Uncertainty Reigns at Tesla Retail Stores
If Tesla doesn’t exist anywhere on your shopping list, it’s easy to ignore the turmoil surrounding the automaker. If Tesla’s your employer, however, the past few weeks have been a roller coaster ride.
Retail employees, who, along with store managers and regional managers, learned of the automaker’s plan to divest itself of stores through media reports, claim they’re hanging by a thread, stripped of their commission and still in the dark.
Check out this deep dive in Jalopnik, which exposes the prevailing mood among Tesla retail employees. Having spoken to six employees scattered across the U.S., the publication reports that, in addition to rampant job hunting and varying commitment to chasing leads, remaining employees feel their store’s recent reprieve won’t be long-lived.
After announcing the closure of most of its retail locations amid a move to an online-only sales model, Tesla dialed it back on Sunday. The 10 percent of stores that have already closed were on the chopping block anyway, the automaker said, and a further 20 percent are under review. However, by keeping about half of its stores open, the 6-percent price cut on all but the base $35k Model 3 turns into a 3-percent price hike.
In many cases, Tesla was reportedly unable to get out of its store lease.
One employee told the publication, “The stores, even the ones that are remaining open, are totally dead and without guidance. There was no care given to the employees here.”
Another said, “We don’t know what we should be doing.”
As mentioned before, the elimination of a sales commission knocked employees back to their base pay; in some cases, this represents a 50-percent pay cut. Many employees had reportedly taken advantage of a company discount program that allowed them to trade in accrued paid time off towards the purchase of a car.
As for the company’s claim that 78 percent of its sales took place online, four of the six employees call it “bullshit.” Even in states where franchise laws forbid direct sales from a manufacturer to customer, interacting with both an employee and the vehicle itself is seen by many employees as key to landing a sale, even if the customer makes the order on their phone while sitting in the retail store.
For months, they had been directed to have customers buy cars themselves through the Tesla website, even if they’re sitting right next to them in the store. But many buyers place an order on their phones after talking with a salesperson for hours or even making multiple visits. Others come into the store, think about it, and then buy online later. In retrospect, multiple employees now suspect this directive as a scheme to orchestrate their own obsolescence.
Turmoil among its retail ranks may not rank high on CEO Elon Musk’s list of concerns, however. Besides a little trouble with the SEC, there’s another splashy unveiling in the works. The Model Y crossover makes its first appearance on March 14th. According to one report, the company still doesn’t know where it plans to build it.
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