In the past month, it has been difficult to judge whether Tesla Inc. is on the brink of turning the automotive landscape upside down or on the brink of collapse. However, taking into note what CEO Elon Musk has been up to on social media, we probably should be prepared for both.
On one hand, the company has not only been rolling off the Model 3 in huge numbers but has also reported a rise in sales to become one of the best-selling luxury vehicles in the US last year.
On the other hand, the company decided abruptly to shutter its retail outlets aiming an unprecedented shift towards online sales. This scooped out a whopping $920 million out of its meagre cash pile to meet a bond payment deadline.
Tesla's faced serious flak after announcing major job cuts due to the new online retail model.
However, amid this, the company was ready with a product announcement to distract investors and people from its troubles with the Securities and Exchange Commission and its forecast of an unprofitable first quarter.
Some 20 years ago, no one thought the internet could be used as a platform for retail. However, from where we stand now, the auto industry has one question that begs to be answered:
If Tesla can, why can’t everyone?
Over time when the retail of commodities underwent a revolution, with each one opportune to buy a product at their doorstep with a few clicks on their smartphone, automobiles took the back seat demanding more space for innovation in offline retailing. Other than the dealer lobby which has been trying to prevent the fall of automobiles sales into the hands of the internet, norms and regulations supported their efforts and did not encourage such a model.
As soon as Tesla unwrapped the Standard Range of Model 3, opening doors to its online retail model, we checked it out to see how flexible it could be. To our surprise, Tesla had done a rather spectacular job in adding the element of trust into the online sales of cars. But keeping aside what the company has to offer, another crucial aspect is how the consumer would respond if they were really given a choice to buy a vehicle online.
The Standard Range Model 3 had a very user-friendly and trust-inducing interface for its online retail.
A couple of years back, when online retail was nascent, Indian retail giant Flipkart witnessed a notable drop in its performance after a few customers received bars of soap instead of a smartphone. Except here, Tesla is disrupting an age-old retail tradition with little money in reserves.
Considering how the company built a consumer market for electric cars from scratch, sparking a round of industrywide innovation in EVs, we wouldn’t be so quick to conclude that it cannot do something similar for online automotive retailing.