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Summary:

Tesla is using its Apple-style stores to draw in customers across Europe and Asia, and in particular jump into a new market, China. Already a quarter of Tesla’s reservations are outside of the U.S. so the bet on international growth, seems like a good one.

George Blankenship at the launch of the Model S

Electric car company Tesla isn’t just trying to reinvent the automobile, it’s trying to change how cars are sold with its Apple-style hands-on showrooms. And in 2013, Tesla will be using these stores in Europe, and new ones in Asia, to try to bring in customers internationally.

In Tesla’s earnings call this week, Tesla’s VP of Worldwide Experience George Blankenship reiterated that Tesla plans to open its first store in China — in a shopping area in Beijing — this spring, and the company is planning stores in Hong Kong and more in Japan in the later part of 2013. Tesla already has at least eight stores in the works in big cities across Europe, and will shortly be delivering Model S cars to those European stores.

Green Overdrive: Tesla's New Apple Store Experience thumbnail

Tesla has been so focused on the U.S. for the first part of its Model S launch that it only has two Model S display cars in all of Europe, said CEO Elon Musk on the call. “That’s going to change dramatically over the next few months, and we are going to start marketing heavily in Europe and then start doing the same in Asia,” said Musk. Blankenship noted that the company’s decisions on placement and design of its stores is “working,” noting that 1.6 million people in North America went through a Tesla store in the fourth quarter of 2012.

International markets could be real success stories for Tesla. Already, without much marketing and display cars, 25 percent of Tesla’s reservations come from outside North America, said Musk. In many countries in Europe, gas prices are sky high, and some governments are offering large incentives for electric cars and carbon-emissions-free transportation. At one point electric car startup Fisker had sizable sales in the Netherlands.

China is the largest market for automobiles in the world, and incentives in some cities are high for electric cars. The appetite for western luxury brands in China also remains high.

Blankenship formerly helped design Apple’s store experience, and is now using many of those learnings to shape Tesla’s stores. We interviewed Blankenship at our RoadMap event last November, and he shared his thoughts on what the store in connected age should deliver:

  1. I have been to a Tesla store and it is not “Apple-style”. A traditional dealer is a “hand-on showroom.” You can view and play with computers and other products in many stores – long before Apple opened their stores.

    Apple and Tesla stores are less cluttered because they don’t have many products. Similar to car dealerships.

    Give up trying to say Apple defines/invents everything because they do it well.

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  2. The Tesla Store does not resemble an Apple Store one bit. It feels and looks like a traditional dealership.

    Admit it, Katie. You put Apple in the title of this article just for the pageviews.

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  3. Tesla Motors Club Friday, February 22, 2013

    The difference being the Tesla stores are in higher end shopping centers and malls. The Tesla stores were designed by George Blankenship, the same guy that (when he worked for Apple) designed the Apple stores. So there is a direct connection.

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