Since its acquisition of SolarCity in 2016, Tesla has systematically eradicated all lively buyer acquisition channels. In 2017 the corporate stopped door-to-door gross sales. In 2018, it pulled out of its retail partnership with Dwelling Depot earlier than lastly closing all Tesla shops in 2019 and directing potential clients to their on-line platform.  

Tesla has now introduced that it’s going to ship the bottom residential photo voltaic set up costs within the , enabled by a 64 p.c lower in gross sales and advertising spend.

The corporate made changes to its providing as of late July, however Tesla’s new pricing provide continues to be about 20 p.c decrease than the common established by Wooden Mackenzie in a latest report.

Wooden Mackenzie has now launched a brand new evaluation centered on Tesla that shares three potential value situations, every with a special price stack, with the intention to higher perceive the viability of Tesla’s technique.

WoodMac finds that though Tesla’s method is probably going a window into the longer term, it’s not assured to succeed — and that photo voltaic clients will tackle a number of the danger.

Digging in to Tesla’s price stack

Tesla’s dramatic announcement launched system costs of $2.01/Wdc throughout the board for 4 standardized system capacities: four.08 kWdc, eight.16 kWdc, 12.24 kWdc, and 16.32 kWdc. These costs are earlier than the funding tax credit score (ITC) is accounted for.

To place this in perspective, Wooden Mackenzie’s assumed pre-ITC residential system costs are anticipated to sit down at $2.87/Wdc in 2020 (for a 6 kWdc system with mono PERC modules and DC optimizers).

Utilizing WoodMac’s nationwide common residential system costs, Wooden Mackenzie checked out three potential value situations, every with a special price stack.

As a part of that evaluation, Wooden Mackenzie estimated that Tesla’s true price stack displays little-to-no revenue margin with a price of buyer acquisition that mirrors a smaller, native installer. (Buyer acquisition prices for nationwide opponents like Sunrun and Vivint got here in at over $1/watt as of early 2020 based on WoodMac, or almost a 3rd of the general value of photo voltaic.)

How does Tesla consider it may possibly remove their costliest types of buyer acquisition and nonetheless appeal to clients?

First, WoodMac notes that Tesla has model fairness and family title recognition that assist the lion’s share of its advertising.

Second, given the diversified nature of Tesla’s enterprise and its potential to offset low residential photo voltaic margins with extra worthwhile enterprise segments, Tesla’s photo voltaic enterprise unit may doubtlessly stay insulated from the margin stress imposed on their opponents in photo voltaic (although not indefinitely).

Whereas this helps clarify how Tesla may hypothetically attain such a aggressive providing, Tesla’s low costs don’t imply a lot if the corporate can’t execute on set up.

Any photo voltaic system dimension you want, so long as it is…

Together with the aggressive system costs, Tesla has launched a standardized method to photo voltaic gross sales, whereby they’re providing 4 system capability choices.

An ordinary system capability providing might simplify the preliminary design and engineering course of by lowering variability with module configurations, and due to this fact simplifying the gross sales course of. However in taking this method, Tesla runs the next danger of oversizing or undersizing the system in a method such that manufacturing doesn’t totally offset a buyer’s power consumption.

Whereas this may — or at the least definitely ought to — be communicated to the client, it’s a vital departure from the industry-standard personalized gross sales method, whereby the client’s system is sized to match their system manufacturing to power consumption.

Implications of ditching consultative photo voltaic gross sales

Separate from the set up course of, Tesla is taking a good greater gamble on the best way photo voltaic is bought by making an attempt to upend the commonplace: consultative gross sales.

At a time when Sunrun is betting on the direct-to-home gross sales channel with its just lately introduced acquisition of Vivint Photo voltaic, Tesla is taking the other method.

Traditionally, when residential installers seek the advice of with owners about sizing their rooftop photo voltaic system, they’re varied components that embody assessing the client’s power consumption, rooftop house, out there incentives, and extra, all whereas addressing their buyer’s questions.

For a lot of installers, these are very important steps to make sure the system will yield the very best return on funding or lowest payback interval. However it additionally provides appreciable time and price to the method.

Tesla’s latest choice begs the query: for photo voltaic clients, is the extra price of session and a personalized system capability value an total increased value level? For now, given absolutely the value of photo voltaic — which continues to be very excessive relative to different client durables — WoodMac finds that the reply to this query is nearly positively sure.

Clients are keen to take a position the time and power into researching a product to make sure they get one of the best worth in the event that they’re anticipating to spend hundreds of , whatever the installer. Tesla’s implicit declare is that this assumption doesn’t maintain true in a lower-cost atmosphere.

In Wooden Mackenzie’s view, Tesla’s costs are nonetheless not low sufficient for patrons to really feel snug ditching the consultative course of en masse. Accordingly, WoodMac doesn’t envision that Tesla’s on-line mannequin will supplant consultative gross sales because the commonplace anytime quickly.

Nonetheless, in the long term it’s laborious to think about that a nationwide installer can keep a price of buyer acquisition that quantities to one-third of the general system value and that photo voltaic will proceed to be bought on a session foundation for the subsequent 5-10 years. Thus, whereas WoodMac finds that Tesla is probably not profitable in its new technique within the near-term, the should transfer towards extra standardization if the market is to scale.

Commoditizing the photo voltaic gross sales course of: signal of issues to come back 

Residential photo voltaic is getting into a brand new section of market maturity. Because the entered 2020, it was contending with a declining ITC and legacy state markets transitioning away from internet power metering and towards compensating distributed power assets at locational-specific and time-varying values.

Due to the continued pandemic, residential installers have been pressured to materially change how they promote photo voltaic to clients, as shelter-in-place orders have severely restricted in-person buyer acquisition channels and gross sales consultations.

Anecdotally to date, it appears the could also be higher for it. The transition to digital gross sales session is supporting time and price efficiencies whereas growing lead volumes — although success has not been uniform throughout all installers. Shopper merchandise have lifecycles, and by most requirements, with solely three perecent nationwide market penetration, residential photo voltaic continues to be within the very early phases of its product adoption.

However no client items needs to remain on the level of the adoption curve the place gross sales primarily depend on in-person session. And no is proof against the pattern towards on-line gross sales.

Tesla is an early mover to commoditizing the photo voltaic gross sales course of, and given the excessive visibility of its model, it is actually the one firm that has the model fairness to take action. Though Tesla’s success is just not assured, their new method is an indication of issues to come back.

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