Us Brits love our cars, and that is not going to change anytime soon, Brexit or no Brexit. Last year in the UK alone around 2.63 million cars were registered, which was up 6% on 2014. However, how we are buying our cars is changing. It would seem the clever marketeers at Tesla have had this epiphany already, and now Tesla are buying up square footage. Not in ubiquitous business parks, but in front of their target customers, in town centre shopping malls.
Being something of a David Bailey on the quiet, I stumbled into a Tesla Model S at Touchwood shopping mall in Solihull. Naturally, I felt the urge to whip out my iPhone and take an altogether unnatural amount of photographs. There it lay, sprawled shamelessly across the mall, all metallic, electric, shiny, and stuff. She was causing something of a stir as the proud clip-boarded Tesla reps strutted around, reading the expressions of eager would-be owners. I couldn’t help asking myself what the hell was it doing here in Solihull?
Solihull for the uninitiated is a rather affluent town in the heartland of the West Midlands, home to a population of around 206,000 rather well-heeled individuals. If Wikipedia is to be believed, it’s actually one of the most affluent areas outside of London. Remarkably the 2013 uSwitch Quality of Life Index named Solihull “the best place to live in the UK”. At the time, I didn’t know this, but the Big Data boffins at Tesla had known all along, which is why at that precise moment I was being visually assessed by a highly commissioned Tesla sales rep.
I was impressed by the model S but even more by this very clever piece of brand positioning. It was smart. I quickly found myself wondering why other car brands hadn’t done this already. The cynics amongst you may be thinking, this is nothing new, cars have been in shopping centres before! But here’s the difference, Tesla isn’t just showcasing their cars, it is buying retail units inside the malls which serve as permanent sales showrooms. In short, they are a permanent tenant inside the mall, literally snuggled between French Connection and River Island.
Now finding myself wondering inside said showroom, I admired Tesla’s new, all-electric luxury SUV, the mighty Model X. A 4x4 the size of a BMW X5, that can do 0 to 60 in 2.9 seconds! Why is this positioning so key for Tesla? Well admit it, Tesla’s are gorgeous, aren't they? They are cool and of the moment, and they are also arguably very expensive, the model X, for instance, starts at £68,600. It’s by no accident that this glossy black jewel that I found myself inspecting had found itself surrounded by bewitched Silhillians.
A ridiculous amount of R&D hours have gone into the Type X, so Tesla needs to sell them. They plan to make quite a few of them, so it would be a shame not to make at least the expected £1.33b on the planned 20,000 production run. Why on earth would you create something so groundbreaking and so disruptive and stick it in a showroom, in Business Park somewhere past the back of beyond, just like the unworthy competition? It was another genius masterstroke by an organisation that is being led into the future by a visionary Tour De Force in Mr Elon Musk, rumoured to be worth in the order of a cool 11.1 billion USD.
Don’t be fooled though, Tesla is not in the business of making cars. As Diarmuid O’Connell, Tesla’s Vice President of Business Development put it, when recently interviewed by Wired Magazine, “Tesla are in the business of inspiring competition, the more electric vehicles the better” He didn’t mean just Tesla’s either. For Elon Musk the vision is much more profound. Musk is a pioneer and many believe an authentic genius. How many other leaders do you know who are on record stating goals such as, reducing the “risk of human extinction” by “making life multi-planetary” by setting up a human colony on Mars.
This is the type of competition that brands are up against, and to compete, they need to think differently, just like Tesla and move their showrooms out of the Business Parks, and get right in front of their expectant public. That said, I still didn't book a test drive but the photos looked awesome.