Tesla changes gears, again, and some fans lose patience

Brian O'Roak considers himself a fan of Tesla. Three years ago, the Oregon-based genetic researcher lined up with a six-week-old baby in his arms to file a deposit for Model 3. So when CEO, Elon Musk, announced By the end of February the automaker was finally going to start delivering its Most Affordable Standard and Standard Plus Options, Model 3, O & # 39; Roak has first ordered a Standard Plus, paying $ 3,000 more for the function. semi-automatic autopilot of the electric manufacturer. Just before delivery, Tesla representatives convinced him to upgrade and spend an additional $ 1,000 for a mid-range discount. Tesla delivered the car last month.

So, when Tesla announced Thursday night that it would again change its pricing and packaging schemes and remove the $ 35,000 "affordable" form from Tesla's online order forms, O'Roak was upset. "Hearing the announcement, I guess I was quite frustrated and upset," he says. "I have the impression that we were lied to at the end of February. It looks like there is no standard model. He estimates he saved between $ 2,000 and $ 4,000 by ordering now and receiving the feature package he wanted. Her family loves Model 3 until now: the delivery has gone well, the local service center has been remarkably receptive and the kids, in particular, love the farting mode. But changing prices and feature packages have eroded O'Roak's confidence in Tesla. "We have not even paid for a car yet," he says.

A Tesla spokesperson did not respond to a request for comment regarding the price changes. But in response to a complaint from a client on Twitter, Musk wrote"Other automakers are changing their prices consistently and significantly by varying discounts and rebates based on the bargaining strength of the buyer. Tesla is transparent and consistent. "

For years, the electric car manufacturer's flexibility has been a boon and a source of pride – a demonstration of how an innovative, data-driven, direct-selling approach can change the game of auto manufacturing. "Tesla is very agile and can, based on its feedback, modify its pricing plans to meet the needs of its customers," says Karl Brauer, executive editor of the Kelley Blue Book Automotive Research Publication. "If they find an increased demand for a vehicle or configuration, they can change the price of packages. It's good. "

But even for such dedicated customers as OW Roak – those who believe in the mission of the auto to slow climate change, save the world and have a good time doing it – the constant changes, which will are accelerated since the introduction of Model S, can be a little expensive. Kelley Blue Book, according to Brauer, suspects some buyers "of being hesitant because they find this inconsistency with the price and pattern approach. It seems that every week there is a new plan. "

Namely: Tesla abandoned mid-range model 3 just two days before O'Roak's delivery. The price of the Standard Range Plus 3 model, introduced at the end of February, increased by $ 500 in less than a month later, and then again by $ 2,000 in less than a month. (However, the fixed price is accompanied by a few additional features: the autopilot, which once cost $ 3,000, is now standard.) In the meantime, the very promising model 3 of the Standard range, launched in 2016 under the Tesla's name, makes his entry into the mass. market, is now available only if customers call or go to an exhibition hall.

And these showrooms? Musk announced at the end of February that Tesla would close almost all of its physical stores and lay off sales staff to place orders online. Less than two weeks later, the automaker reversed the trend by increasing vehicle prices by 3% to avoid closing half of the events.

That's enough to make you want to pull out a spreadsheet. In fact, some Tesla online observers have.

These price and strategy changes are not the norm for the automotive industry, says Michael Ramsey, an automotive analyst with research firm Gartner. "All the other automakers in the world do not sell cars to you and me," he says. "They sell cars to dealers, who change prices moment by moment. But the manufacturer does not set the price, it is the dealer who sets the price. That's why Tesla's price changes are "really unusual and irritating to customers who have already bought their most expensive car."

Dedicated Tesla fans, a legion of enthusiastic, tech-savvy, and highly online buyers, who fill Reddit discussions and blog commentary sections while monitoring Musk and Co.'s progress in soap operas, do not do not always worry about changes. However, analysts believe that continued changes could hamper Tesla's growth beyond its technology-centric and customer-centric customer base in California.

"There is no doubt in my mind that a segment of the population buying cars is skeptical of Tesla," says Brauer. This skepticism may be due to mistrust of electric vehicles, lack of local charging infrastructure, or the lack of a nearby Tesla service center. The car is a serious, long-term investment – the average American is almost 12 years old. It makes sense that buyers are looking for stability.

On the one hand, limiting the market to price confusion is not a big thing for Tesla, whose latest production and delivery figures suggest that demand for its model 3 may be down. On the other hand, Tesla is still a niche company. Last year, it delivered 245,000 vehicles, versus 2.9 million sold by car giant General Motors. The Musc company may not need to convince everyone, not yet.

And it should be noted that the electric car manufacturer continues to innovate with its approach to sales and service. More than a decade after the launch of the Roadster, Tesla is still the only player in the industry to embrace live updates and give customers access to new features (and the possibility of a new version of the Roadster). buy those that they initially decided to give up). some faucets. Other manufacturers have only started experimenting with this model a year ago. "Even though Tesla is a bag of cats and is constantly managed in a crisis, it's still very cool," says Ramsey.

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