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Now that Teslas are common and hiring has flattened at the company, what is Musk & Co's path forward?

6 months ago by Joshua Fruhlinger in Innovation, People, Tech

Tesla Motors ($NASDAQ:TSLA) is reconfiguring its car lineup to appeal to new drivers with lower prices and a more simple selection. Meanwhile, the Model S is showing up on used car lots — some of them more than six years old — and, to put it bluntly, Tesla is starting to look like any other car company.

Tesla will announce its second quarter earnings statement July 24, and investors are eager to see how the company plans to reinvigorate interest now that those who wanted a Tesla have one, and now that those who weren't quite sure might take a second chance at becoming electric car owners. This look at some critical alternative data trends spells out exactly how steep the hill is that Tesla needs to climb in the next couple quarters.

Teslas are becoming common

In a simple supply-and-demand, formulaic fashion, the truth is that Teslas are no longer the rare, futuristic icons they once were. The first Model S was sold in 2013, 6 long car years ago. The car hasn't been updated or visually refreshed (outside of some minor cosmetic changes) in the time since.

To add insult to the aging image of Tesla, used cars — some with six-figures of miles — are showing up on used lots aside other brands. Pricing data for Teslas shows a decline in price along with increased availability and mileage over time.

In 2016, a used Model S was rare, and fetched an average of as much as $104,000. By April 2019, the average price for a used Model S was half that.

The more-rare Model X, Tesla's gull-winged SUV, is also showing signs of commoditizing as any other mass-produced auto would. In 2016, a used one would have demanded around $120,000. These days, average used prices are hovering around $80,000.

The Model 3 was originally promised to be an affordable $35,000 "Tesla for the rest of us". Manufacturing and supply issues changed all that, but now that Fremont is producing enough Model 3s to meet demand, its average price is also seeing a steady decline over time. Back in 2018, a used Model 3 would have fetched close to $60,000. These days, they're going for less than $50,000.

Hiring focused on Tesla's next stage

Outside of dropping prices and simplifying its lineup — both of which Tesla did this week — the company is looking to add efficiencies to its manufacturing process to get more cars into consumer's hands faster. As a result, job listings overall are down at the company after a 2018 hiring spree that was mostly intended to meet Model 3 demands, all while simultaneously improving the car delivery process.

These days, new job openings at Tesla are holding steady and are focused on customer retention. Jobs for mechanical engineers, service technicians, and customer support specialists are among the most common openings. But there are also some gems in Tesla's hiring data.

Most notably, the company is still racing toward a future in which cars drive themselves. Tesla leads the charge on that front, and it has brought on some of the industry's top experts in the field.

Tesla is looking a lot like a car company moving from its early years and into adolescence. Its product line has proven itself; its early adopters are on board; and now it's time to shore up its lineup and behave like a mature auto company. Albeit - one that makes revolutionary automobiles that are capable of driving themselves.

The good news, as the employee count graph via LinkedIn data shows, is that the company has an auto company-like workforce: 31,400 people list Tesla as their employer on LinkedIn. That's up 24% from this time last year.

About the Data: 

Thinknum tracks companies using information they post online - jobs, social and web traffic, product sales and app ratings - and creates data sets that measure factors like hiring, revenue and foot traffic. Data sets may not be fully comprehensive (they only account for what is available on the web), but they can be used to gauge performance factors like staffing and sales. 

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Joshua Fruhlinger

Joshua has been writing about technology, lifestyle, and business for over 20 years. He's one of the original writers and editors for Engadget, and still writes a...

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