Scott Painter is a serial entrepreneur and car fanatic-in-chief at Zag.com, a technology company that helps buyers get up-front discounted pricing and no-hassle delivery from pre-qualified dealers nationwide. Zag.com aims to “remove the fear factor from the buying process.”
Scott is a maverick in the auto industry for pushing transparent online pricing nearly a decade ago, when most car buyers still endured time-consuming haggle sessions at dealerships. Before Zag.com, Scott founded and was CEO of CarsDirect.com, and he was also founder and chairman of Build-To-Order.
He took ownership in late December. Scott loves the driving experience – but he is equally fascinated by Tesla’s retail strategy, which eschews traditional franchise dealerships for store-owned showrooms and no-commission sales associates.
I drove my very own Tesla Roadster off the lot of the Tesla store in West Los Angeles the other day – a few months before I was expecting it. (Thanks, guys, for the best Christmas present possible!) My first reaction is the most visceral: Wow!
Best thing so far? I get a thrill out of scaring the crap out of everyone.
The intoxicating wind-up of the electric motor almost teases anyone near me to doubt the power under the hood. But it’s all sports car. All torque all the time, zero to 60 in less than four seconds, speed and handling that rival anything I’ve ever driven. (The brakes could be better – or maybe it’s my fault for driving like a jackass.)
I’m a Car Fanatic (yes, that’s an official title), so I’m not easy to impress. I’ve got plenty of great cars to include in my dream garage – BMWs, Lotuses, and Ferraris. But I’m not too proud to say I LOVE my Tesla.
First, it looks damn good. Heads turn, even though there’s no obnoxious engine noise to alert passers-by that I’m approaching.
Then, of course, there’s the fact that I need absolutely no gasoline to power it. So far I’ve gotten the thumbs up from five Prius drivers. No lie – they actually roll the window down and give me a double-fisted thumbs up!
Even beyond the fact that it’s a truly remarkable green sports car, it’s made by a truly remarkable company. Seriously… here’s a group of big thinkers who decide to create their own car company. In Silicon Valley. To get started, they outsource the chassis assembly but retain control of the “secret sauce” – all the technology in the all-electric, zero-emission powertrain. Good thinking.
They also shirk all the traditional industry baggage by deciding to sell directly to buyers, rather than through independent dealers. Tesla owns its stores in Menlo Park and West Los Angeles, and everyone who works in the stores is a Tesla employee – no one works on commission. Although this doesn’t allow Tesla to open locations as fast as through a franchise dealership, it does allow Tesla to own 100 percent of the customer experience. This is one of the biggest frustration of traditional auto industry executives – they can build great products, but if customers have a bad experience at their local dealer, they often blame the automaker.
This strategy also plays to the unique strength of the Roadster, which has far fewer moving (and breakable) parts than any internal combustion engine sports car. I will never have to go in for a 3,000-mile oil change, exhaust system tuneup, muffler change or service job to replace belts, hoses or spark plugs. Most franchise dealerships make a tidy profit on service and maintenance work, and they encourage customers to bring their cars back to the dealership frequently. With few exceptions, it makes no sense for Tesla – which asks customers to bring their cars in once a year for a firmware upgrade -- to partner with a traditional dealership when the car is virtually maintenance free.
This is innovation at its best. And look how well it works! A car like this couldn’t have been built any other way.
Forget about the fact that it is green – it is a blast and you can’t have more fun behind the wheel of any car!