According to an article in the Financial Times on 24 October 2013, Tesla “expects to sell just 21,000 cars this year”. Globally. To put this into perspective, The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) data show that Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz each sold more than 21,000 cars in the UK in September alone. Tesla’s entry into the UK is therefore hardly a surprise, unlike the fact that its first showroom is in a shopping mall in West London. Its chosen location is Westfield London (no relation to the British low-volume sports car manufacturer).
Rather than being sold to, consumers can browse and enquire about the products. This approach to selling its cars undoubtedly suits the trendy appeal of Tesla. Moreover, as a new brand in the UK, the initial exposure to potential consumers is significantly greater than locating a dealership in any of London’s traditional hotspots for car dealerships. To quantify this, footfall at Westfield was measured as 27+ million in 2011, which surely dwarfs footfall in Park Lane and Berkeley Square where many upmarket brands such as Aston Martin, BMW and Porsche have dealerships. Furthermore, given the presence of the “The Village” shopping area in the centre, referred to as a “boutique-style environment” on the Westfield London website, Tesla is guaranteed exactly the aspirational audience it seeks.
There have been previous examples of car manufacturers attempting to sell through other channels, such as Lidl offering Opel Corsa and VW Polo cars for sale in Germany and Best Buy offering G-Wiz electric cars and even the Tesla Roadster in the UK. Car dealers have materialised alongside hypermarkets in France and cars have even appeared in vending machines in Japan. However, cars have previously only held temporary promotional positions in shopping centres (I call these pop-up dealerships), making Tesla the first to have a permanent car “dealershop” in a shopping mall.
I certainly do not expect Tesla to outsell Audi, BMW or Mercedes in the UK anytime soon, but I do wonder how many people will rub shoulders with a Tesla in West(field) London this weekend compared to the numbers that will enter a Maserati or Bentley showroom, for example. I know where I am doing my weekend shopping.