LOS ANGELES--Rival green carmakers Fisker Automotive and Tesla Motors have gone in opposite directions to sell their vehicles.
Tesla is trying factory-run dealerships it likens to Apple computer stores. Fisker announced a network of 32 franchised dealerships in 37 territories led by some of auto retailing's biggest names.
Among the high-profile dealers signing with Fisker: John Bergstrom in Wisconsin, Kjell Bergh in Minnesota, Tom Price and Mike Sullivan in California, Ron Tonkin in Oregon, and Joe Serra in Michigan and California.
Tesla executives want a common look and feel to their stores, with employees trained at the corporate level. They think that the inconsistency of independent franchised dealerships runs counter to the company's pitch that its Tesla Roadster plug-in hybrid is not an ordinary car.
But setting up dealerships is expensive, and Tesla's expansion has been slow. It has retail operations only in Los Angeles and suburban San Francisco. Stores in Chicago, New York, Miami, Seattle, and Washington are scheduled to open by year end.
By signing franchised dealers, Fisker will have an immediate nationwide retail presence for its $87,900 hybrid-electric Karma sedan. So far Fisker has assigned dealerships for 37 territories. The company wants to expand to about 40 territories signed by year end.
Tom Price's Price Family Dealerships will handle Northern California for Fisker, but he doesn't fault Tesla's process.
"It's fine for Tesla to sell a few roadsters a month with a factory store model," Price said. "But selling cars in any kind of volume, you need a retailer who understands the market; who can deal with used cars, service and customer follow-up."
Fisker's requirements for Price were relatively low: a distinct sales display area with a carport, as well as the purchase of parts inventory and availability of trained mechanics.
Dealers like that former BMW and Volvo executive Vic Doolan has helped Fisker line up the retail network. Doolan is a member of Fisker's board.
(Source: Automotive News)