Teslas are the four leaf clovers of the automotive world, rare and highly coveted. This is especially true in Texas because of a state law saying new cars must be sold through franchised dealerships. Tesla is opposed to this business model and has so far remained vigilant about selling directly to consumers. Despite the purchasing obstacles, there are 313 Teslas in Dallas County, and 119 of them belong to drivers in our neighborhood.
Preston Hollow resident Riz Chand bought his Model S online in 2013 without test-driving the vehicle.
“It was a little disconcerting,” Chand says. “But it was the best car buying experience of my life. I didn’t have to go anywhere or negotiate.”
Bypassing the middleman allows Tesla to keep the cost of its cars stable. This spares you the haggling that usually goes on at dealerships, but it also guarantees you pay full price. And that price is steep. A Tesla costs $75,000 and $135,000, depending on how it is customized. Some theorize the expense contributes to the car’s allure.
“People get whiplash looking at this thing,” says Julie Coleman, a Preston Hollow resident and Tesla owner. “I think they know it’s expensive. I just like that it’s electric.”
Like many Tesla owners, Coleman chose the car for environmental reasons. Her husband, Ronnie Coleman, owns EcoPhones, a local company that recycles cellphones and other electronic devices. The Colemans consider themselves a “green” family, and Tesla’s zero-emission technology meshes well with their principles. To get around town, they charge their car every couple of days.
About once a month the Colemans visit their son in Austin and stop in Bellmead at the Collin Street Bakery, which is adjacent to one of Tesla’s Supercharging stations. They snack on pastries while their car is plugged in, and Julie says she gets a free cup of coffee by showing the bakery staff her keys. Her husband jokes this is why she wanted a Tesla in the first place.
Owning a Tesla is like being in a club and not just because of the free coffee. Upon purchasing the vehicle, you learn new words like “frunk” which refers to the storage space at the front of the car where an engine would normally be. As an owner, you also have the opportunity to join countless Facebook groups and internet forums. Jay Squyres of Flower Mound runs the Dallas Tesla Owners Google Group, which hosts special events throughout the year. So far the group has 80 like-minded members that participate in Earth Day celebrations and go on road trips together in their Teslas.
“We are all fighting for what we believe in,” Squyres says, referring to the push among Tesla fans to change state law. “There are no dealerships, so owners are kind of a silent sales force. We like to educate people about these cars.”
Even owners who opt out of the Google group wind up talking to strangers about the vehicle.
“All kinds of people stop and ask questions,” Chand says. “A guy driving a Mercedes pulled up next to me at a light, rolled down his window and asked how I liked the car.”
Julie has had similar experiences. She can’t go anywhere in our neighborhood without someone bringing up her Model S.
“I’m not used to the attention,” she says. “When you go to a restaurant, valet parks the car right in front.”
Enthusiasm regarding Teslas is only growing. A showroom has popped up at NorthPark Center, but because of the prohibitive legislation, employees cannot offer quotes or process payments. What they can do is answer questions about the car’s technology and help you navigate the Tesla website if you get serious about purchasing a vehicle. Everyone who spoke to us said buying the car online was a smooth transaction. Still, they wish it weren’t their only option.
“In Texas we pride ourselves on being a free market state,” Chand says. “These rules reduce competition in every way.”