Any car manufacturer worth its salt relies heavily on pushing itself as a dependable and reliable brand. Now more than ever, automobiles represent huge investments, so it’s in their own best interests to successfully establish their brand.
However, for every Ford or Renault that looks to build upon its pioneering history and solid reputation, there’s a car manufacturer that – for reasons from ineffective marketing to a niche target audience – isn’t as well known. When faced with such strong brands, how does a more obscure car manufacturer perform?
When founded in 2003, American-based makers Tesla Motors will have hoped to trade on the name, with the work of famed electrical engineer and physicist Nikola Tesla serving as the inspiration for their signature model, the Tesla Roadster – which runs from a design for an AC motor which Tesla originated in his heyday. It’s a fairly capable electric car (no oxymoron intended) whose earlier prototypes received rave reviews, such as the one from Motor Trend magazine who called it "undeniably, unbelievably efficient". The focus was certainly on the fact that it performed so well despite its ecologically friendly intentions; it performs admirably too, with a 0-60 time of 3.7 seconds.
Despite these positive qualities, the brand has yet to fully establish itself as one that a discerning car buyer can trust; a series of recalls owing to an issue with the Lotus body on which Tesla built the Roadster meant that in May 2009, three quarters of its total US sales had to be re-inspected. This figure does only stand at 345, but was still a big headache for the manufacturers.
It’s only small issues like this that prevent a smaller brand like Tesla from striking it big, but as long as business is small and the stigma weighs heavily – it’s hard to imagine there are many Tesla dealerships in this country, nor a big number of garages with the expertise required to repair one – there remains little hope that a smaller brand can run with the big boys.