Tesla test drives continue in lockdown

  07 February 2021

Franchised retailers have hit out at Tesla for continuing to offer test drives during lockdown 3.0 when the industry has been advised they are non-essential and should not be carried out.

Until Wednesday of last week, Tesla was promoting test drive “walk-ins” on its website but was advising customers to “schedule in advance”.

However, this notice was updated after Auto Retail Agenda contacted Tesla to ask why it was breaking test-drive guidance. It now reads: “Touchless test drives must be scheduled in advance.”

Commenting on the change a Tesla spokesman said the website was “out of date and hadn’t been updated with the stores closed this time around – it mentioned walk-ins etc – just an oversight, not a change of policy”.

While government guidance and legislation for England does not specifically ban test drives it does mandate the closure of non-essential retail including car showrooms allowing only online sales with delivery or click and collect.

Current guidance to retailers from the NFDA’s lawyers on test drive states: “The NFDA would recommend that dealers do not offer test drives during the lockdown as these imply a sales process that extends beyond a virtual sale (followed by delivery or click and collect), and may present certain challenges primarily regarding social distancing.”

Retailers that contacted Auto Retail Agenda described Tesla’s test drive position as “immoral” and likely to “put the whole industry at risk of a longer lockdown”.

When asked why Tesla was still carrying out test drives a spokesman said: “Touchless test drives are facilitated for those with mobility needs who deem it essential now. Once a test drive is booked online, a member of the team proactively reaches out to discuss their need and timelines. Virtual consultations are offered to everyone to cover any questions and postpone test drives for those with longer timelines. All our stores are closed, a click and collect touchless test drive from a car parking space is the only option available. All ‘paperwork’ is online, cars unlocked remotely with the key inside and there are tutorial videos in the car to watch before departing. The car is returned and locked remotely with the key inside and a follow up is done over the phone or through Virtual Consultation. At no time is access is provided to the stores, nor is there direct contact with an individual. All cars are sanitised between drives.”

However, Tesla added: “There are no test drives in Scotland or Northern Ireland.”

Meanwhile, responding to retailer feedback, CarGurus has dropped its filter that allowed car buyers to search for cars that were available to test drive.

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