Tesla Will Only Sell Cars Online

People waiting in line to order the Model 3 at Tesla’s Red Hook location in Brooklyn, back in 2016
Photo: Raphael Orlove/Jalopnik

Tesla’s newest claim might be its most bold: “Tesla is shifting sales worldwide to online only.”

This comes from today’s announcement that the $35,000 Tesla Model 3 is finally available, only a few years after everyone dreamed it would. But that’s just a car. This represents a strong step forward for a company with a very, very troubled past fighting traditional dealer networks across the United States.

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From Tesla:

To achieve these prices while remaining financially sustainable, Tesla is shifting sales worldwide to online only. You can now buy a Tesla in North America via your phone in about 1 minute, and that capability will soon be extended worldwide.

[...]

Shifting all sales online, combined with other ongoing cost efficiencies, will enable us to lower all vehicle prices by about 6% on average, allowing us to achieve the $35,000 Model 3 price point earlier than we expected.

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Tesla goes on to say that it will be “winding down” its current sales stores, where you can look at cars and set up your own orders:

Over the next few months, we will be winding down many of our stores, with a small number of stores in high-traffic locations remaining as galleries, showcases and Tesla information centers. The important thing for customers in the United States to understand is that, with online sales, anyone in any state can quickly and easily buy a Tesla.

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Now, what does this mean for Tesla employees? Reporter Sean O’Kane of the Verge asked just that of Musk today on the CEO’s call with the media, inquiring if closing stores is going to result in layoffs at Tesla, and if those are tied into previously announced layoffs. Musk’s answer was, ahem, direct:

Elon Musk: “We will be closing some stores, and there will be some reduction in headcount as a result. yeah. There’s no other way to provide this car and maintain sustainability. There’s no way around it.”

Sean O’Kane: “Any estimage of how many could lose their job as a result of closing stores?”

Elon: “That’s not today’s topic. Next question.”

This is a rough answer in today’s world.

Tesla’s press release, however, does say that it’ll be “increasing [its] investment in the Tesla service system.” Musk elaborated in his call with the media, responding to a question if Telsa expects to open more service centers:

Increasing head count in service technicians, and service is reporting directly to [Elon]. Priority is service this year.

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Still, it’s 2019, and it seems like this is something we should have had a long time ago. But such is the power of dealer networks in the U.S., and their power lobbying Congress and state legislatures everywhere.

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About the author

Raphael Orlove

Raphael Orlove is features editor for Jalopnik.