Roadster Dreamin’ & Tesla’s Crazy Referral Program!

By January 19, 2019 Kim's blog

There has been so much talk in the past several days regarding the “death” of Tesla’s referral program and it seems many are either shocked by the news, or outright upset at the sudden announcement. We began our channel in early 2016 only as a result of wanting to share our delivery video with parents out west, and Youtube was the easiest method to upload the video and share it.

We actually did not know Tesla even had a referral program, nor did we use a code for our own purchase of our 90D Model X. In fact, it took about 4 months of weekly video posts before we realized we had a code buried inside our online (MyTesla) account and Tesla itself encouraged sharing the code on social media platforms or fan pages.
We began adding the code to the end of our videos, but the amount of people buying Model S or Model X was a fraction of what it is today.
A few months later, a viewer emailed us to say that they had learned so much from our Model X videos, he had read all negative headlines about Tesla’s newest SUV,  its “problematic wings”, “poor build quality”, “massive windshield” which was all prone to expensive repairs.
He said our videos alleviated his fears and he was finally ready to click the order button and wanted to thank us by using our code.
We were initially in disbelief that our tiny channel of a few hundred subscribers would ever lead to anyone actually being compelled enough to make a $100,000+ purchase from what we had to say and share about the car. This became the theme of the vast majority of our referrals potential buyer after buyer would email us to ask us to measure falcon wing door heights, child seat fit in the 3rd row, and white seats durability.  We showcased the good and the bad (although the good FAR outweighed the bad) Our Model X being towed away
I’m not sure what our first referral prize was but just checking my closet, there have only been a handful of items that we have ever collected since we began referring customers. They are, an owners jacket, a suitcase, 2 radio flyer Model S’s and a wall charger. Other prizes which we have taken “delivery” of included a week of a Tesla rental of our choice (at 10 referrals I believe), a weekend stay at destination charger hotel (15 referrals) and for being the first in North America to reach 20 referrals back in 2017, we won our Model X P100D (much like Bjorn Nyland who did so for the European region a few years back).
Tesla has yet to deliver on Powerwalls that many in the community won as far back as early 2016 ( 7 referrals) and of course through multiple phases and extensions of the program, in late 2017, we were the first to notice there were “secret levels”  and every 5 referrals would unlock each new level. It was a long shot, get 55 referrals within 3 months and you have yourself a next generation Roadster! We revealed the Roadster to the community!
With our channel and our reach continuing to grow each week, and the gradual increase in adoption of Model S and X by the end of 2017, we found ourselves and our friend Ben Sullins as the lone horses with a realistic shot of obtaining the otherwise unobtainable. The math made the task very hard, essentially get a referral every 2-3 days for 3 months to pull it off. Again, remember this was only for referring Model S and X customers, which made earning the prize extremely difficult with the limited time the program allotted.
Ben with his fantastic data driven content and invaluable information for the community, was able to achieve the impossible dream first (coined by Ryan McCaffrey from Ride the Lightning Podcast). We followed  behind and by last few days of 2017 and at the 11th hour, reached our 55th referral! If memory serves me correctly, the program was either briefly paused or limited in the number of referrals one could gain for the following several months. However, when another phase resumed, everyone began to notice that it continued to include the allusive Roadster prize.
Even more incredible was that as the months wore on in 2018, Tesla chose to not only continue to renew the program, but also keep the count going. So if you had 5 referrals 6 months earlier, you could continue towards a 6th, 7th etc. which unlike previous rounds would always refresh and start from a count of 0.
Meanwhile, Elon continued to hint on Twitter that the program would be phased out indefinitely in coming weeks, but he touted its success during Tesla earnings reports and chose to continue the program for at least another quarter. As summer 2018 arrived, so did Performance Model 3’s which were also introduced into the referral program. Months later, as referral counts from vloggers, Youtubers and popular EV site owners continued to ballon, Tesla announced that all Model 3’s available for sale would qualify for Supercharging credit and many of the referral prizes outlined above surprisingly remained.
With of course that holy grail Roadster which had been available for all to win if 55 referrals could be achieved (now with a window of 16 months and counting to do so for some and Model 3 referrals included).
Tesla has unofficially acknowledged (though never publicized) that 105 referrals would qualify you for a 2nd free Roadster, and with Model 3’s selling like hot cakes at this point, dozens more both inside and outside the Tesla community began earning referrals at an unprecedented rate. Tesla’s Top Referral Holders have now cumulatively won the rights to over 80 free Roadster, with at least 24 people having qualified for at least two of the $250,000 vehicles (estimated to set one back around $95,000 each in federal and state taxes here in the US).
With the most recent announcement that the referral program is ending, many have speculated that the cost of the dozens of free Roadsters is the primary reason why Elon is ending the program. However, it doesn’t take much effort to see that Tesla & Elon Musk have always reaffirmed this program was only there to help incentivize a purchase as the company grew towards maturity. It was never intended to be a permanent fixture as evident by free lifetime supercharging dropping to 12 months free Supercharging, dropping to 6 months free Supercharging. It was being phased out all along, much like the tax credit.
At the rate that Tesla’s fleet is currently growing, the recent increase in Supercharging fees (now a second increase of 30% average globally), and also the recent layoffs as we began Q1 of 2019, one can quickly see that cash is short, margins are low and profitability remains challenging to put it lightly.
The fleet will continue to grow and likely double once again over the next 8-12 months, free Supercharging for any amount of time for such rapid expansion will never be sustainable. So no, the referral program isn’t ending because of Youtubers getting free cars (that part of it could have easily been removed over the past 6 months when Tesla went from committing to just two free Roadsters to now 80+). It is ending because the cost of rapid Supercharging expansion and maintaining free fuel for a rapidly expanding fleet of over 200,000 Model 3’s (even at 6 months free), cumulatively accounts for over 100,000 years of free charging and increasing until February 1st. With Tesla’s estimating that most Model 3 owners will indeed be apartment dwellers, Supercharging weekly at a local station is a necessity and thus the cost can add up at an alarming rate for company with the narrowest of margins.
We are unbelievably grateful to the community who has supported us over nearly 3 years of weekly video posts, answering thousands of your questions through social media and the comments sections and we look forward to sharing all things EV’s and Tesla with you in 2019. And no, now that the program is soon to be over, we will NOT stop making videos, because we never started making videos for referrals. We are extremely passionate about EV’s, sustainability and showing everyone how cool it is to embrace what companies like Tesla are aiming to do in recent years.
XO
Kim