It's been a pretty good year for Tesla so far. They get an almost perfect score from the traditionally picky Consumer Reports folks, they announced that they had turned their first profit earlier in the first quarter, and their Model S is outselling BMW and Mercedes models that are similarly priced. Just today(!) as I began to write this, there's an article from the Wall Street Journal basically using these facts to explain how Tesla has pulled ahead of the electric-car pack. I believe they're doing so not by marketing the product as an electric vehicle, but as one of the best luxury vehicles you can buy regardless of the powertrain.
Elon Musk, the company's CEO is from South Africa, but is known for leading SpaceX and founding PayPal besides his role at Tesla. Clearly, he is an entrepreneur on the scale of Richard Branson and seems intent on disrupting the automotive industry like he has online payments and space tourism.
But why the Apple comparison? Take a minute and Google, Bing, Yahoo, DuckDuckGo, or Dogpile Elon Musk + Steve Jobs and you'll be treated to a myriad of comparisons mostly due to his presentation skills. There's also the affinity for disrupting categories like I mentioned above. Usually, I dismiss "He's the next ______" in any situation (see M. Jordan for an example) but there's something to this at least in terms of Musk being a charismatic and effective leader. Where I saw the most glaring argument for this position is in Tesla's showroom. At least before I saw the video about the 90 second battery exchange yesterday - a race between the Tesla serve and fueling up a traditional car, below.
The 'dealership' is like nothing you'll experience at other car lots in the country. Mainly, because it's not a car dealership at all. It's a store. An Apple Store with cars. Not an identical replica of an Apple store, but cleary a shopping experience designed to impress and engage, using technology and minimalism to highlight a product that you can't even buy. (There's a long waiting list you can join if you want.)
We're lucky enough to have one here in Scottsdale so I went and checked it out. I think the pictures below tell the story. All I kept thinking was that this could have been the Chevy Volt. (If they could have figured out a way to get past the dealer unions. Tesla is being pressured to change this direct to consumer sales model.) The experience is part showroom, part exhibit, part store and all completely cool.