As the Tesla executive in charge of Tesla’s retail efforts, Blankenship spent the year opening Tesla stores around the country as his company readied its launch of the Model S electric car. Each of the Tesla stores brought in far more traffic than expected–often around 4,000 to 5,000 visitors per week, says Blankenship.
Meanwhile, the Model S dazzled automotive critics who raved about the car’s specs and performance. Yet in watching store visitors Blankenship discovered one type of encounter in particular changed the way visitors engaged with his company’s product.
“There are several things that would make people go wow,” he says. “The first is the door handles. They’re flush. You touch them and they pop out. And you get a wow. Then you get in the car. The 17-inch touchscreen takes full, full attention. And you get another wow. Then you get out and you open the electric charge port and you get a wow, that’s cool. But up until then it’s still a car to people.”
Blankenship noticed that something very different would happen when the salesperson would pop the “frunk”–a large compartment under the Telsa’s hood that is available for storage, since the car’s compact electric motor is situated between the rear wheels.
Then, says Blankenship, “it’s like, Oh! And you can see the people processing this–How does it go? I don’t understand. And that’s the moment that all of a sudden you have them intrigued, and they’re thinking. And then they can really see: It’s not the car they have lived with for 10 or 20 or 30 years. And that this is something different from any car they’ve ever seen. This is radical, this is really different, this is the future.”