If you’ve had your eye on a new Tesla Model S but don’t care as much for the two month or so wait in line, there is a way to get immediate gratification: Buy one direct from the nearest Tesla retail store.
Although it’s not actively promoted by Tesla, its U.S. and Canadian retail stores will sell their cars off the floor or from Tesla’s modest fleet of well-equipped demo cars.
If someone likes a given Model S, is willing to do without further customization and maybe accept some odometer miles, it can be purchased as-new with full warranty on the spot.
This is not a secret, but Tesla does not state it anywhere on its Web site either. In fact the contrary has been strongly emphasized – that its retail stores serve more as benign non-selling information junctions. Actually, this is only true of its “galleries” in three states at present which are barred under state law from selling.
“Every Tesla purchase starts with a reservation,” says Tesla Motors unequivocally on its Web site. “Order a Model S or Model X online, from anywhere: the office, the couch, or even the local coffee shop.“
Or, skip the whole process and buy as per usual from the store.
Tesla spokesperson Shanna Hendriks said the intent behind store purchase of its existing cars is to give customers one more “option.”
“We are able to sell cars directly to customers in all states where we have a sales license,” said Hendriks. “States where we do not have a sales license, but operate Galleries, are Texas, Virginia, and Arizona.”
According to Tesla’s site which Hendriks says is up to date, that leaves around 10 stores in California, a couple in Canada, two in Colorado, one in Washington, D.C., a few in Florida and Chicago, a couple n New Jersey, a few in New York, as well as stores in Oregon, Pennsylvania, Washington state, and counting …
You’ll note Massachusetts operates a “gallery” too, but its status is changing since Tesla won there against auto dealers that had opposed it.
“Massachusetts is currently going through a zoning request for approval to sell vehicles inside the mall,” said Hendriks. “However, we have a sales office in Massachusetts, outside of the mall, where we have a license to sell. Thus, Massachusetts is considered as licensed, even though the mall location operates as a gallery.”
Hendriks said the idea is still not to push cars from the stores, however if it looks like a mutually advantageous deal, Tesla – and the law – is OK with that.
“Our goal is to build cars made to order for customers. However if there is a car that the customer falls in love with, we have the ability to sell the car to them,” Hendriks said.
Unlike the business model promoted by auto dealer associations which have doggedly opposed it, Tesla is otherwise low key even at its stores. It does not pay its sales people commissions, and demo cars are there for anyone to see, feel, and potentially test drive – if they’re serious – but then the usual process is to order online and be patient.
Actually, the option to buy from a Tesla store is in addition to a previously announced provision for existing Model S owners to trade up or otherwise purchase from Tesla’s service loaner fleet.
We have learned also that a local store may inquire around to other stores to see what other built and ready Model S sedans are in inventory.
This arrangement does stand to save time if a customer is willing to accept what is available.
“Depending on configuration, we are able to fulfill orders in as little as 8 weeks,” Hendriks said of the usual waiting period.
Once you put down a $2,500 deposit required for a 60-kwh or 85-kwh Performance version, you are in line – sort of.
“They are first-come first serve,” Hendriks said, “but built based on configuration for efficiency purposes.”
In other words, someone who ordered after you but who chose a configuration that can be built sooner and more conveniently for Tesla may be bumped ahead of you in line to some degree.
Tesla’s Web site says it is actually sold out of the top-line Signature Performance 85-kwh models. These are the ones it built first and sold 1,200 of to buyers who plunked down $40,000 reservations. It’s also the hottest version that Tesla shrewdly loaned to key media so they could fall all over themselves raving about the super electric car and write glowing reviews. Differences between it and the present 85-kwh Performance model are essentially aesthetic with the powertrain being the same.
Hendriks said these are indeed long gone, but did not verify what models are actually in its fleet among the 85-kwh and 60-kwh versions.
“Each store has a mix of cars on display and for test drives,” she said.
Those who are interested to know what models are in inventory have but to ask.
“Customers can visit a store, or call our sales team to inquire about any available inventory cars,” said Hendriks. “Again, these are cars that are currently test drive cars or service loaners.”
Tesla maintains all its cars, and even if some have miles on them, they are still considered in salable condition either with negligible use or just broken in.
As for the service loaner deal for cars with miles on them, Tesla pro-rates these.
Tesla charges the new-car price minus $1 for each mile on its odometer reading.
If customers want one with the fewest miles possible, they will have to inquire as to what cars at the moment Tesla has available.
Hendriks was not certain whether this arrangement will carry over for European cars once deliveries have begun. Starting with the Roadster, Tesla has established a presence in 31 countries.
“We have not yet begun deliveries in Europe, so we will know this answer in the future, once deliveries begin,” Hendriks said.
Again, Tesla really encourages a customer to order a car, but if anyone had any doubt about the role its stores play, they are more than boutiques.
Of course if you buy a Model S in the local shopping mall, don’t expect to drive it right out.
“Cars go through inspections for quality just as they would if they were being delivered,” Hendriks said. “Please don’t imagine a customer walking into the store and driving the car out of the mall. There a few logistical things we work through on our end first.”