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While Tesla is credited—for both good and ill—for lots of changes vis-à-vis the traditional auto industry, one that doesn’t get as much attention as quasi-autonomous tech or short-selling shorts is the transformation when it comes to physical interaction with the brand.

Or said more simply, the “dealership experience.” Tesla uses a direct model rather than the traditional third-party dealership approach. This has caused the company to become involved in plenty of litigation with states. The National Auto Dealers Association has, over the years, done a good job when it comes to getting legislation passed at the state level regarding vehicle sales (e.g., franchise laws).

Right now there are Tesla “stores and galleries” in 28 states and the District of Columbia.

Lucid studio

This surely doesn’t look like a “dealership.” Because it isn’t. It is a Lucid Studio. (Images: Lucid)

Note the terminology: “stores and galleries.” Not “dealerships.”

While you can often find dealerships clustered along a highway (the clustering because if someone is interested in buying a new vehicle, you want to have your dealership where they’re going to be looking, even if it is directly adjacent to your arch-rival) or forming what are typically termed “auto malls,” which sometimes takes the form of a cul de sac with dealerships around the loop.

Tesla has actually taken to shopping malls and high streets.

While it isn’t uncommon (at least in southeastern Michigan) to see, say, a Ford Escape, outside of a Gap or Eddie Bauer in a shopping mall with a dealer’s info on site.

But Tesla operates stores that may not have more than a single vehicle inside, a far cry from a traditional showroom, where most all of a brand’s models are on display and more outside, ready for a test drive.

Forthcoming Tesla competitor Lucid Motors—it will be doing an on-line reveal of the production version of the Lucid Air electric sedan on September 9, 2020—has announced that it is going to open 20 “retail locations” and service centers in the US. Note these are not called “dealerships.” In fact, they’re being named “Lucid Studios.”

What’s interesting to note is that they’re going into places like the high-end Westfield Valley Fair mall in San Jose, which has an address on Stevens Creek Boulevard—and just west of that site on Stevens Creek there is a row of traditional dealerships.

But given the images of what these studios look like, those more traditional spaces are rather, well. . . you’ve been in them.

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