On March 31st, Tesla CEO Elon Musk unveiled the Model 3, and in an instant, he changed the world as we know it. That night, he transformed the automotive industry, disrupted the traditional sales experience, and challenged perceptions about the millennial consumer.
It was a pretty good day for the first affordable, 200-mile electric car.
During the launch, Tesla announced that it had actually pre-sold 115,000 Model 3s before the car was even unveiled. That’s right, 115,000 people put a $1,000 deposit on a $35,000 car they can’t drive for at least a year and half — a car they’ve never even seen!1 If that number isn’t shocking enough, how about the 400,000 pre-orders and $14 billion in future sales they racked up in April?2
Impressive numbers, but what does any of it have to do with millennials? A lot. In the 60 days leading up to the Model 3 launch, the average age of visitors to the Tesla website dropped significantly.3 But industry insiders aren’t surprised: the Model 3 is being called the Millennial Model T,4 the Millennial Mustang,5 and even the Millennial Dream Car.6
Millennials are crazy for this thing, and here are four reasons why:
For Tesla, design is a brand pillar that won’t be compromised. Take a look at photos of the Model 3 and you’ll agree, it’s just freaking beautiful. Now compare the Model 3 to a Prius. Or a Nissan Leaf. It’s like comparing a Toshiba laptop to a Macbook. You can’t. The fact that the Model 3 is fully electric, goes from 0-60 in a heartbeat, has a 215 mile range, and fits five passengers comfortably is just gravy. In the design of their newest vehicle, Tesla asserts the importance of design and demonstrates that it is unwilling to compromise beauty for functionality.
This focus on design is especially appealing for millennials. In a recent survey, 67 percent said they would be willing to pay more for an appealing car design, and nearly 70 percent said “design” was the driving factor the last time they saw a product in a store that they “just had to have”.7 Even Tesla’s competitors see the Model 3 as an achievement in aesthetic design.8 It’s no wonder millennials do too.
When you get a little closer and look inside the Model 3, you’ll notice there are no knobs for radio or temperature, no gauges in the dash.9 Instead, everything is controlled digitally — on a device that functions just like the smartphone millennials have been glued to for years. In this sense, the Model 3 is less a mode of transportation, and more a giant, eco-friendly iPad on wheels.
It’s a welcome advancement for a consumer that has grown up controlling everything in their world on a touchscreen. Millennials are used to interacting with handheld devices that are so intuitive you can operate them without ever opening a manual, and to them, a car should be no different. For a generation of digital natives, the Tesla Model 3 is the only option that offers the kind of digital experience they crave.
Once you tear yourself away from the control panel, you’ll see that Tesla’s ability to introduce innovative concepts extends well beyond the digital experience. The Model 3 offers advancements that embody its brand pillars of safety and environmental advocacy.
- Autopilot Technology allows the car to take over controls in order to prevent accidents.10
- Bioweapon Defense Mode, a new air filtration system, makes pollutants virtually undetectable in minutes and filters air outside the vehicle.11
We’re not sure if these features will ever be required by the NHTSA or EPA, but we do know that unique features like these factor prominently in a millennial’s decision-making process. A recent study from Deloitte reports that millennials prefer to spend their money with innovative companies.12 And for a millennial, the ability to say their car can survive a zombie apocalypse is pretty damn important.
Finally, Tesla owns the anti-establishment brand persona that millennials adore. Whether with presidential candidates like Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders or companies like Dollar Shave Club, millennials respond to authentic, anti-establishment brands that fight to rise against the status quo. Tesla is literally battling it out in courts across the world to even be able to sell their cars through company-owned stores rather that the industry standard franchise dealership model.
They’re fighting tradition in order to control their brand.
Watch their Apple-esque Model 3 launch event and just imagine another automaker attempting the same. Would they come anywhere close to selling 300,000 units of a new model less than a week after unveiling it in a 20-minute webcast? Not a chance. Millennials love brands that authentically forge their own path, and Tesla is a pioneer in a firmly established industry.
Taking cues from Tesla
Some think Tesla’s success with millennials could lead to it becoming the world’s first trillion-dollar company.13 We think companies of all types should take notice.
As an entertainment brand, you might not relate directly to the auto industry, but you can certainly take some cues from Tesla. They’re turning their industry on it’s head and winning the millennial race by embracing a design-centric culture, authentically living their brand, and bringing their product to market in a way they feel best suits their customer.
Want to dig deeper into what makes Tesla so appealing to younger consumers? Send me a note: I’m number 180,026 in line for a new Model 3.