Brand as business, Brand as purpose, Brand power

More than a brand, Tesla is on a mission

24 August, 2017

On Sunday afternoon, as I was walking through the Sydney CBD past Armani and Gucci stores, I suddenly stumbled upon the Tesla car dealership – right in the middle of the high street shopping precinct. “That’s a first”, I thought, and so I strolled on in.

The Model X and Model S were on show, and they sure are beautiful looking cars, outside and inside. A young girl came over with an iPad to take down my details. She asked me about my interest, and I asked her about the price. The Model X starts from $150,000, and the Model S from $120,000. But there is a “cheaper more mass market” model” she told me, that will soon be available – the Model 3, starting around $60,000.

Since I’m not really than keen on dropping more than $100,000 on a car, I expressed some interest in the Model S. “Okay. May I suggest you put your name on the order list then. We will require a $1,500 deposit, and you can expect delivery of the car in 2020.”

In 2020! That’s a three-year waiting list for a $60,000 car. Incredible. All the more incredible if you consider how Tesla almost died as a brand and a business not that long ago.

After four rounds of finance, The Truth About Cars launched a “Tesla Death Watch” in May 2008, as Tesla needed a further round of financing to survive. In October 2008 Elon Musk became CEO, laid off 25% of Tesla’s workforce, and added another US$40 million in order to avoid bankruptcy. By January 2009, Tesla had raised US$187 million and delivered 147 cars. Elon Musk had contributed US$70 million of his own money to the company. A pretty precarious position for any company.

And what a turnaround it’s been since then. Tesla’s production plan is set to increase to a rate of 500,000 vehicles a year by 2018. Tesla is the top ranking car brand with respect to customer satisfaction, and the top American car brand (SOURCE: Consumer Reports).

But I reckon Tesla isn’t just a car, or even a brand in the sense that nearly every other for-profit company is a brand. Tesla is actually the ultimate mission — the mother of all missions — and that is, to wean our planet off its addiction to fossil fuels, helping to create a long-term sustainable society; one that our grandchildren can enjoy and be proud of.

No automaker that chooses to concurrently produce internal combustion engine vehicles, can ever be authenticated as having a ‘mission’ that is as purposeful and meaningful as Tesla’s is. This mission — in combination with a brilliant product — is the reason everyone wants to own a Tesla and the reason everyone wants to work for Tesla. And the reason I have to wait three years to buy one.

(Although I did get a sales call on Tuesday offering me a Tesla test drive experience – which I will be sure to take them up on).


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