Earlier today Tesla Motors, the beloved builder of electric vehicles, posted a job announcement seeking a North America Fleet Development Manager. It appears Tesla wants to a piece of the fleet market in North America. But is this move to fleet a volume play or a marketing play?

Meet Tesla

I’ve long held fleets can be good way to introduce vehicles to prospective buyers without the maddening high-pressure sales atmosphere. Interested in a vehicle? Find it in a rental fleet and spend a few days behind the wheel before ever visiting a dealer. In that sense, this could be a way for Tesla to garner more exposure in hand-picked markets without building new showrooms. Also, I’m not sure what the rules are in each state as it pertains to fleets and if a company must purchase fleet vehicles from a franchised dealer. Could this also be a workaround to ban on direct sales to consumers?

At the same time the DailyKanban reports that the sale of Tesla’s Model S are declining and signs are pointing to overproduction. If the automaker has reached peak-nerd in terms of Model S sales fleet might be the next (or only?) strategy to move metal until new products are on the market.

But a Model S, as a fleet car?

This should be interesting seeing that Tesla, unlike say General Motors or Chrysler, doesn’t offer cars that can be had for $13,000 and a pack of gum. Because traditional fleets tend to focus on price first, resulting in Costco-like car buying (I’ll take the 36 pack of Chrysler 200s, please!) – Tesla will likely focus on small, more strategic fleets where there might be things like sensitivity to fuel-use or a fleet that serves a clientele that demands something more than a gussied-up Impala.

The responsibilities of the new position include;

  • Research North American fleet market to understand major fleet operators, trends, size of opportunity for Tesla, etc.
  • Create a fleet customer prospect list of circa 50 corporate/government accounts in North America. Information will include fleet size, segmentation, funders, fleet policy and driver choice behavior
  • Develop selected accounts against sales targets, including charging solutions tailored to customer; performance to be measured according to market penetration/sales units, profitability, etc.
  • Build a detailed picture of each account to include all relevant stakeholders, policy drivers, user profiles, fleet size, etc. Build a sales plan based on these inputs
  • Conduct face-to-face meetings / presentations/ demonstrations of Tesla vehicles and charging solutions to increase Tesla mindshare of fleet managers on prospect list
  • Jointly devise and deliver stand out marketing activities (e.g., events) to effectively promote Tesla to decision makers and drivers
  • Work with Finance to ensure that offers are adequately priced
  • Manage existing accounts with help of other Tesla departments (e.g., vehicle registration, installation of charging equipment, service, etc.)
  • Liaise with all other relevant Tesla departments to ensure that relevant fleet solutions are available (e.g., customer service, service, IT, etc.)
  • Provide occasional support to EU and APAC fleet leasing initiatives, deriving learnings from those initiatives and implementing in NA where applicable

As Tesla matures, I can’t help but notice the brand is starting to assimilate to a more traditional way of discovering automotive success. I’m not saying franchise stores are happening soon, but if this move to fleet is a result of slowing sales – you can bet that if, or when, Tesla runs out of places to stuff inventory they’ll do what other automakers have done for decades – push inventory onto the market through the wonderful world of franchised retailers.