Uncertainty Reigns at Tesla Retail Stores

Steph Willems
by Steph Willems

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.

From Jalopnik:

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.

[Image: Tesla]

Steph Willems
Steph Willems

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  • Richard Chen Richard Chen on Mar 12, 2019

    My brother's recent Tesla Model 3 buyer's experience: Feb 28: car ordered, mid-range (264mi), blue/white +$2500 Tesla has a car in stock with the upgraded wheels for $1500, thrown in for free. Uh, Tesla just might have a cash flow problem... Mar 8: car delivered Mar 11: lucky you, got the car already with the not awful wheels and ducked the 3% price hike

    • See 1 previous
    • Richard Chen Richard Chen on Mar 13, 2019

      @SCE to AUX Paying for color options? yeah, right. He's younger so hopefully the lack of ergonomics won't get to him. I get annoyed when the turn/wiper stalks aren't in the exact location as all the other cars I've had as long term drivers - drove a BMW Z3 and kept missing the turn stalks. He's offered me a spin, but he's an hour and a half drive away.

  • Cognoscenti Cognoscenti on Mar 13, 2019

    I need to go drive a Model 3 before my local dealership dries up and blows away.

  • Kwik_Shift_Pro4X The push for EV's is part of the increase in our premiums. Any damage near the battery pack and the car is a total loss.
  • Geozinger Up until recently this was on my short list of cars to replace my old car. However, it didn't pass the "knee test" with my wife as her bad knee makes it difficult for her to get in and out of a sedan. I saw a number of videos about the car and it seems like the real deal as a sporting sedan. In addition I like the low price, too, but it was bad luck/timing that we didn't get to pull the trigger on this one.
  • ToolGuy I agree with everyone here. Of course there are exceptions to what I just said, don't take everything so literally. The important thing is that I weighed in with my opinion, which is helping to move things forward. I believe we can all agree that I make an important contribution (some will differ, that is their prerogative). A stitch in time saves nine. Life isn't fair, you know. I have more to say but will continue at our next meeting. You can count on that, for I am a man of my word. We will make it happen. There might be challenges. I mean, it is what it is. This too shall pass. All we can do is all we can do. These meetings are never really long enough for me to completely express all the greatness within me, are they? Let's meet to discuss. All in a day's work. After all, Rome wasn't built in a day. At the end of the day, I must say I agree with you. I think you will agree. When all is said and done, there is more said than done. But of course that is just one man's opinion. You are free to disagree. As I like to say...(I am working on my middle management skills -- how am I doing?)
  • Golden2husky Have to say he did an excellent job on the C7, especially considering the limited budget he was given. I am very happy with my purchase.
  • Marty The problem isn't range; it's lack of electricity in multi-unit building parking. All you need is level 1 - a standard 120v wall socket - and if you're plugged in 10 hours overnight you get 280 miles per week or more. That's enough for most folks but you can use public charging to supplement when needed. Installing conduit circuits and outlets is simple and cheap; no charge stations needed.
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