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Tesla said on Friday that it would be ending SolarCity’s door-to-door solar panel sales. Instead, the photovoltaic installer will rely primarily on online sales and retail sales for residential panels.
statement to GreenTechMedia, a Tesla spokesperson said that the decision “reflects what most of our prospective customers prefer and will result in a better experience for them.” Tesla added that it expects to exceed any lost door-to-door sales via its other sales channels.
Of the salespeople once employed to knock on residential doors, Tesla’s spokesperson also said that the “vast majority of affected employees will be reassigned or provided an opportunity to interview for other positions that will help support our expanded retail efforts.”
The move isn’t wholly surprising, as Tesla has been quite up front about the fact that it wants to focus on selling solar panels through its vehicle retail stores (as well as through its showrooms in states where manufacturers can’t sell cars to the public). Tesla played this strategy up to its investors when it was seeking approval to buy SolarCity in November. The company said that “cost synergies” would help both Tesla and SolarCity save considerably on marketing. And in a recent SEC filing, Tesla wrote that it plans to “reduce customer acquisition costs by cutting advertising spending and increasingly selling solar products in Tesla stores.”
Tesla has had success bucking trends set by its automaker peers. The company spends little on advertising and refuses to allow third-party dealerships to sell its cars. This decision expands that philosophy to its latest acquisition. SolarCity competitors like Vivint invest in door-to-door salespeople, and the Bureau of Labor Statistics says the number of door knockers employed in the US has grown considerably between 2011 and 2015.
The decision also comes as the residential solar market is expected to grow, but it grew more slowly in 2017 than it has in previous years. According to Bloomberg, “Annual residential rooftop installations are forecast to increase by about 3 percent this year, down from about 64 percent just two years ago.” The slowdown in residential installation growth could be the result of opposition to net metering from utilities in states like Iowa, Indiana, Arizona, Hawaii, and California. Power companies in those states have tried or are trying to curb the amount they’re required to pay residents who sell power from their panels back to the grid.