Tesla Store in LAEnlarge Photo
Super sexy Silicon
Silicone Valley darlings Tesla Motors might be feeling a little motion sickness after the ups and downs of its first two weeks on the stock market, but its most recent hire brings a whole new level of retail chic to its aggressive sales plans.
You'd be forgiven for thinking that Tesla had already got the art of selling its six-figure roadster down to a fine art. With stores opening on a monthly basis worldwide, customers are ever-closer to the Tesla experience.
But for Tesla, which plans to launch its seven seat all-electric Tesla Model S luxury sedan by 2013, the more retail outlets it has the better.
Enter George Blankenship, the 57 year old retail expert responsible for the extraordinary growth of retail stores for both Apple and Gap, Inc.
Tesla already has an exhaustive work-load for the king of retail, working on opening new stores in Tokyo, Japan; Toronto Canada; and Washington D.C.
While at Gap, Blankenship was responsible for launching over 250 retail stores worldwide for the clothing label, ensuring the company expansion was as energy efficient and environmentally and socially responsible as possible.
Tesla Model S SedanEnlarge Photo
So what can a retail expert with thirty years of experience teach a company barely out of diapers?
As it turns out, plenty. The primary lesson is how to make a chain of retail stores successful. The second is how to use the retail stores, quality products and the experience of shopping there to create brand loyalty.
While Tesla already works hard to recreate the ambience of an Apple Store with its clean and functional design ethics, its ambitious CEO, Elon Musk seeks to move Tesla stores beyond buying an EV. He wants customers to feel pampered, valued, respected.
In short, he wants Tesla to be the Apple of the automotive world.
"With George's leadership I have no doubt Tesla will have the best retail experience in the auto industry as we continue to grown and prepare to launch the Model S."
Tesla's sales model is a curious one. Unlike conventional automakers, Tesla wants control of both retail and service. There are no franchised dealerships, no service agreements with third-party companies and no other way of buying a Tesla than through a retail outlet.
Musk is right on one thing. If anyone can help Tesla reach its sales targets and be on budget to boot, Blankenship can.
There is just one concern: money.
Tesla Roadster right-hand driveEnlarge Photo
Blankenship's career has revolved around creating successful brand-driven, consumer-facing retail chains. Both Apple and GAP have a range of products which appeal to a wide-range of consumers.
At the moment, Tesla essentially has one product. It will continue to have one product for some time, until the 2013 Model S debuts.
As for consumer pricing? Don't expect a vehicle from Tesla for some time which even comes close to the pricing of the 2011 Nissan leaf or 2011 Chevy Volt.
Tesla Stores are likely to remain the preserve of the wealthy for some time to come. The question then, is will Blankenship's hardest job to date be a success or a failure?