In the morning of March 31, 2016, Tesla fans demonstrated an enthusiasm in parallel with Apple fans throughout the world. Unverified reports state that 20 to 600 people waited in line before the store opening at various sales centers throughout the world. I visited two Tesla sales centers to witness the phenomenon myself.
The Tesla Palo Alto store is the closest location next to the Tesla headquarters. At 8am an estimate of about 115 people were in line. Around ten to fifteen people camped over night. Their tents and blankets were quite clean so they didn’t exactly look homeless. In front of the store there is a small patch of landscaping that might be a little softer to sleep on than asphalt.
I spent some time talking to the a couple of folks in line that had not camped but arrived about 3:30am. My first question was why are they doing this? Clearly they were Tesla fans interested in getting a Model 3, but the true reason why they were in line was that it was a fun experience. One person I talked to said that he had lined up for Apple product launches in the past and enjoyed the camaraderie. In some ways, these lines are in effect a party where you have a natural starting point for a conversation. He said camping was brutal and that he would not do that again. Although we have beautiful weather in California all year, the temperature fluctuates a lot in a given day through the year, and the nights often drop down to the 40s. Most folks were talking in small groups and others were on their computers or phones. The majority of people were men around 30 to 45, but in general there was a somewhat diverse crowd.
I also stopped by the store at the very well landscaped outdoor Stanford Shopping center which had a similar crowd, and the first person had arrived at 4:30am. No one had camped overnight. The Tesla employees said his boss only expected a few people not the crowd of around 150? people in line at 8:45. The outdoor mall location had easier parking and perhaps easier access to restrooms than the other location.
I’m excited for the Model 3 but if I were to purchase one, I would replace my Model S so I am in no hurry to get in line. If I were to make that decision I would really need to understand the exact specification of the Model 3. The primary factors of importance are the battery range, the width of the car, the trunk space and if the rear seats fold flat and flush.
Witnessing the enthusiasm for Tesla was an enjoyable experience this morning. I share the sentiment with the campers that the Model 3 is potentially a very exciting product. Never before have hundreds of people waited in line to make a deposit on an unspecified car.