Consumer Reports recently brought out its yearly Owner Satisfaction Survey, and Tesla finished number one, with a whopping 91% of owners saying they’d buy a Tesla vehicle if they had it to do all over again.
That’s an astounding figure in a highly competitive industry. It’s like a Major League Baseball player batting .900.
In practice, it means that Tesla owners are impossible to “conquest,” or woo to other brands, a situation that all the automakers aiming to take on Tesla in the future should take into account as they spend billions developing electric vehicles.
There could also soon be many more Tesla lovers in the world: the automaker expects to launch it Model 3 mass-market vehicle in late 2017. It will sell for $35,000 — and there are 373,000 preorders.
So why do Tesla owners love their vehicles so much?
Teslas take their cues from consumer technology, not from auto-industry traditions
Cars have been rolling computers for some time now, but the way in which those computers were updated — if they ever were — was extremely old-school. Owners brought the car back to the dealership, and the maintenance guys updated the software or hardware.
This could take all day. Or several days. Or be impossible if the hardware or software could no longer be updated.
Contrast this with Tesla. The carmaker routinely updates software over-the-air. This happens overnight and owners don’t need to do anything. The practice has enabled Tesla to abandon model years — there’s no such thing as a 2014 Model S or a 2016 Model X — because OTA updates mean you can get a technologically new car in just 24 hours.
True, the hardware isn’t new, and for that to be refreshed you have to visit a Tesla service center. But the car’s “brain” has been made better.
Tesla is following the consumer-electronics industry here. Your iPhone and apps are frequently improved and updated on the software side.
Teslas actually do have the potential to save the planet
There’s no debate: powering a car with electrons is superior to powering it with gasoline. The problem for electric cars has always been that gas is a much more efficient fuel source: massive energy content, relatively cheap, easy to store and move around. The average internal-combustion engine is also good for 300-400 miles per tank, while 200-plus-mile-range EVs are just starting to arrive at prices that the mass market can handle.
One caveat here: the electricity that powers Teslas comes mostly from burning coal and natural gas. But it doesn’t have to. It could come from sustainable sources or from nuclear power. And in that case Tesla’s would still generate zero tailpipe emissions.
As energy sources become cleaner in the future, Tesla’s will already be doing their part to reduce the greenhouse gases that contribute to global warming. So if you’re passionate about this environmental issue, then buying a Tesla is a satisfying decision.
Tesla’s brand is highly symbolic
This is after all the first successful new American car company to come along in decades, and the first all-electric automaker ever. The brands is, in a word, incredible. It’s the envy of the auto industry.
If you want proof about how much pent-up love is out there for Tesla, look no further than the 373,000 preorders that rolled in for the Model 3 mass-market vehicle, revealed this past March. It was an unprecedented event — a huge number of customers putting down $1,000 each for a vehicle that wouldn’t be built for almost two years.
These people weren’t promising to buy a car — they were investing in a brand, and in Elon Musk’s ability to execute. In effect, they were spending $1,000 each to join a club. In the past, it’s cost on average $100,000 to get past the Tesla velvet rope. But not anymore.
Tesla’s are pretty great cars
Don’t believe me — check with Consumer Reports. When CR tested an up-level trim of the Model S, the publication said that the vehicle broke its scale. It had never evaluated a better car.
Teslas are terrifically versatile and fun-to-drive vehicles. I’ve driven them all, from the original Roadster to the Model X SUV, and I got a joyride in the Model 3 prototype early this year. They’re fast, comfortable, and technologically advanced.
The massive center touchscreen is the wave of the future as far as controlling infotainment and vehicle systems is concerned, and Autopilot sets the bar for semi-autonomous systems.
The design of the vehicles is durable, in the sense that a Tesla won’t look dated in 5-7 years, which is the typical cycle for most other vehicles. The fit and finish isn’t excessively luxurious, but it is well done and it appeals to a Silicon Valley minimalist mindset.
For road trips, the Model S can tote as much gear as an SUV and it’s whisper quiet during freeway cruising. What’s more, the Supercharger network is now well-established in the US, so longer trips aren’t an issue, and Tesla has partnered with other charging systems to fill in any gaps.
Tesla doesn’t just make great cars, though, they also provide a great ownership experience (which includes invites to Tesla’s awesome parties, for what it’s worth).
The best brands are built with love in mind. And obviously, Tesla is feeling plenty of love.
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