How Tesla Tries to Nudge Model S Sales from a Conference Call


The hyped-up, low-price Tesla Model 3 is right around the corner, but CEO Elon Musk still very much wants consumers to buy the company’s flagship vehicle, the souped-up Model S sedan.

During the electric car maker’s quarterly earnings call on Wednesday, Musk took extra time to make clarify the nature of the Model 3 to subtly plug the Model S, making sure investors and consumers knew that the standards of speed and luxury, as well as cutting-edge autonomous technology, would still be there as the company pushes the affordable, mass-produced Model 3. Tesla famously doesn’t advertise, instead letting the brand’s social capital and reputation spread by word of mouth, Musk’s prolific Twitter feed, and the news cycle of auto blogs and technology sites.

“We want to be super clear that Model 3 is not version 3 of our car,” Musk said. “Model 3 is essentially a smaller, more affordable version of the Model S with fewer features. We’re doing our best to clear up that confusion so people do not think that Model 3 is somehow superior to Model S. Actually Model S will be better than Model 3, as it should be, because it’s a more expensive car.”

The Tesla CEO recognized, not for the first time, that some Tesla customers still think that the confusingly-named “Model 3” is Tesla’s next, improved vehicle, when in reality it’s a stripped-down, budget model that’s similar to the Model S, but without many of the pricier car’s luxury features. But in doing so, he again reaffirmed that the Model S is still pretty much the hottest thing on the road. In fact, Musk has long said that Tesla is antiselling the Model 3, and hoping that people that come into its stores to buy an affordable Tesla will instead leave with a Model S or Model X.

“We anti-sell the Model 3.” Musk said. “But our net reservations continue to climb week after week. No advertising, anti-selling, nothing to test drive; still grows every week.”

This is also why he maintains that releasing the number of Model 3 reservations publicly would do the company a disservice: “If we do that, then people run off and make all sorts of conclusions based on that that are not predictive of the future, because you can’t test drive Model 3.”

The subtext here, of course, is that you can test drive a Model S right now, and even in the middle of an investor relations call, Musk wants his fans to know that.

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