Tesla selling cars in the mall

The Tesla S all-electric sports sedan is in many ways ahead of its time.


It must have been a full moon, because it was a Saturday morning and instead of working in the shop I was walking around in the Spring Hills, N.J. mall. This mall was a little too classy for a guy like me. My wife walked past a store with a cute yellow dress so we took a look, only to find out it cost $1,100. Well, my wife was not the only one window shopping for things we cannot afford...

So, as I was walking past jewelry and clothes stores, something I had never seen in a mall before caught my attention: a Tesla dealer.

Yes, they are selling cars in the middle of a mall in its own store.

I'm not sure, maybe I work so much that I am ignorant of the fact that this is commonplace these days. Nevertheless, it was something I never saw before.

I walked inside and started grilling the salesman with a bunch of technical questions about the car. Apparently, it can go 0 to 60 mph in 4.2 seconds and a third of its 4,200-lb weight is the lithium-ion battery pack that makes up its whole floor. Probably the coolest feature of this electric car is that when you touch the door handle, it automatically pops out like it is a car from Back to the Future II.

The inside of the car came across as rather austere. The dashboard was lightweight and the whole vehicle did not have any gizmos. A giant tablet acted as its infotainment system, climate control, etc. There was a lot of space inside, probably in order to not fill it with stuff that would increase the vehicle's weight. The most interesting detail is that the vehicle gets software updates online. Yes, no reflashing with a factory scan tool. In fact, the vehicle updates itself via wifi without you prompting it.

Not requiring a scan tool to upgrade its own software is the most advanced option the vehicle has. Either the Tesla is a decade ahead of its time or it is a lot like the Tucker automobile of the 1940s (with its directional headlights and independent suspension) in which that this neat feature will just become a footnote in automotive history. After all, it is my prediction that software updates will be used as a revenue generator by OEs, so to simply give it away for free would not be a practical business model. However, this is what Tesla is doing.

The Tesla S is sure to turn a few heads, which is what its owners are spending $100K in order to accomplish. As these vehicles become more commonplace, their spartan design will probably turn off the mainstream luxury car buyer. However, I see promise in the Tesla experiment.

If economies of scale drive down the price of all-electric vehicles that have the sheer power of the Tesla automobile, I can see where there would be a market for a $25,000 mid-size electric vehicle in about 10 years. It would get around all the crazy EPA fuel economy regulations and with improved battery technology, the vehicle's range will be suitable for regular day-to-day driving and commuting. However, in order for these vehicles to get that cheap the batteries will not be made in America like Tesla's, but rather China and southeast Asia. 

Just another thing to daydream about window shopping in the mall...