Mercedes USA boss Steve Cannon isn’t impressed with Tesla Motors. Once other luxury EVs hit the market, he’s not sure Tesla can maintain its momentum. That’s all well and good, but where is that all-electric Mercedes S-Class we’ve been hearing about?
In his interview with Forbes, Cannon criticizes Tesla service centers as “little shops that don’t have service capacity” and a lack of an established “network” of what I assume are dealers and shops. True, though Tesla is still in the very early stages of becoming a carmaker. In the two years since the Model S went on sale, you can now drive across America using the Supercharger network, and Europe is well on its way to being connected too.
Since many Tesla service updates can be done via the car’s connected network, and with fewer moving parts, there are fewer reasons to bring a Tesla in for service. Mercedes has to shake the traditional way of thinking about how automakers work if it wants to really understand Tesla.
Cannon goes on, asking how long Tesla thinks other companies are just going to sit on the sidelines. That’s a good question that I’ve been pondering as well, and with each passing year the Tesla brand becomes further ingrained as the electric car. If Tesla becomes to EVs what the Prius is to hybrids, Cannon’s carefully-worded bluster (Daimler is a major investor in Tesla, after all) may come back to bite him.
With established luxury automakers seeing their market shares eroded by Tesla, you can bet Mercedes, Porsche, and the rest of them are fast-tracking competitive vehicles to fight back. Audi is already drawing up plans for a Tesla Model X fighter, and Cannon seems to have more faith in gas-electric hybrids and the “establishment” than electric cars and Tesla Motors.
That’s the thing though. The establishment never sees change coming, and what Cannon sees as a weakness could prove to be Tesla’s strength. Tesla is already working to change the auto industry as we know it, and suddenly massive, “established” dealer networks become dead weight standing in the way of profits.
By the time a Model S competitor from Mercedes arrives, people might already be fleeing dealer networks for a new method of buying an automobile. Watch how fast people stop going to car dealerships once they have an alternative.