Inside Tesla's first-ever New Zealand store
It's been a long time coming, but Tesla will open its first "store" (the electric car specialist does not do "dealerships") in New Zealand tomorrow: Friday June 29.
The brand launched its official Kiwi distributorship back in February 2017. During that time it has operated temporary Auckland stores in an old fire station in the trendy suburb of Ponsonby and more recently at nearby facility formerly occupied by Aston Martin and Lamborghini.
Its new Auckland store is in a refurbished character building on the corner of Karangahape Road and Hereford Street, Auckland. In fact, until 2016 that same building was the home of Stuff in Auckland. You're welcome, Tesla.
It's actually one of the largest Tesla stores in the world. The familiar retail model for the brand is a compact store in a retail space with heavy foot traffic (such as a shopping mall). But the new Auckland facility is a "service plus centre" in Tesla-speak, which means it incorporates a full retail facility (including Powerwall and solar panel products), design studio, delivery bays and service centre.
The Auckland store also houses Tesla first bank of Superchargers in a metro area. There's a bank of six (run off three Supercharger units) along with another six less power Destination chargers in a secure carpark underneath the building. Owners will have a code for 24-hour entry and access to the customer lounge in the store, which also serves as a waiting area for service and new-vehicle delivery.
Tesla currently has a network of 75 Destination chargers and six Supercharger locations (including two new ones in Queenstown and Omarama) nationwide.
Tesla prides itself on a different ownership experience for its customers. It has fixed pricing and a non-profit servicing policy - the reverse of many dealerships which rely heavily on service work for profit. That's part of EV futureproofing, says the company, as servicing intervals grow for these types of vehicles. It's currently 12 months for the Model S, with a major check every four years; but even if a customer doesn't bother to service their vehicle, the warranty remains valid.
Tesla says it has 90 per cent customer retention - another key to the the success of the brand as word of mouth is its main marketing tool. It does not advertise or engage in paid sponsorship.
With only high-end models on offer (the Model S starts at $121k), Tesla has clocked up an impressive 115 NZ sales year-to-date. By way of comparison, Jaguar (with a much broader range) has achieved 145, Maserati 59 and Porsche 176.
The next big thing for Tesla in NZ will be its small car, the Model 3. Right-hand drive production starts in 2019.