How Tesla is leading the Apple-ization of the automotive industry

Tesla has pulled off plenty of impressive engineering feats, but its skilled hype-based marketing schemes are also changing the way cars are sold

The Tesla Model 3

The Tesla Model 3. (Tesla)

People lined up at Tesla dealerships for the chance to pre-order the company’s Model 3 vehicle. More than 200 people lined up in the rain in Montreal, for example, to put down their deposits.

It’s an amazing development, for several reasons. For one, when we do we ever see lineups to buy cars? And not just any lineup—a lineup that only grants you the right to pay $1,000 to reserve a car that won’t be delivered before late 2017 at the earliest. Plus these people didn’t actually know the features of the cars they were lining up for at the time. Sound familiar?

Such scenes are usually reserved for new iPhones, and in that case the potential buyers tend to already know what they’re queuing for.

That makes the lineups a significant development. Interest in electric vehicles is clearly growing, to the point where a growing number of people are willing to throw their names in on faith alone.

It’s increasingly looking like their faith will be rewarded. The Dutch government, for one, is looking at banning the sale of gas-powered vehicles by as soon as 2025, while India is doing the same with a target of 2030.

Tesla expects to sell about 50,000 cars this year, but that number is expected to shoot upward as the Model 3 will be its first car priced for the mainstream. The company’s cheapest existing car, the Model S, currently sells for $70,000 (U.S.).

Other car makers are also jumping into the fray, with the Chevy Bolt becoming available later this year with a price tag around $30,000 (U.S.).

Tesla, however, is also trying to change how cars are sold by pushing for the ability to sell them directly, online. A number of U.S. states don’t allow the practice, but with car buyers grossly dissatisfied with the existing process—which typically involves haggling with sales people—it’s a situation ripe for disruption.

Self-driving cars may change everything in the future, but it’s clear the vehicular revolution is already shifting into a higher gear in the present.