- Reuters/Mike Blake
Tesla reported a stunning, if somewhat complicated, third-quarter earnings beat on Wednesday – $0.71 per share, on an adjusted basis, including an accounting change for the automaker that threw off many analysts who had predicted a big loss.
On a conference call afterward, Musk addressed questions about demand for the Model 3 mass-market car – a $35,000 vehicle that was unveiled in March and has racked up 373,000 preorders. But that car isn’t due to hit the street until late 2017 and won’t be produced in significant numbers until 2018.
Interest in the Model 3 has been high, and Musk called it one of his biggest priorities at the moment.
“The Model 3 is the most interesting product program in the world, and a lot of suppliers want to be a part of it,” Musk said.
But Musk downplayed his efforts to promote the new car and said that Tesla “anti-sells” – doesn’t actively push – the vehicle to consumers.
“How often do you see me mention Model 3?” he asked.
“All we did was a half-hour webcast after we sent out a couple of tweets,” he said of the Model 3 unveiling in Los Angeles earlier this year. “We didn’t want people to get too distracted from our current product.”
Tesla engaged in the same anti-selling practice with the Model X, as Musk explained before the SUV’s launch last year. He said that potential customers who came to a Tesla store inquiring about the then forthcoming Model X were steered toward a Model S instead. And although the Model X would sell for a luxury-car price, in some cases well over $100,000, the Model S isn’t cheap – Tesla sells the sedan for $100,000 on average.
- YouTube/Motor Trend
Tesla doesn’t really maintain much inventory at its stores, so it isn’t as if interested Model 3 customers are, in classic car-dealer fashion, being pressured to drive off the lot in a vehicle that Tesla can sell them on the spot. And because Tesla doesn’t use the franchise-dealer model but rather does direct sales in states where it can, driving off the lot isn’t often an option.
But if Model 3 demand is any indication of Tesla demand, and Musk can persuade anyone who wanted to buy a $35,000 car to buy, say, a $70,000 Model S instead – well, that would make him the greatest car dealer who has ever lived.
So you want the Chevy? Nah, you don’t want that Chevy. You want the Cadillac.
Or maybe its a Jedi mind-trick thing: This is not the Tesla you’re looking for.
It’s always entertaining to hear Musk go into this mode. It’s the closest he gets to a cheesy sort of “Come on down!” car-dealer persona.
But don’t forget, Tesla is a car company. That, to a large extent, makes Musk’s most important job selling cars.
And he’s astonishingly good at it.