Car Industry

What if Tesla stopped trying to sell cars to people? That could be coming, report says

Tesla might be looking at a new business model if it's able to bring full self-driving to market, one in which it no longer sells cars on a retail basis, but only produces vehicles for its robotaxi fleet.

If it's your dream to own your own new Tesla someday, those days could be numbered if the Big T fulfills its plan to make full-self driving a thing.

Manuel Carrillo III/Roadshow

What if a car company founded on the idea of selling cars to people all of a sudden decided to stop selling cars to those people at consumer-friendly prices? Isn't selling cars kind of the point of having a company that builds them? Well, maybe not so much, if a report published Monday by Electrek is to be believed.

Tesla -- and its outspoken CEO Elon Musk -- have been making some pretty wild claims about the efficacy of its self-driving technology and the impact that it will have on the world. When we say impact, we're not talking about reducing traffic or pollution -- not in this instance anyway. We're talking about the idea of car ownership. If Musk has his druthers, Tesla will totally change the way it does business when (read: if) it solves the complex technical problems of fully autonomous cars. 

During the Tesla Autonomy Investor Day, Musk talked about having massive fleets of driverless Tesla vehicles able to be summoned through an app, some of which will belong to customers but the bulk of which will be off-lease cars. Tesla would put these off-lease vehicles to work rather than putting them back on sale as used vehicles. 

The next step of that plan -- and the one that coincides most neatly with Musk's other statements regarding Teslas and how they're appreciating assets -- would be to stop selling cars to consumers at all, at least at current prices. Under this new (and hypothetical) system, you could go and buy a Tesla, but you'd be paying significantly more because that car would be worth more to the company as a "robotaxi." 

This means that a Model 3 that you buy for $50,000 today would have to cost well into the six-figure range to balance out for Tesla if we go by Musk's estimate that a self-driving Tesla working as a robotaxi would bring in close to $330,000 over its lifespan. Add in the costs that Tesla could rid itself of if it ditched its retail sales model, and things start to look a lot different.

Now, with all that said, the whole plan hinges of Tesla being able to bring to market a fully-functional, safe and reliable Level 5 autonomous-capable vehicle. Musk has stated that the company is close to meeting this goal, from a technological standpoint anyway. However, his reputation for making massive, sweeping statements about world-changing technology being right around the corner and then fudging the timeline is well-established.

Tesla didn't immediately respond to Roadshow's request for comment.

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