“Similar to our approach to selling vehicles, we are also shifting sales of our energy and solar products worldwide to online only,” Tesla said in a statement. It said the model would allow customers to save thousands of dollars.
But Allison Mond, a senior analyst at Wood Mackenzie, which tracks and supplies solar data for the Solar Energy Industries Association, said the move was likely to be counterproductive. “Online historically is not a very popular way to sell solar,” she said. “It really has not been proven.”
SolarCity, the predecessor to Tesla’s solar business, once controlled two-thirds of the residential market. By the end of last year under Tesla’s control, that share was under 10 percent. The latest move, Ms. Mond said, “just adds to the story that, I think, Tesla does not care about their residential solar business.”
Many Tesla customers say they have purchased cars online with no problems. For trade-ins, they were able to upload photos and get a quote back without going to a showroom for appraisal. But many still balk at buying an automobile — the second most expensive consumer purchase after a home — without seeing it first.
Kevin Smith-Fagan, a television executive in Sacramento, said he did a lot of research online before buying a car, but still preferred to see it up close before making a decision.
“There are intangibles that you can only know by getting into the car,” he said. “There’s a comfort level in knowing exactly what you’re getting.”
Online or otherwise, Mr. Smith-Fagan is unlikely to be a buyer. He drives another electric car, the Nissan Leaf, that he bought used for $9,000. He would love to own a Tesla, he said, “but for 35 grand, it’s not in the cards.”