never work for anybody (even when I pointed out they worked very well for me). A few probably left to check out the Leaf or Volt later.

    This year was quite a change. I only remember two people all weekend that didn't know what Tesla was. They knew they were electric, they knew they had a long range...and more importantly, they knew they were cool. The questions were almost all detail much exactly will I spend, how exactly do I take a road trip, how do I set up a charger. A couple of people asked pointed questions about practicality and lifecycle costs - but they stopped arguing when given answers. (Nothing like online!) Not everybody was ready to buy today - but several people were, and many more sounded confident that their next car would be electric.

    This was the first year that my Roadster was not the star of the show - and that is a good thing. People loved to look at it...but they spent a lot more time looking at the Model S. Many people then went to look very carefully at the Leafs. There was interest in the whole category.

    There are still many ways for Tesla and advocates to help speed adoption - which is very important because this transition is still going to take a very long time, and early efforts have effects that are multiplied over time. But I no longer have any question that it is going to happen. There is no way that something this good won't spread.
  2. brianman

    brianman Burrito Founder

    Nov 10, 2011
    Interesting read. Thanks for sharing it, Chad.

    Roadster : Model S :: fling : marriage

    Roadster owners - No offense intended. Just having some fun. ;)
  3. CapitalistOppressor

    CapitalistOppressor Active Member

    Jun 18, 2012
    Great post.

    As to the bolded part, that is exactly why I wrote my blog about how the Model S was outselling it's luxury car competition. The constant comparison to products that are perceived to be failures (Volt, Leaf, etc) was just leaving an impression on the public that the Model S was the best selling failure out there.

    I wanted to reframe the public's perception of the car by focusing them on how it was beating the pants off of the cars that are most associated with success. I hoped this framing would push the idea of the Model S past the cognitive filters that folks use to make sense of the world, and hopefully provoke a reassessment of their biases and engage their natural curiosity in "the next big thing".

    Once anyone engages their logic centers and examine the product with an open mind, the value that the Model S offers is obvious. When you combine that with scarcity (which is built into the Tesla business model, in the form of a waiting list and high price), you get desire. Unrequited desire can turn into obsession, which gives you a feedback loop where folks seek out additional information (which is readily available and free) and the cycle repeats.

    But the key task is to break through those barriers, and Tesla, by building an incredibly well engineered product, has finally made that possible.
  4. ItsNotAboutTheMoney

    ItsNotAboutTheMoney Well-Known Member

    Jul 12, 2012
    Piled on top of that is Tesla's intended destination. There are many of us whose interest in the Model S is about what it means for the potential of Gen 3. If the Model S were the terminus I don't think non-buyers would care so much, but I wouldn't be surprised if there are Model S owners being thanked for buying the car.

    Of course, if they can meet (or even come close to) their price target for Gen 3, what will that mean for the price and capabilities of the future Model S?

    Thanks Chad, for the post. Although it's an anecdote, when you add it to other observations, I think it's pretty clear that there are strong, enthusiastic EV markets developing and the Model S has helped shift the perceptions of PEV and raised PEV consideration to new levels. Volt 2.0, in 2014/2015 and the Model X will hopefully provide the next perception boost until Gen 3 can (metaphorically) explode onto the market.
  5. Doug_G

    Doug_G Lead Moderator

    Apr 2, 2010
    Ottawa, Canada
    No offense taken. My Model S is getting quite a lot more miles on it than the Roadster right now.
  6. stevezzzz

    stevezzzz R;SigS;P85D;SigX;S90D;XP100D;3LR

    Nov 13, 2009
    Very well done, Chad. I saw a similar shift in attitudes in a single month: five weeks ago I took my S to a local Coffee and Cars show, and then again last Saturday. All the favorable publicity in May really tipped the scales, from "What is it/Who makes it?" the first time, to comments on the general awesomeness of a thing they were aware of, but hadn't seen before.
  7. efusco

    efusco Moderator - Model S & X forums

    Mar 29, 2009
    Nixa, Missouri, United States
    I think that is some excellent perspective. Around my part of the world I still mostly get your "year 1" questions, lots of people still haven't heard of Tesla or Model S (living in caves I presume?).
  8. igotzzoom

    igotzzoom Supporting Member

    May 26, 2013
    Mission Viejo, CA
    I have long had an interest in electrics, but frankly, thought the current offerings did "suck." Either in terms of range, cost, performance, styling, etc. Even today, most of the EV offerings are not "gotta have" vehicles. The Model S is. The Roadster was as well, but it was too small & niche for most people. If the Gen-III can capture 80 percent of the Model S' attributes in a more affordable package, then it will become a legitimate contender as a potential daily driver. I know a lot of the members of this forum are successful entrepreneurs or executives with a 3+ car household, but the reality for most families is a 2-car household. The point where Tesla breaks into that market with annual volume of 50,000 or more will mark the turning point of when electrics went "mainstream."

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